Jaime Arredondo–artist, lecturer, Irving native and University of Dallas alumnus–spoke recently to a group of UD students and professors. He brightened the dreary November afternoon with explosions of color using examples from his exhibit, “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” which ran through November 18, 2015 at the Irving Arts Center.
Arredondo graduated from the University of Dallas in 1980 with a B.A. in Art and went on to receive an M.F.A. in Painting from Yale University. From there, he went to New York City to pursue painting full-time. “I thought that if you wanted to be an important artist, you had to go to New York and work in abstraction,” he said.
Eventually, Arredondo began to look outside of abstracts for something the lifeless color pallet of his Queens neighborhood couldn’t provide. “New York artists use a dark pallet,” he said. “I’m from the Southwest. I missed the color, the big light, the big sun.” To embody the color and light of his home, he chose flowers.
Arredondo began this new phase by studying historical and artistic representations of flowers. He determined that he would need to make a drastic leap forward in order to make his work relevant and contemporary. He settled on a painstaking technique of creating vibrantly realistic flowers juxtaposed on an incongruous, abstract background. To the flowers he added pearlescent water droplets that give the paintings a three-dimensional quality. “I wanted to give the flowers muscle, like flowers on steroids,” he said.
Arredondo noted that oil painting is a very slow process and that an artist must be nothing if not patient. “The larger paintings take nine to twelve months to create,” he said. “It really is an act of faith to create one of these.” He correlated that act of faith to his time at the University of Dallas. “One of the most important things I learned here,” he said, “was discipline. Here in this contemplative setting in the woods, I learned to stay with it, no matter how long it takes.”
Turning to the business of art, Arredondo responded to a student’s question of how to “make a living” as an artist: “First you must keep the faith and believe in what you do. Then you should know that you are constantly competing with other artists for shows, gallery openings, and public art projects” he said. “So you must create buzz for your work and for future projects by cultivating your potential audience.”
“But despite that level of competition,” Arredondo continued, “you must be generous. Give information, feedback, and references when asked. Be generous and it will pay you back.”
The Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York City chose Arredondo’s flowers for a public art project in in the borough of Queens. A series of his paintings was transformed into detailed mosaics for the project. In addition, his murals depicting great blues musicians are featured at the Texas Musicians Museum in Irving, and the United Nations chose his work for a series of postage stamps it issued in 2009.
Arredondo resides in New York City and has taught at Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute and continues to teach at both New York University and the New School.