Artist discusses channeling personal experiences in artwork

Anabel Martinez
Staff Writer

Los Angeles-based artist Martin Durazo joined Dion Johnson, director of art galleries, to discuss detailing life through art in a one-on-one video interview shared by University of La Verne’s Department of Art and Art History on April 5.

Durazo and Johnson discussed the artist’s thought process behind his 2013 acrylic painting “Violator,” located in the University’s Abraham Campus Center, and his recent exhibition “Monolith(ic).”

“‘Violator’ is a painting that I think speaks to the overall energy of my practice, which is trying to harness the things that make we, as humans, feel alive,” Durazo said. “Music, poetry, dangerous situations, things that kind of amplify being alive.”

The acrylic on canvas painting displays multiple strokes of bright colors including yellow, black, red and gray with minimal horizontal strokes.

“It’s abstract with these hyper colors, and a lot of contrast, that gestural moves going across the surfaces creates ar lot of dynamic energy,” Johnson said.

Durazo said he connects the title “Violator,” with the idea of language and not being able to express certain emotions with words.

“When I look at my own artwork, I’m trying to present some kind of expression in order to create an understanding for a situation (or thought), kind of creating an aesthetic to an emotion or an aesthetic to a reaction, to an experience,” Durazo said.

Durazo said he thinks people do the same when they look at his artwork.

“I think that it’s very natural, especially when we’re dealing with abstract work, to try to bring our own experience and our own meaning into a work of art that we see. And mine is no different,” Durazo said.

The artist expressed hoping viewers will pull from their own life experiences to create connections to what they see in the depth of the painting’s layered colors.

“(I hope) that they look through the contrasts in shapes and marks and that they find something that maybe I didn’t intend but that creates a very moving experience for them,” Durazo said.

Durazo’s recent exhibition, “Monolith(ic),” curated by John Spiak, was presented at  California State University Fullerton’s Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana from October 2019 to January 2020. 

Durazo described the experience as fantastic and said when working with Spiak, he felt like he had lots of freedom with his exhibition.

“We talked about some ideas and it wasn’t the traditional approach to creating an exhibition,” Durazo said. “It wasn’t the usual situation where someone comes into the studio and they look at work that already exists and say, ‘OK, this is a show, let’s present it.’” 

He also mentioned he came together with the curator a few months before the exhibition and began brainstorming elements that involved sculpture.

“I wanted to (create) these objects so that people could interact with them and a place where people could sit and meet, and maybe just kind of immerse themselves in my thought process,” Durazo said.

The final presentation of “Monolith(ic)” features a sculpture emulating a Lamassu, a Babylonian protective demon that has the body of a bull, wings of an eagle, and a human head.

To view Durazo and Johnson’s conversation, visit

Anabel Martinez can be reached at

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Anabel Martinez is a senior digital media major with a concentration in film and television, and a journalism minor. She serves as the managing editor overseeing all of the Campus Times sections and was previously editor-in-chief in Spring 2022.

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