Deeply philosophical, intensely unique and constantly searching, are a few ways to describe the amazing artist known as Rogelio Manzo. Rogelio has the gift of describing and revealing the unseen. It is almost as though he has a third eye that sees layers within the human ‘being’ that is invisible to the rest of us. He then expresses these stratums in hauntingly beautiful mixed media art that draws you in like an ancient potent spell. We are immensely honored and filled with gratitude that Rogelio took the time to answer a few questions about his life and the world as he sees it through all his unique eyes.
Read the incredibly real interview peppered with Rogelio’s work below.
“Time cannot be foreseen and our time is limited, but our … “
Please tell us a little about yourself – where you grew up, what you liked as a child, where you live now, etc.?
I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, but when I was about four years old, my family moved to Colima, an all year long green state in the Pacific. I grew up in a small town called Alzada. Alzada is where I remember the best days of my childhood. We were 11 children, yes 11! I was the sixth child. My house was always noisy and there was always something happening. I remember my childhood home as a happy place and I would really like to return there. I remember having a strange fascination with death – I would find dead animals (birds, cats, small dogs or wild animals) and give them what I thought was a proper burial. After some days, I couldn’t stop thinking about what the corpses probably look like and I would return to the burial site and look into the crypt. There was something intriguing to me about looking at these animals in their decomposed state. I think I was intrigued by the impossibility of death – I couldn’t understand how such a beautiful living creature full of life could turn so easily into rotting flesh. When I saw a dead person for the first time at a funeral service, my macabre fascination was escalated. However, I never dared come back to the cemetery and attempt to see a decomposed corpse. Also, I was always very imaginative and creative. I created such scary tales and images in my head that sometimes I would be too afraid to come out of my house alone. After 14 years, I came back to Colima and created a temporary studio at my parents’ home which was left empty after all my family moved to the United States.
When did you get involved in art and what does art mean to you?
I would say I got involved when I was really young, I remember meeting a retired art teacher who fascinated me with his personality and eccentricity, but above all, his work had an immense impact on me. His name was Rafael Heredia and he lived in Villa de Alvarez, Colima, Mexico. After meeting Rafael, art became my lifestyle and something I knew I would live with until the end of my days. Since then, art turned into the only way I can extend myself as an individual and the best possible way to find continuity within my own existence.
In your bio, you describe what you do as “portraiture”, but your works are not traditional portraits – they have a dark twist to them, can you explain?
Yes, my work is trying to take the viewer to a point of no return. It is trying to confront pleasure and fear at the same time. I think this is what life is about – the constant confrontation of contrasting emotions. Time cannot be foreseen and our time is limited, but our time is now and it cannot stop. But then death is our borderline and inevitably, we’ll get to that borderline sooner or later. I try to confront these two dichotomies visually. I twist them to create conflict and conversation in search of our own very personal conclusions. And to do this, I dig into my psyche and bring out layers and surfaces of what these dichotomies are made of in a quest to understand them on a deeper level.
Again in your bio, it stated that you found architecture (that you are trained in) “too strict”, could you expand on what you mean by that?
Art should be free, thoughtless, simple, and effortless to conceive. Some types of art are too strict and too functional, like architecture. The masterpieces of “architecture” are not architecture in my opinion – they are sculptures or art objects used as premises or living spaces. Architecture is restricted by building codes and budget limits – art is not. Art can be created with any materials without restrictions.
Your work has a beautiful darkness and there seems to be an underlying and common message in all your images, could you explain what it is? How did you create your personal style?
When you realize you’re an artist, you start looking for yourself as an artist and looking for the media you’re going to use to manifest your creativity. When you start finding yourself, you also start finding and understanding materials, then a whole language begins to develop. Everything you do with your hands is an extension of yourself. This is called technique. Inevitably, your technique has impregnated in it, your own personality (the way you view the world, your way of putting things together, your thought process, etc.). My work, since I started making art, has always been about trying to dig into the subject beyond its established borders. For me, this effort leads to work that is strong and dark. I believe that any good artist should be able bring creativity to the edge of darkness and light. My technique allows me to do just that. With time, my work has mutated, but it has never lost its stubbornness to dig deeper. I developed this technique by trial and error, experimenting here and there, and keeping myself in the studio for long hours trying to make sense of the traditional with unconventional materials.
What is your preferred medium to work in/with?
I create a mixed media assemblage kind of work. I don’t consider myself a painter. I think I’m more an artist that put things together, so I don’t think I have a preferred medium. I do work on canvas, sheet metal, resin panels, polymers, and use fabrics, oils, laser print transfers, fabric treads,etc. and the list will keep growing as I keep looking for more ways to express myself.
Where do you draw inspiration for your work?
I have a very acute interest in people. I am intrigued by our perception of and relationship with the whole world. I also like to explore our decaying bodies and emotional sensitivity. All of our complex existence gives me more than enough subject matter to create art. And of course, I draw inspiration from other artists out there and all types of art I see.
What is the worst critique you have ever received about your work? What is the best compliment that you have received about your work?
I try to learn from all comments about my work. I hear and read all kinds of comments but I take the best from all of them. If someone doesn’t connect with my work, it does not bother me – this is simply because my work is not for them. I don’t think I have a worst or best critique – all feedback is seriously good for my progress.
What is your personal life philosophy?
I learned throughout the years that life is just a brief moment, a dream, and the most important and most valuable possession I have is this moment. Yesterday and tomorrow are just two ends that don’t exist now or yet.
Since Style.No.Chaser is a men’s lifestyle magazine, what attributes/items/clothing /etc. do you think defines a man? What is your personal style?
First impressions are everything! When people remember you for how you dress, how good you smell, your haircut, your shoes, a watch or an accessory, it means you are doing something right. Every man needs a good pair of jeans (KNOW YOUR SIZE) and fitted shirts. And throw in a bracelet here and there for a change.
My style is casual. I wear jeans most of the time because they are so versatile – you can mix and match denim with a nice shirt and blazer for an art opening, a dinner, or even a date. I think jeans are a best bet for every guy out there – don’t forget to invest on a good pair of shoes.
How do you combine creative integrity with commercial success?
I always face this issue and because sometimes money is tight I get tempted to compromise with my work. But I have realized that there is always a way to keep it under control. I mean, if I don’t make sales then I won’t be able to create the quality of work that I want. The more I sell. the more work I will be able to put out. I think an artist should have a good developed sense of how to conceive highly artistic, honest and valuable art. Commercial success comes by itself when all these points are met.
What advice would you give to a young artist who wants to be like you?
No matter how hard they look for commercial or institutional acknowledgement, if their work is not at a high level, success will never happen. But don’t despair, if you put your heart into it, your work will develop into the work you always wanted it to be and after that, everything else will come along.
You can see Rogelio working below: