Tualatin freshman reinterprets history with mural
Tualatin freshman draws from Aztec art, modern influences for school's library mural
At 15 years old, Jacob Villanueva already has a portfolio full of pencil and marker drawings and the occasional computer graphic.
Like any good artist, he only puts his best work in the plastic sleeves, keeping the rest loose or in his sketchbook.
His art is all angles and lines, a sharp style inspired by the art of his ancient Aztec ancestors. Hes experimented with other styles, but says this one is consistently more appealing to him and everyone else.
Its not comic book-y, and its not cartoony. Its its own thing, Villanueva says. I think thats what makes (my art) more individual, is that it doesnt seem to stem from the same things as other art does.
This individual style and Villanuevas young age caught the attention of his art teacher, Jeannine Miller. Shed been working with the Tualatin High School librarian trying to find a student to paint a mural to hang above the librarys computers, and thought Villanueva was the right fit. She approached the freshman with the idea, and since October, hes been spending hours every week working on the piece, which spans more than 10 feet in length.
Hes used to working very small, and this is huge, Miller says. To come in everyday to work on it...Im just very proud of him.
But, there were some frustrating days in the beginning. Villanueva had rarely worked with paint prior to using acrylics on the piece, and his pages are typically small and torn from a book. So, the mural presented several new challenges.
When I was starting the mural, it was sort of tedious. I didnt really know how to go about it. It took quite awhile just to get started, Villanueva says. Eventually, it sped up, and its at the pace its going now, which Im really happy about.
Nearly complete, the two-panel installation uses bright colors and a black background to represent the Aztec symbols that drive Villanuevas inspiration. Looking from left to right, if the viewer knows the Aztec meanings of each image, he or she would be able to determine the story the artist is trying to tell. He thought of each image separately, first pulling from his already substantial knowledge base, and then turning to the Internet for research when it started running thin.
I pull the descriptions of sort of the deities, worships and paintings of Aztec art, Villanueva says. The mural is actually two-sided. One side is one god and one is the other. Throughout, it has all their symbols and related deities and such. It combines together to show the Aztec creation of human life, and the different gods responsible for it.
The first panel represents the Aztec god of life and uses mostly cool colors, while the second represents the god of death and uses warmer tones. Villanueva also incorporated the Aztec symbol for movement, which is an eye surrounded by a geometric design. Enough of his art incorporates this image that it could almost be used as a signature or a clue in determining if a piece is his.
In the middle of the left panel is a blue wolf, tying in the Tualatin High School Timberwolf mascot, and in the bottom right corner is a banner with the Aztec representation of 1992, the year the school was established. Ultimately, the mural shows Villanuevas heritage while relating it back to his current reality.
I feel like the Hispanic community doesnt know enough about the ancient cultures, like the Aztecs and American sub-cultures that created the modern Hispanic race. Its just not as delved into as American history...theres not as much leftover from it, he said. If there is a message I would have to include in my art, it would be to be proud of where you come from and what your culture is, because thats what inspires me to do it.
Villanueva already has a firm grasp on where he came from, where he is and where hes headed. He knows who he is as an artist, which is something many creative types can spend years searching for. Maybe hell pursue a career in art, maybe he wont, but Villanueva will keep sketching robots, rappers, Aztecs, Mayans, samurai and a whole ton of crazy stuff in his free time, adding the best to his portfolio and taking opportunities as they come.Add a comment