From the Studio, 2-6-15

Lots of things happening in the studio this week. New ideas to paint over huipil, the ornate and beautifully crafted garments that Mayan women wear.


Originally I had the idea to paint over the huipil in one color drawn from the embroidery to create a minimalist piece. I may still do that. But then I decided to intricately paint over the embroidery in the color of the thread to create a textural impasto surface that would simplify the patterns.

A lot of what I am doing right now is designed to get me a little closer to understanding the local Mayan people and getting to know their culture through the materials, clothing , food etc that they use every day. This relates to my endeavor as a conceptual realist to recreate things that occur daily in my life, my families life and my friends lives. This is what I hope to create in future projects through various mediums such as film, sculpture, music, 3d printing and more.

My designs using pita, the local name for the colorful nylon twine used for all kinds of things, is a little bit on the back burner and I hope to move forward on some of these pieces in the coming weeks.

Pita pieces in progress.
Pita pieces in progress.

Making the pita paintings is hard on my assistant, Efrian, as the pita, when worked with the hands for several hours, starts to cause cuts and burns on the fingers. So I try to balance Ef’s work load by alternating the building of stretchers, doing the pita pieces, doing jobs around the house and doing wood construction projects among other things. He works quickly, has an intuitive understanding of what I want done and his craftsmanship gets better daily. He can build 2-3 large stretchers in a day, or a whole bunch of small ones.

Efrain with Iza at the easel he built for her. One of her favorite things.
A puzzle for Iza.

Raco-Life-From-the-Studio-Ef-Puzzle Raco-Life-From-the-Studio-puzzle


Working a lot on the “Emptiness” series which I have written about. Here is a past blog that better describes the series.


Finding the right way to prep the surface of the canvas is the biggest challenge. I am trying to create these beautiful floating grey rectangles and the it is important at this stage to represent these without brushstrokes and flaws. I see this series growing in the future into different painting methods, sculpture, video and other medium.

Below is the original inspiration for the series.


Here are some new wood constructions that will either become pita pieces or small paintings for the Emptiness series.

Raco-Life-From-the-Studio-wood-construction-pita-2 Raco-Life-From-the-Studio-wood-construction-pita-3 Raco-Life-From-the-Studio-wood-construction-pita-4 Raco-Life-From-the-Studio-wood-construction-pita

A large triptych canvas i have been staring at for about a week.  This will be a different series of gestural abstract paintings I think. I still love to do these types of paintings and hope to make them affordable to people that can’t drop 5-10k on a painting.


While I was working in the studio, Ventura, our guardian, gave me some these flowers while I was working. He said to fry the petals with eggs and eat them.

Edible flowers.
Edible flowers.

Also, the flowers near a desk Ef built for my computer work. I got it goin’ on.


Finally, the pathway lined with flowers on the way back to the house.

Raco-Life-From-the-Studio-flowers-2 Raco-Life-From-the-Studio-flowers

From the Studio: Emptiness

When we talk about emptiness, what exactly are we talking about? Is it the result of sadness, loss, desperation and loneliness? Or is emptiness the truth, something extraordinary to work towards, to be realized, transcendence, maybe the most amazing thing one could ever experience?

It is strange that two definitions of this word could be so vastly different. One definition existing in the east, and the polar opposite existing in the west. Why does the West view emptiness as a negative condition while religions such as Buddhism and Taoism see it much differently?

From the Heart Sutra, the most important text in Buddhist philosophy:

“Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is Form”. The idea implies that there is neither existence in form or lack of form. All things are empty. Once this is realized, true freedom appears.


An excellent translation is by Red Pine and is available here.

On the other side, from Woody Allen, a modern existentialist:

“The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.”

In actuality there is no antidote to the emptiness of existence. Emptiness in existence is inherent. To search for an antidote to this condition is to create despair, delusion, because it can never be found.

My recent art endeavors to form my feelings and thoughts on the complicated subject of emptiness. How did I come upon this absurd and hopeless idea? As you know, my family, aka “TheBrandFam” are currently living in Guatemala, the land of shitty internet. As I write, Rache is screaming in the background that her pages won’t load, and I am on the edge of my seat desperately hoping that I can get this blog post up before the internet cuts out on me again. Good Luck! Because of the extremely slow and unreliable connection, often when I do an internet image search for source material for my art, I am left with nothing but a grid of empty grey boxes that are place fillers for the actual images I am searching for.


One day, after maddening frustration that these grey boxes kept popping up in place of the beautiful colorful photos I was searching for, I realized that the blank grey boxes that always appear are equally as beautiful and compelling as the images that I so longed for to appear. The frustration forced me to “let go” and dissolve into the beauty of the simple grey boxes cleanly laid out before me. This is why monks and serious meditators sit for endless hours in retreats. So the mind can actually let go of delusive thinking to allow a deeper experience to be realized.


The frustration I was speaking of, by the way, has been happening a lot lately. Living in a developing nation has some serious drawbacks, and lots (and lots and lots) of patience must be practiced. Being on time here is actually showing up an hour late. Getting something fixed that is supposed to be finished “mañana” and does not get done for a week is normal here. And it has taken us months to realize that the more we do NOT get what we think we want, the closer we will get to what we actually want but do not know it, that being an inner state of calm, the calm that is so often clouded by our desires, opinions and judgements.


So I started painting these boxes to express all of the thoughts and feelings I have on the subject of emptiness. And they are, to me, absolutely beautiful and I hope to paint at least 50 different compostions before I move on to something else. Or maybe they will continue indefinitely and expand into new mediums and modes of expression. What I have learned here tells me not to expect or force what they are to become. The daily work, like meditation, will allow them to be exactly what they are supposed to be.