“Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.”—Jackson Pollock
When I walked into Cafe Vida at Bay Club Courtside to interview Rosalio Vargas, I found the young artist sitting in the corner working on his laptop. He wasn’t hard to find. This is a man who not only lives, eats, and breathes his art, he wears it as well. He discovered that his daily wardrobe could be both his canvas and his calling card and he has become a noticeable fixture around town. Heads turn when he passes by. Children look up at him with awe and amusement.
People compare Rosalio’s artistic style to that of the late Jackson Pollock, a major figure in the expressionist movement known for his unique style of "drip painting."
In contrast, Rosalio employs more of a splatter technique using only his glove-protected hand. To see him work is like watching an animated comic book superhero unleashing an explosion of colors. He is inspired by the ground breaking work of Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto, whose pioneering studies of water prove that thoughts and feelings can affect physical reality. Like a modern day mystic, Rosalio applies the primary component of this work—water-based acrylic paint—to infuse thoughts, prayers and good intentions into his paintings.
Rosalio also embraces the power of "Not Knowing,” or suspending the need to require an immediate solution of what to do next. No matter how counter-intuitive and uncomfortable it may feel, he trusts the process of allowing things to naturally evolve and new creations to emerge. He is motivated by a sense of community and collaboration rather than one of competition and rivalry.
But alas, it hasn’t always been this way. Like many celebrities such as comedian and actor Jim Carrey, Vargas was extremely restless and disruptive as a child and like Carrey has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). His racing creative mind and intellect was met with resistance in the educational school system.
My good friend, James Hunter, was Rosalio’s 5th grade teacher at Cherrywood Elementary. He told the San Jose Mercury News in 1996 about the challenges with working with kids with ADD or ADHD. He had volunteered to take Rosalio (aka RIchard) out of Special Day Class and mainstream him into his class. Having struggled with ADHD as a child himself, Hunter, an award-winning teacher empathized with Vargas, and was motivated to do everything he could to help the young Vargas succeed.
While trying to find his identity In his teenage years, and cope with his ADHD, Rosalio became a notorious spray painting graffiti artist that got him in serious trouble with the law. Vargas attributes his troubles to a rough and dark upbringing. "I was abused, bullied, robbed, manipulated and teased unmercifully,” he said. At some point, this eccentric visionary artist realized he was at a crossroads. He had a choice to make. He could either be at the effect of that abuse and reflect his dark, troubled history that nearly swallowed him up or; like the Buddha taught, he could become a "lamp unto himself." Luckily, he chose the latter. "My approach was simple, I could operate from my heart instead of my head and focus on the present instead of my past."
About 8 years ago Rosalio moved to the wide open spaces of Melbourne, Australia and began perfecting his contemporary and abstract work inspired by the female form where he quickly became a serious selling artist as his artistic creations were recognized by prestigious art gallery showings in Melbourne, Brisbane and San Francisco.
Vargas wants his work to inspire and encourage people to think outside the box. He believes every person has a touch of genius in them and are capable of doing great things. “We are coded with extraordinary potential when we tap into our natural flow,” he said. Twenty-two years later, Rosalio and Mr. Hunter crossed paths again. When asked how he would describe his former 5th grade student, he said. “He is an extremely eccentric visionary who despite all obstacles persevered by focusing on his art and had the courage to be himself."
Toward the end of the interview I asked Rosalio if he had any final words for my readers and if he had any regrets about his harsh upbringing and his difficulties in school and this is what he said: “My artistry is not about ‘me,' it’s about 'we.’ He then clasped his hands together with fingers intertwined and added, “At the end of the day, it comes down to how does one inspire the collective, conjoined consciousness? Rather than think hey look at me, I’m the best, my intention is to use art as a vehicle to engage people in a collaborative effort rather than emphasizing my singularity. After all, we are all ONE. Yes, it’s true I come from a dark past, I was punished and abused as a child—at home and in school. But, without the dark, you can’t step into the light, and that’s me: Rosalio Vargas. Nice to meet you," he said as he placed his hands together in prayer position and added: "Namaste’ and thank you for taking the time! You are a great listener!
At the end of September, Rosalio was invited to demonstrate his artistry and showmanship at the Los Gatos Art & Wine Festival. With the music of a live quartet and Flamenco guitarist and dancer performing in the background, he began painting cars, one layer at a time.
Before, during and after his performance art, Rosalio was the subject of a 15 minute interview by producer Mel Van Dusen about his philosophy of art. You can view it on youtube by selecting the first link below.