Pain Portrayed in Paintings

By Ifeanyi Chijindu

Unlike most individuals, artists have two birthdays. Artists
have their natural birthday, like most people, and then the day of
their first solo exhibition-the day they burst into the world in a
flood of acrylic paint after years of maturation. November 11, 2006
became the artistic birthday of Nicaraguan artist, Carlos Flores.
The Cal Poly Downtown Center hosted Flores’ first solo exhibition
aptly named “Discretions” with a reception open to the public at no
charge and lively music provided by the Cal Poly Jazz Band. Showing
how focused an artist can be, Flores was too “busy working on the
show,” to name it. The Downtown Center’s coordinator, Cybele
Garcia, actually named Flores’ show as “Discretions” because she
felt the word perfectly described the essence of Flores’ ability to
paint life’s most emotionally charged moments. Flores’ work hardly
fits the usual mold. He uses intense charcoal lines and bold colors
to give his characters depth and to spark their space with
intensity. He does this through a signature style of using acrylic
paint with charcoal on wood. One of Flores works called “The
Victimizers,” is in the perspective of a little boy looking up
towards open mouthed, arguing adults. The next scene is called
“Whose Turn Is It Now?” and shows the same child screaming as the
fight escalates. Flores does not shy away from the uncomfortable,
but rather calls attention to those memories most would rather
forget. “My thing is people,” said Flores. “And how they relate to
each other.” “La Siesta,” depicts a young mother and child, who
both fell asleep while breast feeding and “The Feast” shows a male
adult eating a hamburger with an older female in the background. A
separate entity of Flores’ art illustrates his interpretation of
the nude in various poses. Composed on 8′ x 4′ wooden slabs, the
nude figures show full detail while upside down. One nude showed a
robust woman-right side up-but holding a sewing needle in one hand
and a watermelon slice in another. When asked why Flores chose to
show his nudes mostly upside down, he smiled. “The world is upside
down,” he said. “[Sometimes, I feel like] I think with my feet and
walk with my hands. That’s how the world is. We do things
backwards.” Doing nudes also gives Flores a chance to “explore the
human figure in a way that’s not common.” Flores hopes to
eventually grow this collection into 30 pieces-15 men and 15 women,
which is a good thing considering the admiration of his fans.
Garcia recalls the first time she saw Flores’ art. “I was at Self
Help Graphics and saw ‘The Victimizers’ I walked up to it and asked
‘who painted this?'” Great art always provokes emotion on a grand
scale and from an array of personalities. “Flores isn’t afraid to
paint difficult moments,” Garcia said. “I called it ‘Discretions’
because the moments he picks are discreet, [they] happen in private
and [they are] the decisions that are made that we don’t see in
public.” Garcia felt “drawn” to Flores’ work because the scenes
reflected her Puerto Rican family and “everyday” people. Daria
Nunez and her friend, Georgia Garside said they try to come out as
often as they can to downtown Pomona to see the newest artists and
musicians. Nunez, a professional dancer and choreographer with a
career spanning 35 years, adores Flores’ art. “[He has] a very
beautiful technique. The lines are interesting and the color
contrast is so pure,” said Nunez. Garside, an art teacher at
Western Christian high school, also agrees. She said she saw a
postcard with “The Victimizers” on it, advertising the exhibition
and she was “totally blown away” by the image. While Flores’ seemed
flattered by the admiration of the group, he humbly acknowledges
his two children as his inspiration and sees this “birth” as the
beginning of a great future. “I see a lot of good things,” said
Flores. “I’m a lot more focused now because no one’s holding me
back like before.” To understand the inspiration of Flores’
paintings, one need only take a good look at Flores’s personal
life. Born in Managua, Nicaragua in 1968, Flores lived amidst war
and poverty with his six siblings until they came to the United
States when Flores was 15 years old. Even then Flores knew he
wanted to be an artist, but the war in Nicaragua proved to be a
formidable obstacle. So, during the beginning of his adolescence,
Flores left his war-torn country with his family and came to the
United States. Flores lived like most American kids until a regular
walk changed his life. “I was walking in Alhambra and I saw a
banner that said ‘Be all you can be,” said Flores. “And I thought,
“Hey that sounds good. So, I went in and when I came out [hours
later], I was enlisted in the army and they came to pick me up a
few months later.” Flores told his mother, whose reaction was less
than stellar. “My mom was crying because she said she took me out
of Nicaragua because of the war only to have me join the Army and
go to war,” he said. Though his mother felt devastated at the time,
Flores insists he made a great decision for his life back then. “I
needed to do something with my life at the time,” said Flores about
joining the U.S. Army and serving as a specialist for three years.
After he served, Flores spent most of his life trying to get back
to his original dream of living as an artist. Flores became a
graphic artist after going to “some stupid trade school,” but he
still felt unsatisfied and knew he had somehow taken the wrong
avenue. His family’s disdain for artistic careers only compounded
Flores’ dissatisfaction, but strengthened his determination to
succeed. “My family always said you don’t make money with art, but
I always knew they were wrong,” Flores said. Flores smiled as he
explained his family’s view of him. “My family [believes] physical
work is work,” he said. “[They] saw me as a lazy guy because I
didn’t do the handyman kind of thing, like my brother.” Despite his
family’s judgments, Flores continued to pursue his dream, which
eventually culminated into Flores enrolling in the Pasadena Art
Center College of Design. There he began a rigorous study of
artistic technique and found his artistic approach. While Flores
studied famous artists and their work, he was prompte to develop
his own style. After a while of learning about others, Flores feels
it makes artists “paint the same.” “I wanted to do something new.
Something that doesn’t look like someone else’s [work],” said
Flores. “I also like acrylics because I don’t like to wait. I work
fast, [but] with oils, you have to wait to work with them.”

Ifeanyi Chijindu can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (909) 869-3744.

Pain Portrayed in Paintings

Pain Portrayed in Paintings

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