The History of Artist Armando Adrian-Lopez

Armando Adrian-Lopez was born in 1965 in the town of Santa Maria in the state of Michoacan, Mexico. His work reflects the mysticism and mythologies of his native land and bridges Catholic imagery and beliefs and Native traditions (before the European colonization of Mexico) within a contemporary context.

In 1982, he sought a formal education in visual arts at the Instituto Michoacano De Culture (Casa De Cultura) in Morelia. Unfortunately, he could not afford the required materials for art classes. So, Armando auditioned for the theatre arts program and was accepted. During the four years Lopez attended the institute, he used his body to express his creativity. His performances include Mexican works—Oscar Liera, Marusha Vialta, Salvador Novo, etc.—and European works—Chekov, Moliere, Shakespeare, etc. He performed classical theater while touring in a state-sponsored troop.

After graduation, Armando's primary focus continued in the visual arts. In 1987 he traveled to Mexico DF and applied to a prestigious visual arts university where there was admiration for his artwork, but not for his Native Tarascan cultural background. His hometown had served as a shield from systemic discrimination in his country of origin. However, blindsided and disheartened by this experience, he left Mexico for the United States. He worked as a farm laborer, picking cherries in Idaho. This gave him time to regroup before he relocated to Los Angeles and returned to making visual art.

Armando began making art at an early age, having learned traditional basket weaving from his grandfather. Though his sculptures are an outgrowth of Native folkways, the utilitarian form gave way to fantastic, non-utilitarian shapes during childhood, pushing him toward his future as an artist. Painting followed sculpting to translate visual imaginings that did not lend themselves to sculpture into two-dimensional works. It is not common to find an equally adept artist in painting and 3-D media; he is gifted in both. Armando also has done performances and has made videos of his writing and poetry.

Armando Adrian-Lopez: His Beginnings & His Vision

What you see in the galleries is the finished work of Armando Adrian-Lopez. However, inspiration and learning began many years ago during his childhood.

The Artist’s Background

A story from his mother and observation of his grandfather gave Armando the idea and techniques that would form the basis of his artwork. He is a Tarascan native-born in the village of Santa Maria, Michoacán, in Southwestern Mexico.

When Armando was a child, his mother told him the story of a doll her father made her when she was a girl. She said the doll was so infused with a magical human likeness that the eyes (made from marbles) seemed to follow all that went on around it.

The story became etched in Armando's young mind, and at age 4, he began making dolls with the notion of instilling in them the same magical qualities as the doll in the story.

His technique comes from hours each day watching his Abuelito at work weaving baskets, making benches, or fashioning toys. Observation soon turned into action as Armando began making his creations.

In Santa Maria and the surrounding villages, the people knew his grandfather as a master basket weaver and exceptionally talented all-around craftsman. He was also a teacher of crafts in and around his village.

The underlying structure of his work stems from the folk art tradition of fashioning figures out of corn husks, twigs, reeds, and grass. Children used these toys to play while their elders tended the crops.

Armando's materials are river willow twigs, corn husks, reeds, cattails, onion skin, dried flowers, ceramic clay, native grasses, 24k gold leaf, and egg tempera. He weaves and binds these materials into saints, angels, altars, and other more worldly figures. He uses both native and Catholic imagery in his mixed media work and paintings.

He lives with his family in Abiquiu, New Mexico, on an organic farm that he tends in his spare time. Many of the basic materials used in his 3-D mixed media sculptures are grown or collected on the farm. He also sculpts and fires the ceramic panels, heads, body parts, and ornaments he uses in his work.

You can see his work online or in his studio in Abiquiu. Contact him for an in-person appointment at his studio.

The Artist’s Statement

My life is not separate from my art; my life is art and has always been art. I am, for all intent and purposes, self-taught. I have an unshakable belief in La Unidad, Unity in all things. I believe we are all connected to everything and everyone. I see myself as a spiritual storyteller; the narrative-symbolic allows me to tell a story in which I am not the sole interpreter; the viewer is also an interpreter.

My imagery is intentionally accessible and universal by way of archetypes that are open and flexible enough to allow for many interpretations—not one interpretation. My use of visual language, the symbolic, expresses my intent to engage the viewer in a dialogue. Through this unspoken dialogue, an intimacy arises and the space to dream, imagine, contemplate—that, to me, is freedom.

Entering into a Dialog

Aesthetics are an essential consideration; however, symbolic meanings are the predominant force in his work. His visual language is not arcane. Instead, the images and their place within a scene are easily understood. On the other hand, they are open enough to invite the viewer to make their interpretations of the deeper and more personal meanings. In this, Armando is not telling the viewer what should be seen, thought, or felt; he is inviting the viewer to enter into a dialog. For him, visual storytelling serves to convey the continuity of storylines between media, past and present, above and below, and what lies in-between. Symbolic language expresses stylistically, acting as a through-line, tying together all of his work.

Armando cites Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros as major, early influences. His intent is not to be part of a particular genre, although his work is closest to Magical Realism. Upon close inspection, the figures in his paintings include facial elements that align more with figurative abstraction, while contradictions of reality align more closely with surrealism.

You’ll Find His Work:

Public & Private Collections

  • The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), Long Beach, CA
  • National Hispanic Culture Center Museum,  Albuquerque, NM
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission, Vero Beach, FL
  • Home of many academy artists and other art lovers worldwide.

Reach out to Armando to purchase one of his works for yourself.