Thursday, January 17, 2013

J.R. Dieppa


One of my favorite Etsy artists is Joseph Santiago-Dieppa because his paintings have such a unique style. After Joseph said yes to being interviewed, I also asked him if he would let me use his "About Me" section of Etsy, because I found it really inspiring. Here's the section and our interview:  

"I grew up in a very bad, poverty-stricken neighborhood in mid-city Los Angeles. At night I would lay in my small bed, and listen to the gunshots, police helicopters rumbling over our small house, and the protective barks of our faithful watch-dog Azor keeping his family safe. Our neighborhood was very segregated, and hate induced violence was very prevalent. The kids in the neighborhood never liked or accepted me; I was Hispanic—a factor they hated me for. Even though our neighborhood did not accept my family, my parents always taught me to love, and appreciate all people regardless of their actions towards me.
Racism continued to run rampant like an insidious weed, choking the life and hope out of our neighborhood. 
I remember on a random day I was riding my new red tricycle up and down the driveway. As I circled around, I noticed that there was a large mob walking down the sidewalk. At first I thought it was just the local Eighteenth Street gang, but these people were yelling and had weapons. I watched as the strange mob smashed into our neighbor’s house. I watched in numb horror as they pulled our neighbor Mr. Ramirez out of his house, and started to beat him with fence posts and bars. I remember hearing him scream, and beg them to stop—he was innocent, a mere victim of hate. The mob moved on, leaving Mr. Ramirez in the street trembling face down in a pool of his own blood. They looted his house took all of his things, and then they burned it down to the ground. The mob started to move towards our house. They seemed bigger, stronger, and more destructive. Horrified, I left my tricycle and ran as fast as I could to the back door. I called Azor our watch-dog in with me. Once the door was bolted shut, I ran to my toy box and grabbed my gun. The rest of the evening I sat huddled in the corner holding on to Azor’s neck and clutching my toy gun. I listened to the innocent people screaming, the crackling of burning houses, and the blaring sirens for hours, yet the mob never broke into our house.
The next day I walked outside—my neighborhood was gone. Destruction’s work was everywhere. I saw my tricycle lying on the other side of the street. It was bent, smashed and charred black. Immediately I felt angry, I did not understand what compelled people to hate other people so much. I stood looking in the middle of the street looking at our destroyed neighborhood. Right then and there, I decided I was going to rise out of poverty and hardship, and make something out of my life.
My childhood taught me a lot about this world. It showed me the darkness and the depravity of racism and hate that are still threaded throughout this society and world, but it also showed me that I can make a difference. I believe in the power of a dream. Adversity never intimidates the great thinker. I could have succumbed to the hardship of my childhood, hated the people who insulted me, and simply become another fraction of a percent in minority failure, but instead I choose the high path, where self pity and weakness are not an option. I have a voice and that voice is through art. "

  • Your paintings are so big and colorful, where does the inspiration to create these come from?  
"My inspiration comes from reading about other artists. Also when I am at a crowded place, like LAX,  the people inspire me. I don't know why."   
  • Do you have an art or life philosophy, if so what is it?  
"My life was so dark and I was unhappy. I paint how I paint to rebel against that. I don't want my art to mirror my past, I want it to be a window to my future. " 
  • You talked about finding your voice through art and you have a very definable style. Was there anything you came to realize or had to go through to find that style and voice?  
"Your last question is my favorite.
 My mother was an artist and graduated from the UCLA School of Fine Arts. The walls in our house were decorated with my mother’s art. I would look up and wish that I could have something on those walls, too. I realized that I could get more attention from my mother by drawing and painting. I had a speech impediment, and grew up feeling that I could not communicate with people. One time I was trying to express to my oldest brother that I would someday be taller than him. He did not understand me. Out of frustration I grabbed the first colored crayons that I could find and I hastily drew two human-like figures. One was dramatically taller. I scribbled his name under the short, stubby one, and under the tall figure I neatly wrote my name. I presented this illustration to him and I knew he understood it by the anger his face showed.  I found out that drawing could help me communicate. Art became my personal way of expression. I drew faces. Human faces were my friends. I drew them because I did not want to be alone. I drew the faces with red lips, blue noses, and green eyes. These friends respected me. 
Those colors just stuck with me. I am still trying to understand it myself, when I paint or even draw a face now I see those colors." 
 If you want to see more of Dieppa's work you can follow him on Instagram and Etsy, definitely make sure to like his Facebook page! 
One of the artist's favorite songs: Comptine d'un Autre Été-L'Aprés Midi by Yann Tiersen


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