Featured Artist: David D. Oquendo

Name: David D. Oquendo
Age: 27
Current town: Pompton Lakes, NJ
Job description: Unemployed
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico – as a toddler he and his family moved to New Jersey. Oquendo frequently took trips into NYC as a youngster & lived in a household that encouraged creative thinking. In 2009, he completed his undergraduate degree at Rutgers University (Newark Campus), earning a BFA in Painting and a Minor in Art History. While attending Rutgers he earned the Creative Achievement in Fine Arts – for outstanding accomplishment in fine arts reflecting creativity and dedication.
In 2012, Oquendo earned his MFA in Painting from Montclair State University. Oquendo has shown his in Newark (New Jersey), Montclair (New Jersey), London, Miami, Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Upcoming projects: 
Developing a series of colorful small-scale paintings on paper, wood and canvas.
Select links: 
Instagram: #monkpuppy

What are you working on/ describe your work:
The core of my art practice is the development of a personal quasi-spiritual universe via painting. I make large scale painted work using appropriated visual imagery. Appropriation paradoxically allows me to create a personal symbolic language that relates to religious cosmology, practices, and religious art. In addition to developing a personal symbolic language, I am also using icons that I appropriate from religious & pop cultures. I employ characters that display both human and non-human characteristics, both as a part of mythology and as a spiritual concept.
These personal and appropriated hybrid human and non-human characters are painted large in scale on interior and exterior walls. I am currently working on a series of small-scale paintings on wood, paper and canvas as well. As I create additional characters, the imaginary world expands. My point of view and location of where my art comes from is part autobiographical and it comes from my allure and skepticism of human perfection, iconoclasts, and self-improvement.

What’s your art background / when did you begin really focusing on art?

My background is in painting and collage. I’ve always been into art since I was a youngster. However, I really started focusing on art when I was introduced to Denyse Thomasos while at Rutgers pursuing a BFA degree. She really lit a fire under me, and encouraged me to be prolific and proactive in art. 

What’s been happening in your life/ what’s next for you?
Since earning my MFA in May 2012 I have been in this sort of limbo. Of course, I am still developing my art and showing as much as possible; painted a truck for Fountain Art Fair in Miami during Miami Basel. I am always looking for interior & exterior walls to work on. What I mean by “limbo” is more financial limbo. I’ve been applying to jobs, applying to residencies, finding avenues for some form of financial stability but with no-avail so far. I am sure I will find it while still being prolific with my work.

Describe your current state of mind / what’s inspiring you?
The books I read inspire me & conversations I have with people when they give me their take on how they view my work inspire me as well. I think I get the most inspiration when I help out artists in their work. I have helped DPH (Daniel Patrick Helmstetter) on his installation piece for Fountain Art Fair in Miami; and that process of detaching myself from my work and just helping create work that isn’t mine just gives my brain a jolt. Also, just meeting artists that I admire inspires me; I had a short conversation with Joe Iurato which was pretty cool. Chatting with LNY was also pretty surreal.

Any exhibits coming up/ past exhibits you’d like to mention?
I think 2012 was an overall great year. I had a small group show at Goldsimth’s in the UK, soon after that I had my thesis show at White Box, then literally the day after the opening I was painting an installation at Solo(s) Project House which was up till November 2012. Soon after that I painted three murals titled “Soma, Trickster & Myself” at Paul Robeson Galleries – Messier Gallery, this show is up till July 24, 2013. And lastly, my friend and gallery manager from Solo(s) Project Houseasked me to paint the gallery truck for Fountain Art Fair in Miami during Miami Basel.
Is any of your work political?
Not at the moment, no. But I do find my work slowly getting closer and closer to having some sort political context. My work is predominantly a critique and/or fascination on religious ideas and mythology. However, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to evolve into political work.
What is one of the biggest challenges you face as an artist?

Financial stability is my biggest challenge I face as an artist right now. Hopefully it changes within the next few years. Fingers crossed.

Are you involved with any organizations/ do you collaborate with other artists?

I am not collaborating with any artists at the moment, but I am definitely up for it. I am a part of the Collective Art Tank; I will be teaching a painting class in Asbury Park starting on April 14th.

What are you listening to these days?

I’ve been listening to The Black Keys for the past 5/6 years. I like other artists like Wax Tailor, Telepopmusik, and DJ Robbie Wilde.  Usually while I paint I like listening to The Joe Rogan Experience. It is Joe Rogan’s podcast.

What are a few of your favorite spots in (the area in which you live)?
I don’t live in Newark, however, my favorite spot is Halsey Street. There are a bunch of nice shops and places to eat in that area in Newark. Also, that street parallels Broad Street which has a handful of galleries to visit. Sadly, there isn’t much to do where I currently live. Positive thing about that is that I don’t have any distractions when painting.
What is your ideal job? 
Art Professor.
Favorite artists and why/ people in your field whom you most admire:

My favorite artist is Takashi Murakami. Why? Well I have noticed, within my own work, the hypothetical “line” between fine art and everything else that isn’t necessarily considered fine art is slowly being blurred; for example, I have an online store that provides my work in prints, t-shirts, buttons, etc. And in the case of Takashi Murakami and his artwork, that hypothetical “line” does not even exist. He blurs the boundaries between advertisement, fashion, and video, as well as the boundary between “high” and “low” art. He creates fascinating characters, which at first seem cute and cheerful, but after a few minutes of intently looking they become more sinister. The first character that comes to mind is the mouse-like creature named Mr. DOB. Murakami borrows and manipulates popular themes from pop culture as wells as mass media, then turns them into small, life size and larger than life sculptures, “Superflat” paintings, or marketable commercial goods.

The artist’s I admire the most are Robert Raushenberg and James Rosenquist, simply because viewing both their work introduced me to appropriation. When I first heard of Raushenberg & Rosenquist I wasn’t very familiar with appropriation and collaging pre-existing imagery to create new imagery.
What are you reading?
This question is interesting, because I am rarely reading only one book at a time. I have a short attention span when it comes to reading so I read multiple books at the same time. Downside of reading multiple books is that it takes forever for me to finish. Anyway, at the moment I am reading: 
“The Universal Myths” by Alexander Eliot
“MONKEY: Folk Novel Of China” by WU Ch’Eng-En
“Trickster Makes This World” by Lewis Hyde
“The Sacred Mushroom & The Cross” by John M. Allegro
“Are You Experienced: How Psychedelic Consciousness Transformed Modern Art” by Ken Johnson
“My Spiritual Journey” by The 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso)
“I Am America (And So Are You!)” by Stephen Colbert

Your website(s): 

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