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Armando Reyes moved to Puerto Vallarta ten years ago because he saw an opportunity to work as an artist in a way that his native Guadalajara couldn’t provide.
“When I was visiting Vallarta,” he said, “I saw the local galleries and the local artists and a good market for art, and that’s why I decided to come here. There is no big opportunities in other cities.”
Like many a business person in this town, he looks to Canadians, Americans, and especially Europeans, art lovers around the world who visit Mexico, to maintain a living.
“Mexicans, we appreciate the art, we like to see it, but it’s very hard for Mexicans to buy a piece of original art,” he said. “Sometimes we cannot afford it, or sometimes we just don’t have the appreciation. Or it’s just not on our main lists to buy.”
Too, he chose the most LGBT-friendly city in all of Mexico because his work lately has engaged our community directly. In May, amid our Pride festival, Reyes hosted a Homo Erotic art exhibition, the perfect opportunity to both identify and share his work. Reyes home studio and gallery is J.A.R. (full name: Jose Armando Reyes) and it is filled with wall-hangings large and small, some political—have you seen the Trump-as-pig painting?—some with a traditional Mexican influence. Lately, though, the work has been decidedly homoerotic, and the artist doesn’t apologize for it.
“I like the anatomy,” he said. “I like the male anatomy, since I am gay! I think the male anatomy has a lot of expression. A landscape is a thing but when you paint a portrait you are saying also a story. Or when you paint anatomies. You’re telling the story of a person. So that’s why I like to paint a lot of people and portraits, especially the male anatomy.”
And though he is self-taught, Reyes can speak in great detail regarding the theory of his work and influences.
“I studied philosophy and psychology,” he said “I traveled also through many countries in Europe and had contact with other cultures and friends. The study of Greek culture and Roman shows you that art is the top value of any culture. Philosophy teaches you how to think from different perspectives, how to question everything, how to go deep in the most meaningful issues for humans. Psychology studies the behavior of human beings, so if we don’t understand the behavior of ourselves, how can we understand others.”
Reyes has grand ambitions for both his work and the arts community of Vallarta at large, and he believes we should all dream big. “It’s good advice for us, especially Mexicans,” he said. “We have to think big. This is one of my goals, to put a big museum of contemporary art here. I hope the quality of my paintings is enough to be in this museum. I also would like to represent Mexico in other cities in the world and make proud the community of artists in Mexico. Also to be a motivation for many other young artists who are starting, who think that art is not a way to live, it’s not a reward economically. I would like to change that also.”
“Art touches all the corners in our life,” he added. “So sometimes you feel the beauty and you want to experience beauty, sometimes you’re mad, sometimes you’re horny. The erotic paintings for me is a message to say, ‘you know what, this is part of us. There’s nothing to be ashamed about.’ Many people are ashamed to put one of these paintings in their house because ‘oh, maybe my grandmother comes’ or something. It’s just something they want to hide. Okay, but this is what we are.”
“I have sixty or seventy paintings right now in this gallery. Sometimes just one of them will touch a person. And they say ‘oh, I connect with this painting,’ and they connect because what they have happening in that moment connects with what I was feeling when I painted it. It depends on the mood of the person when they see it, their story, sometimes they have a connection.”