David Maestas (UTah Artist Hands)

Maestas 5

David Maestas always has been a painter, his reality is one of a painter, and no matter what curve balls life may throw his way, he always will be a painter seeing and understanding life through the eyes and cognition, and spirit of an artist. As a father of three daughters, he had to make some changes with the economic situation, which in 2008 slowed sales and had to relinquish the total freedom he once had to paint at total liberty as an artist, with his last major show in 2010. But things are day-by-day looking better for Maestas, and for the economy. It is very likely, as his two older girls will soon help support themselves, that Maestas will once again very soon have the total autonomy to be the self-supporting artist he always was, yet with a renewed outlook. “The best paintings come from the journey, and never knowing where it’s going, and never knowing what is going to happen,” says Maestas.

For Maestas, his painting is very much a personal expression, that is a mastery of the mechanics of abstract art of 20 years, to the degree that his work is an open door to his spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and transcendent struggles with life, as he faces the trials of his reality that become manifest in relationships of strong color and bold tonality. Although his life is one of both happiness and hardship, Maestas has found his work to be a symbiotic tool with the workings of his sensibilities to process life’s more challenging aspects. The result is always beautiful. “Her Soul is like a Waterfall” is like much of Meastas’ work and a collision of forces. Here it seems as if he has occupied a particular space of hardship, blue blackness, for far too long. The levee has ruptured, and the beauty that is her soul, like a waterfall, has come rushing in, overcoming a darkness with a glassy effulgent orange, and life and vitality fuses with the space of emptiness and despair.

Maestas does not regard being an artist as a career choice or something he necessarily initiated at some point in life. For him it is a way of life, and how life has always been. He says, “I think being an artist is a full time thing from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, and it is your power of observation, the way you look at things. It’s almost like a sensitivity to things that most people would miss. Maybe you walk into a room and you see things happening all around, but your mind fixates on a ray of light breaking through glass or a salt shaker, the way it makes a star; it’s having that sensitivity throughout your day, and having that awareness and taking it all in- it can be a bit overwhelming.” For Maestas it is a total reality that became manifest when he was a very young boy.

Maestas, who was born in Chama, New Mexico, recalls “I think the first time I remember picking up a brush was with the little Crayola cakes, the little set that you bought for $1, and I could always remember when I was 9 or 10, and coming from a family of 6 boys, messing around with the paint and seeing the paint and what it would do, mixing it with water and moving the paint and turning the paper, and seeing and being fascinated with what the paint was doing, not even being concerned with creating anything that meant anything to anybody. It was just about the paint and the paper and what it would do, and how they would interact. It was experimentation and I remember being lost for four or five hours in the process. I would lock myself in the bathroom and my brothers would tease me, “What is that?” I didn’t know what abstract art was, but I knew it felt good, it felt right, it felt right creating it, so I’ll always remember saying “This feels good.”

“With the six of us,” says Maestas, “none of them had the discipline. They all had the ability from my mother, but talent will only get you so far- that ability to create- but for me it was an impulse.” He continues, “I think I found out early on that art was what I was good at. When I graduated with a B+ average in high school, it was a struggle, with math classes, English, but when it came to art, I was in a different place where it just came easily. I got scholarships. Every time there was an art contest, I would win- I knew I was good, but I was creating work people wanted to see, using rendering skills: portraiture, wildlife. I guess I did it because I like the reaction and the praise that people gave me.”

It was at the University of Utah that Maestas found his footing as an abstract artist and felt justification as an abstract painter, as he became educated in the histories of abstract art. He says of Jackson Pollock; “He’s probably my favorite American Painter. If there was anyone to do something different, to say, ‘This is mine and this is where I’m going to take it,’ it is Pollock, and I like that courage, it’s a beautiful thing to have that courage to be able to pursue that.” Meastas is not one without his own resources of courage, and those who know the artist and know his art, know of its intensity and his own personal battle for courage. The symbiosis that is the life of Maestas, that finds its reality mingled with art, growing stronger day by day, was never born in a vacuum, but has a very real genesis in a child’s sensitivities and longtime struggles with acute anxiety and depression, translated as a real driving force of power in art, taking on myriad forms. Maestas has had to live with this condition and process this and his process is art as his life and his art are one.

There is much about pain that can be seen in the intensity and the forces at play in Meastas abstract cognitive manifestations, which become purely emotional. After the death of his brother in 2001, his death motivated him to pursue his dream of becoming an artist. He applied for the Kimball Arts Festival and was accepted went on to sell work and getting into Utah Artist Hands Gallery. Pain is not all that Maestas’ work is consumed with, but in his most recent works, there is a tremendous forcefulness present as Maestas as of late has been facing his life head on. In “Road Paved in Gold” we see what might have been a road paved in gold, a hope that might have at one point given way to despondency. There is a darkness that consumes, and a light that seems to be losing its way to blackness. It is not a happy painting, one perhaps redolent of childhood recollections, when hope was brighter. In this painting, there is a sense of being consumed with spiritual, emotional and intellectual disturbances, and a feeling of being trapped in a space inside the mind and body, to what feels like light shrinking, and fading dimmer and dimmer as gradations of shadow overcome. But there is a radiant gleam from the right side, a pure light, saturated, where can be found a purity of optimism.

Meaning “House of Glass” in Spanish, “Casa de Vidrio” is a painting that is brutally beautiful and honest and like a house of glass, can be interpreted in various ways. For Maestas, he is a prisoner of anxiety and depression, in a subjective place that he can see out of but nobody can see in. With chaotic blackness above and devastating maelstroms below, what else is there? But for those with an objective eye from beyond, who can witness the sublime beauty that Maestas has created, it is all a matter of perspective. Many who see Maestas’ creations may marvel at the astonishing power and beautiful intensity and remark at his mastery of abstraction and the forcefulness of the emotion and do not realize the artist who created it whose art is his very recompense and release for his suffering.  

Says Maestas, “When you have anxiety and you are an anxious person and you constantly have to be moving, it’s a mental disorder, both anxiety and depression, and I think part of that anxiety comes from having that sensitivity to everything that is going on around you. So when I start painting, it’s kind of a release. But when I try to do it consciously, it does not work. The only way that it works is if you have the courage to start a painting- and the best paintings come from the journey, and never knowing where its going, and never knowing what is going to happen.”

Maestas also paints canvases loaded with color such as “Vida Mia Dolores” and this means, “My Love Dolores.” In the painting full of color one can feel this love Maestas has for his wife Dolores, a love from Maestas that is very real and potent and even though the canvas is very powerful, at times dark, it is passionate and overwhelms with vida as Maestas overwhelms with his own vida of Dolores and life and art.

Painting and art for Maestas is mental, emotional, and spiritual state of progression towards self-mastery and self-realization and he could not have one without the other. He says, “If I can get in a relaxed state of mind and start moving the paint around, it’s like music, it’s like jazz, this thing happens and I respond to it, then this thing happens and I respond to it. Anybody can do that, but what you can’t teach somebody is to know when to stop, to know when it is done, because it has been 20 years, the only reason my work is at where it is now is because I know where to stop. I know what the process is, but knowing where to stop is what most people can’t get. I’m still working on it.”

Maestas knows he cannot stop now as the journey of self-mastery continues and the adventure of creating fine art is just reaching its most fecund stages. Now, more than ever, is the time for Maestas to utilize the synergy of life and art and maximize on both and harness both to become a greater abstract painter and become a better man, husband, father, and self… as “the best paintings come from the journey, and never knowing where its going, and never knowing what is going to happen.”


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