This interview was conducted in January 2015
The narrow staircase leads me up to a cathedral of light that is home to artist Rodolfo Baeza. The smell of oil paint is as rich and dense as the giant canvasses hanging from the walls, and it is here we talk about life.
What drew you to painting?
Believe it or not I was a very shy insecure kid and painting and drawing was my escape from reality, from society, from talking to people.
I knew from a young age that I wanted to be an artist but my father is a surgeon so his concept of the world was much different then mine. When I wanted to go to Mexico City to study art he wasn’t really keen so I studied graphic design as a career, and then taught myself to paint.
Have you always painted portraits?
I have always painted faces but since I exhibited in the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Ateneo de Yucatán MACAY two years ago, portraiture has become a new focus for me. When I paint a portrait I meet with my subject for a few hours, do a photography session and then I take all the images and create my own interpretation based on the conversation and the pictures.
I personally find your portraits to be very sensual. Why is that do you think?
If I could theorize, I suppose it is the way I look at life and in a way my painting is autobiographical. My paintings are an extension of me, my brain, my soul, my emotions. I bring a lot of passion to my work and perhaps that is what you are experiencing as sensual.
Is there anything else you’ve been passionate about?
Painting is an addiction for me but I have had others! When I lived in Mexico City I had a period of depression because the city is very absorbing. I didn’t know how to get out of this state so I turned to a friend who was a professional salsa dancer, and asked if he would teach me to salsa. From Wednesday to Saturday, every week for two years I went to the clubs to salsa dance and it too, became an addiction.
Where did you learn to speak English so well?
When I was 15 my dad sent me to military school in Nova Scotia for 10 months, to straighten me up. I didn’t love the school but I loved Canada! I learned English to survive and since then it has helped me as an artist—to be able to talk about my work with many different people is important to me.
Has art brought you and your dad to a common ground?
My dad is very proud of what I have done as an artist and he comes to visit me when he can. We have the same character/personality but our goals and perspective on life are different. As we get older, the important thing is just to share life, to share what is common, to connect.
Is there a painter who has influenced how you paint?
I love the classical painters—Rembrandt, Carravagio, Goya. But as a modern influence, Lucien Freud is one of my favorites and I think you can see that in my work.
How do you refill your own creative well?
I don’t get ‘stuck’ creatively, but sometimes I just don’t want to paint. I come to the studio and I lay down, read, or I go out for coffee with my wife, my friends. We share food, stories, laughter and I always come back refreshed. Life doesn’t happen in the studio, life is outside, and everyday it fills me up.
Meet Rodolfo and over 25 other artists on the Merida Artist Studio Tour February 2o, 2016.