Omar Rodriguez-Graham C’02

Next-Generation Painter

In 2009, ABC News called Rodriguez-Graham one of Mexico’s “up-and-coming painters,” carrying on the tradition of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

By Christopher Hann

I grew up in Mexico City. I lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia for a few years with my grandparents. My mother was born and raised there. Other than that, I spent basically my whole life here in Mexico before going to college.

I wasnt looking at school to do art, to tell you the truth. I was looking to study physics. For some reason Drew always stuck out in my mind. My mother said she had a dream, and Drew seemed like the place. It seems kind of supernatural at times why I ended up there.

What was really important to me was the transparency of painting, where you could really see the process. I realized that the human mind has this capability of recognizing through symbols things that are so much greater than symbols. When I got back to Mexico, it was just when all the decapitated people started showing up. I could recognize in a severed head a whole body and at the same time recognize a whole person.

There’s definitely a lot of [drug] violence in Mexico. It’s not something I could have painted when I was living in New York or Philadelphia or New Jersey. It’s something that, upon returning to Mexico, just made sense.

The Roman Catholic Church glorifies death. We have these very rich traditions in Mexico. So it’s not just a thing of sorrow, but a thing to celebrate.

Art is more of a search through process than an imposition of an image onto the artwork.

I think it was de Kooning who said that oil paints were made to represent the flesh. It’s not opaque, and it’s not transparent. When you look at photographs of dead people or you look at meat, it’s got this luscious, sensuous feeling to it.


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