Izel Vargas Shares Inspiration with UW-L

Peter Lenz, Staff Reporter

On Thursday, March 30, 2017, Izel Vargas came to speak to UW-La Crosse students about his upbringing and how it influences their work. Izel came to campus as a part of the visiting artist series of lectures and workshops put on by the Department of Art, in conjunction with the University Gallery.  Vargas gave a lecture on his art making process and the way his upbringing influences his art.

Izel Vargas specializes in mixed media, artwork that utilizes more than one artistic medium. Mixed media is a category of visual art that combines traditional visual art media, resulting in what is similar to a collage. For example, a work on canvas that combines paintings, pictures and writing would be a work of mixed media.

Vargas did not always think that being an artist was in his future. Though his grandfather and father both painted, Vargas started college as an English major. It was not until art appreciation that a professor noticed Vargas’ knowledge for the subject and convinced him to switch to a new art program. Vargas switched and never looked back; an example of how influential general education can be.

Izel’s lecture focused on how his experiences at a young age influenced his artwork today. Vargas was born and raised in Alamo, a southern Texas town just miles away from the US-Mexico border. Living so close to the border influenced Vargas’ childhood, who said at times he felt, “Too Mexican for the US, but too American for Mexico.” Vargas’ work represents the feelings of bi-nationalism he feels due to the intertwining of the two cultures in his area growing up.

Vargas’ bi-nationalism provides him with a unique lens to perceive the world through. Throughout the lecture, Vargas gave many examples of how the images he incorporates in his work represent his understanding of the cross-cultural interactions between America and Mexico. Vargas incorporates things such as Spanish photo novellas, teeth, border patrol officers and renaissance paintings all because of the different ways that they reflect the combing of cultures.

Most of the work that Vargas creates deals with serious and emotional topics. When Izel was asked if his work ever gets emotionally draining, he had this to say, “I guess I have a dark sense of humor,” Vargas elaborates, “It is emotional, but I just try to resist it getting me down and keep moving.” With the sensitive material that Vargas draws inspiration from, it is important to stay positive.

UW-L community members were excited to attend this lecture as well as other visiting artists. Student Lexi Mitchell said they came for the artist’s perspective, “I enjoy hearing from professional artists on how they do their work. It gives me ideas, not only how to do it as a profession but also in other areas of art,” Mitchell continues, “I also attended one (visiting artist lecture) with a metalsmith, and just hearing what artists have to say helps a lot.”

To learn more about Izel Vargas go to http://izelvargas.com/home.html.

To find out more about future visiting artists contact the department of art at 1.608.785.8230 or email Tina Connelly at [email protected].