April 9, 2004

La Esquina
arte de la comunidad

Camilo Ontiveros Paints Life En Cuadros

By Geneva Gamez

Camilo Ontiveros is an emerging artist who has found his very own way to paint anything from people to themes of social consciousness, to the blending of the two. Influenced by just about everything and inspired by life alone, Camilo has maintained firm in expressing his most intimate feelings and emotions to create work inciting a sense of social awareness.

“Once you create a reaction, whether good or bad, you know you’ve done your job well,” he says. “Whether people like the piece or not is not important, the importance lies on the reasons why they like it or dislike it –that shows they’re thinking.”

In visiting Camilo’s home, I walked around the living room to take a close look at his paintings; the strong presence of each makes for a deep impact. Camilo prefers I give each painting my own meaning rather than his own. I can see the thrill in his eyes as he waits for a reaction, but I find it needless to ask what each painting means or represents. Instead I am numbed by the connection I feel as I clearly see that what stands behind these paintings is a hand driven by someone with a unique heart that cares for humanity’s well being.

I can quickly sense that some of Camilo’s greatest concerns are those that would readily fall under the category of “superficiality”. “Verguenza” [shame], is a painting of a girl curled up as if ashamed of her body. “La Vida En Cuadros” [Life In Squares], projects the same girl with a melancholic expression on her face – relevant of the pain and suffrage that comes with being a woman.

Although Camilo has slightly moved away from portrait style painting and the use of different shades of browns, he continues to be drawn by people’s expressions. There’s an untitled piece that particularly stands out. It’s a contemporary abstract nude of a girl who’s standing with a smile as she holds what she considers to be fat, from her waistline. The colors to this piece are vibrant –mostly reds, yellows, turquoise and black occupy the canvas. The background colors are used to portray all the many things that are currently going on, war for instance, while the girl is tormented because she is overweight.

The painting is a criticism against the vain objectives we consider a priority in life, like one’s physical appearance rather than contemplating issues that should be most important, especially in a time of war.

Among other paintings, I found two self-portraits of the artist himself. Hang the two together and you can feel the energy bounce right off the walls. The first one is Camilo’s face painted in reds and yellows, he’s got a fixed look unto the outside of the canvas which stands out on the corner of deep black background. The second is his newest piece. Camilo’s looking upward, eyes shut, mouth wide open –teeth showing.

I’ve come to find that Camilo’s pieces are full of speechless words that speak a truth that’s hard to swallow; the very truth embedded in everyone’s daily life; the one that often people talk about, but seldom act upon. It’s the ugly reality that we’ve grown accustomed to living with and it’s that reality that Camilo chooses to sensitize his canvases with.

Causing any type of reaction is one of Camilo’s greatest satisfactions as an artist, and it shows profoundly in the passion, the dedication and the thought with which he saturates his work. He feels that the purpose of his art comes to fruition through the reactions of people who witness it.

Camilo ... What do you do when even your name suggests art?

Camilo Ontiveros’s work will be on display at the Lyceum Theater, April 17th thru May 16th.

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