We had the good fortune of connecting with Tony Ortega and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tony, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
I am a self employed visual artist and professor at Regis University. I have been a visual artists professionally for almost 40 years and a professor for almost 20 years. They are a good blend and contrast for me and my art. One profession informs the other. My long experience in the artworld and as an artist has help me in my teaching. I feel I can bring real world examples/experiences in development of the courses I teach and how engagement and challenge my students. The opposite is also true. I learn from my students and they also challenge me. I have had to learn how to verbalize and demonstrate, techniques in a variety of media and explain content, context and ideas in art. My wife and son are also artists. My wife Sylvia Montero creates paintings, photography and collages. Our son Cipriano Ortrega is a musician and actor. We support and encourage each other in our personally and public lives. It does create harmony between us but at times life can be a little kaotic.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I wake up every morning in Northwest Denver, I physically, emotionally and spiritually live between the clash of two cultures-one Mexican and the American. This is my daily dilemma. I have to cross an imaginary border-not the Mexican and U.S border created for the separation of two nation states, but the border between two cultures. Here in Northwest Denver, the northern frontier of Aztlan, the outpost of Latin American, lays my journey from north to south. I have to deal with a dominant culture whose history is from east to west. On my journey I have to think from: Spanish to English, community to capitalism, and family to individual and back again, my journey is not unique. As a Chicano artist my identity, cultural, traditions and geographic background inform in my art. I live between the clash of two cultures-one Mexican and the American. By merging iconic Mexican and American iconography in my art, I show that my journey is not unique. I make art that merge abstraction and realism. My work combines flat space with cubical space to form new ambiguous spaces. I combine vertical and horizontal elements to produce a solid, confident, and orderly sense of structure. This allows me to juxtapose and superimpose unlikely images, symbols and words. These unexpected combinations encourage creating opportunities to bend of meaning and warp a sense of time and place. With creating art, I can address the differences in my world, forming a new and more accurate outlook of my personal and cultural identity.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Let’s assume my best friend is an artist, loves seeing art meeting artist and eating good food. Here is a short list of local galleries, art spaces, museum etc. I would take them to: Redline Art Center, Art Gym, Museo de las Americas, William Havu Gallery, Denver Art Museum, Su Teatro, BMoCA, Arvada Center for the Art and Humanities, Art Students League of Denver, etc Here is a list of restaurants and cafes I would introduce them to. Parisi Italian restaurant, La Taqueria Patzcuaro, Chili Verde, Leven Deli, Sushi Den, Mercury Cafe, J’s Noodle Star Thai I would like them to meet the owners, artists, cooks wait people, gallery directors at the about places.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There have been two very important individuals in my artistic life that I would like to honor and praise for their support, encouragement and love. The first person is my maternal grandmother Trinnie Ortega. She helped my mother raise and educate me. My grandmother was a storyteller, seamstress, quilt maker etc. When I was very little, I spent a great deal of time under the sewing machine or in the living room while she sewed, embroidered, crocheted, etc. She also shared many stories about her youth, my mother and uncle childhood and many folktales of the southwest/New Mexico. The second person is my wife, best friend, companion and fellow artist Sylvia Montero. We share our home, studio and creative lives together. It is a very personal and professional relationship.
Website: Tony Ortega