The paintings of Brian M. Viveros have fascinated us for years. Featuring beautiful, dangerous women who are always smoking and usually have the trappings of a warrior, the simple read would be that someone has an obsession and is compelled to work it out via paint brush.
But as you delve deeper and deeper into the world Viveros has created, you see so much more. The pain, defiance, hunger, and longing is shared by subject and artist; these are (obviously) not self-portraits, but they are also not a reflection of the traditional model/artist relationship either. Viveros’ incredible new book, The Dirtyland, is an almost overwhelming collection of stunning images featuring the tattooed, smoking, triumphant wounded warriors that Viveros creates in his Riverside studio.
Earlier this month, we got the chance to discuss art, life, and tacos with this internationally celebrated artist and filmmaker…
What’s your favorite taco spot?
Tio’s Tacos in Riverside CA. Not only do they have amazing tacos, but It’s also a crazy outdoor art museum with some of the coolest, craziest, wackiest oversized giant sculptures made of bottles, naked dolls, and trash. There are so many strange and odd things to look at; I just love it. It’s totally surreal, and any artist or photographer’s wet dream. Also, their carnitas tacos are AMAZING!!! Whoever wants to go, hit me up, and I’ll meet you there>;-)
Where did you grow up? How did it shape your art?
I was born and raised in Corona, my old hood, and stomping grounds, and then moved to Riverside in 1999. I don’t think these cities shaped my art in any significant way. I was always pretty much in my own world and into weird stuff as a kid. I think my wild imagination and creative energy kept my mind very active as a kid. Mostly, all of my childhood fixations, my open-mindedness to fantasy, and my Hispanic upbringing shaped me. I would draw a lot, read comics, make comics, and direct and create splatter films with the neighborhood homies; all these things shaped my personality and thinking. My father was also a huge influence on my art. He drew a lot, mainly human anatomy and Conan the Barbarian characters. Everything I surrounded myself with became aesthetic components of my world, if that makes sense.
What was it like putting together your book, The Dirtyland?
It was AWESOME! When Thinkspace hit me up with the offer to publish my first art book, it was truly a dream come true for me. I’ve always wanted to do a book, and we both knew I had more than enough work and content to fill its pages, but I wanted to present something really special for the fans. I wanted to create something that didn’t take away or detract from the art while also giving the hardcore book collectors a solid quality object that would be affordable, beautiful, and classy. The process was lengthy and collaborative, and I was involved the whole way through, working alongside Thinkspace’s Shawn Hosner and Anthony Clarkson, who were absolutely amazing. I had a vision, and they embraced and supported it, and we brought it to life.
The book contains essays and exclusive interviews, including one with co-founder of Juxtapoz magazine, and awesome homie, Mr. Greg Escalante. Greg connected me with Dr. Darius A. Spieth, a Professor of Art History at Louisiana State University, who also contributed this amazing scholarly essay about my art, framing my work critically for the first time within an art historical context. It was such an honor, and very important to me and the DirtyLand world to have his contribution. The whole book project was surreal, watching it come together and become something truly memorable – all of the pieces fell into place. If you missed out on it, it’s now available online through my ‘shop’ page at www.brianmviveros.com
Do you smoke? What is your smoke of choice?
I used to smoke a lot….like A LOT. My smoke of choice was Marlboro Lights, loved them – they were great with coffee, they were great when painting, they were great when standing and sitting…Shit, I’d love one now! Haha just kidding – but not really. I smoked for a long time, and that’s what started the whole smoking army back in 2000. I wanted my girls to have a piece of me, and I was going to make it part of my art whether people loved it or hated it. I don’t smoke cigarettes anymore; I’m getting old and the preservation of my health is important. Now, it’s just Don Julio tequila, and occasionally I smoke Arturo Fuente Cigars. The company owners are good friends of mine, and their cigars are the only ones my girls smoke in the paintings.
Photo by Birdman
What is Dirtyland? How can someone get there?
DirtyLand is the world and army I’ve created. It’s an imaginary, filled with these kick-ass strong women who dominate and exude power. To get to the DirtyLand, you need a helmet, a pack of smokes, and solid theme music, or if you meet me at Tio’s Tacos and treat me to lunch, I’ll give you the secret coordinates >;-)
What are some of your favorite films?
My favorites films: Viva La Muerte, Holy Mountain, Meshes of the Afternoon, Un Chien Andalou.
Do you have a lucky number?
Favorite number 33
Do each of your subjects have a backstory? Do you have a favorite? If your women were to meet in a dark alley… who walks out alive?
The backstory is what you make up, what you feel, or how you fill in the blanks. I get tons of emails from people expressing what the paintings mean to them and how they interpret their suggestions. Ultimately, they are all strong women who’ve been through the good fight and still keep fighting. There’s also a universal message of survival there. We all bleed and take hits, but we get up, dust our shit off, and move forward. Stand tall like my paintings. It is through them that I try to express our collective resilience and refusal. Hopefully, you can feel that, if that makes sense. My favorite painting is probably my first ‘Bull-Fight-Her’ piece…something clicked, and I felt it everywhere.
Do you have any recurring dreams?
I do, but it’s strange, and I don’t want to say too much about it as it will one day be the basis for one of my surreal films. Let’s just say waves of red – red of waves…
What are your favorite dirty parts of LA?
Cruising through Skid Row can be pretty surreal, but that was a long time ago for me – I don’t really go to LA very much but could share some pretty dirty parts of Riverside if you like.
What’s your entrance music? Funeral music?
Wow, that’s a good one! Entrance music? hmmm…Darth Vader’s Imperial March. Funeral music? Darth Vader’s Imperial March
Got any shoutouts?
Shoutouts to Andrew at Thinkspace for hookin’ this up and for being a solid homie, to you, L.A.Taco, and to all the DirtyTroops out there, I got nothin’ but love for ya.
Stay Dirty My Friendzzz.
Find more of Viveros art on his official site: http://brianmviveros.com/