Name and Year: Orlando de la Garza, 1986
Hometown: Ciudad Victoria Tamaulipas, Mexico
Medium of Choice: Mostly oils, although I’m falling in love more with acrylics. I think the oil paintings in my studio are getting a little jealous…
Street: How long did you know you were interested in an MFA, and what brought you to Penn in particular?
Orlando de la Garza: The best thing one can take out of an academic environment is the constant challenge it offers. It pushes you to redefine yourself as an artist, from the creative process to how you digest a final piece of art. I came to Penn simply because it is one of the best learning/research universities in the whole world.
Street: What artists do you look to for inspiration?
OG: It depends on what I’m doing at the time. Lately, I’ve been looking at the works of Kahende Wiley, Julio Galán, Javier de la Garza and Antony Micallef. I was recently introduced by a friend to the work of Pierre et Gilles and I loved it! Sometimes inspiration comes in other forms like books, music, etc.
Street: What are you working on now?
OG: I’d say that the main themes of my work would be: Amexicanization (yes, a hybrid of America and Mexico), my criticism of organized religion (specifically Catholicism), and more recently a celebratory depiction of a genderless person with the use of Neomexicanist elements (Mexican Macho Queen). This last theme is something I’ve been exploring more lately.
Street: Do you use models for your large–scale paintings of people?
OG: I normally do quick studies and take pictures of models for reference. However, since the piece on the show “Safeword” depicts a friend I have in Mexico, the process pushed me to study his face and body only through pictures. Then, photos I took in my studio supported the use of light, the pose and the outfit.
Street: Do you have a favorite medium?
OG: I love oil painting. Although the things I like about it are the same things that make me hate it. Oil based painting dries really slowly, which is something that can be taken advantage of depending on the project. For glazing techniques, something I really enjoy doing, oil painting functions perfectly.
Street: Have you experimented with any other media? Is there a medium you’ve tried that was particularly challenging to work with?
OG: I just finished an acrylic–only painting, Mexican Macho Queen. I usually glaze oil painting over acrylic coats, but I decided to make this one only acrylic. It was really challenging for me to speed up my application since I’m so used to using oils. Acrylic pushed me to work much faster than usual.
Street: How many projects do you usually work on at a time?
OG: I like working on three at the most, but my process truly varies and depends on the medium I use. Last semester, I worked on two oil paintings at the same time. I painted over one while waiting for the other painting’s coat to dry.
Street: Where do you see your work heading in the future?
OG: I really have no idea; and I like it that way. Before coming to PennDesign I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to do, but it’s different than I originally thought it would be and I’m enjoying how unpredictable my direction is. It’s exciting to look at a piece and say, did I really just do that?