Drawing by Molly Oleson

Mission Loc@l: What inspired your life as an artist and poet?

Adrian Arias: I remember writing some poems and showing them to my mom, and she advised me. That happened because she was showing me her poems. So we had this communication. She was living her last years in Madrid, Spain. We continued three to four times a year, sending poems and sharing ideas. It was great to see my mother as my fan.

ML: How do you define yourself as an artist?

AA: I’m a visual poet. Because it’s a constant cycle between write the poem and make the drawing. And in the middle, there are all of these other options: make a video, take a picture, paint a picture.

ML: How do you feel about drawing and painting, and how do they relate to writing?

AA: I love drawing. It’s amazing. It’s more poetic. Painting is more expressive. It’s as complicated as a novel. And drawing has this quality of spontaneous movement … your feelings just splashing.

Sometimes if I write a poem, I try to visualize the poem, but transform it into something visual. And sometimes the poem is dead, but there is something visual. Sometimes an image inspires me to create a poem. But after I create the poem, maybe it inspires me to do something completely different.

ML: How did you first transition from poetry to visual art?

AA: One very important thing in my life was when I was at university and my mentor was hired as the director of a newspaper. He knew I was all the time drawing and painting, and he said, “Please draw for me in my column.” It was the most great opportunity to do my poetry or literature ideas in a visual way. It was important for me to continue drawing and painting after that, and also taking pictures. Every small thing was helping me in the visual move.

ML: Why is recycling such an important part of your work?

AA: Because it is a live concept. We are recycling everything in our lives, in our bodies. Also feelings. We recycle feelings, images and ideas. You recycle your personality. The body is a container, and after something, you discover yourself recycling gestures. The way you walk, the way you kiss. I really believe in recycling in every way.

In poetry, I discover recycling myself. I’m writing the same poem sometimes. I feel something similar when I put the pencil to the paper and start drawing.

ML: What are your most recent drawings about?

AA: People without heads. The disconnection between the head and the body, and how the head has its own idea, and how the poor body is working hard to maintain the head. And the last poem … I wrote this poem for the moon. It involved my grandmother, the moon and myself, and also the idea of being touched by something special. And those who have some doubt about what is real or not.

ML: Can you talk about the dream vs. reality theme in your work?

AA: Sometimes my poems are about something that looks real but is actually a dream. Or about something that is a dream that is totally real. Reality is sometimes the re-creation of dreams. Or vice versa. Re-creating reality gives me the option every time to create something new.

ML: What is your approach to creating?

AA: Sometimes in my technique, I try to be very cold. Like an ice cube. Because if you’re warm, you can destroy it. “Cold” means remove any sentimentality to the basic idea, leave it as a pure image without adjectives or decorations. Good ideas usually appear after an emotional moment, but the best way to develop it is to put aside the emotionalism to see the idea clearly.

ML: Can you talk about your involvement with SOMArts’ “Illuminations: Dia de Los Muertos” exhibit?

AA: I’ve been a part of it since 2003. The first year my altar was very political. Little by little, I was putting in more personal items. In 2006, I dedicated it to my two grandmothers, and last year to my mother. This year, it is a tribute to La Tania’s (his wife) mother. She died trying to help a little child in the sea. La Tania and her family witnessed that moment, on that beach. I really don’t know all the pain she has about that. But I’m trying to translate that. How La Tania’s mother lost her life, or transformed into a beautiful mermaid. She was a dancer. Maybe she’s dancing with all of the fishes.

ML: Can you describe one of your proudest moments as an artist in the Mission?

AA: I remember when Todd and Alex (founder of Red Poppy Art House) said let’s come together and do something different in the neighborhood. And we created MAPP. That was one of the most beautiful creations because all of these artists were living like on islands, and suddenly we opened cafes, garages, gardens, and all of these painters, photographers, dancers, musicians came together outside. It’s still a beautiful moment in the neighborhood.

ML: What do you hope people will take from your work?

AA: Maybe connections. If they read a poem or see a drawing, or be inside an installation … connect. With the intimate fiber, the intimate quality. That very thing, space, when you are feeling something that will help you to create another thing. I like to have this connection. When I have it, I feel so happy. The artist is giving me something that I hope I can give to others.

ML: What’s a future project for you?

AA: I’m working on body poems, or cuerpoemas. This is like making poetry, but just with the click of the camera. It’s very natural. It’s spontaneous. And I love that. I’m just doing poetry. I don’t have the words, but I have the image. It’s a very secret portfolio. In five years, I will show the whole thing.

ML: Who inspires you?

AA: The poets Carlos Oquendo de Amat and Blanca Varela. I love Magritte. Magritte is the master of masters. I love the craziness and the vision of Picasso. And Jackson Pollock … the dancing, and painting and dripping. I learned how to be free, dancing around my creations. And I’m totally crazy for La Tania dancing. Every dance is a poem. It’s more than a poem. Every dance is inspiration to create a poem.

ML: Why is it important for you to create something every day?

AA: It’s like your job. Your happiness mixed with your dreams, mixed with some pain. All of your necessities, day by day by day. It’s like office work, but in the most beautiful way: creating something.

ML: How do you balance creating art with surviving as an artist?

AA: The human being is adapting all the time. There’s a necessity of create, create, create. At the same time, you need to survive, survive, survive. And you find a way. In my schedule, there’s after midnight. Between 2 and 3 a.m., I am awake for a couple of hours. It’s poem time. And I come here and I write. Or draw.

ML: What’s the best advice you ever received?

AA: My mother smil[ing] and telling me, hey, Adrian, you need to do what you like to do. You need to write a poem, write a poem. She knows my father, an artist, a painter, and that was hard times to be in a family of artists. But at the same time, that was happiness.

ML: What is your advice to young artists?

AA: Balance. This is a very crazy fast moment in life. Everything is like a flash. Take a big breath and see things in a different way. Just have time. Because that balance is good for creation. In one way, it will be so fast and so messy. Be inspired for your very fast life, but have this balance of calm to create something.

Also, you can be more than one thing. We are multidisciplinary people. Maybe your main thing is painting or poetry. Learn to play a piano or guitar. Take classes. Experimentation with other artists — it’s very important. And enjoy the process. The process is the learning parts for our bodies and minds. If the process is boring, change it. There are other ways. When you enjoy the process, you will love it.

Follow Us

Molly is a multimedia journalist, editor, photographer and illustrator. She has contributed to dozens of publications, and most recently, served as Editor of the Pacific Sun. To view more of her work, visit mollyoleson.com.

Leave a comment

Please keep your comments short and civil. Do not leave multiple comments under multiple names on one article. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *