Celebrating a Complex and Diverse Latin Heritage
Meet Erick Rodriguez, the next featured artist at the Living Room Gallery in the Tualatin Library, which will run from October 2023 through January 2024. He immigrated to America from Caracas, Venezuela, in the early ’90s and, among other things, is an oil painter.
Erick’s family migrated to the United States, landing in Nashville. Erick earned a BA degree from Middle Tennessee State University and completed graduate work at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, before making his home in the Pacific Northwest.
The colors and the geography reminded him of his childhood in Caracas, and is where the Criollo artist Erick Rodriguez emerges.
What does “Criollo” mean?
Art has always been a mirror reflecting the essence of culture, identity, and history. In the vast realm of artistic expression, Criollo artwork stands out as a profound manifestation of cultural fusion and evolution. Rooted in the diverse heritage of Latin America, which is a fusion of indigenous, European, and African influences, Criollo artwork encapsulates the complexities of identity and heritage, while seamlessly blending traditional and contemporary elements.
While the term Criollo originally referred to people of Spanish descent born in the Americas, over time, it has come to encompass a broader sense of cultural identity. Criollo artwork transcends geographical boundaries and creates its own visual language.
Becoming an artist who calls himself Criollo
For ten years, Erick has made his home in Oregon. The influences of his Venezuelan childhood combine with Southern roots and a rugged Northwest spirit form the unique expression in his art.
When Erick went back to Venezuela in 2012 to visit family and the place where his life began, he went to his old elementary school. There, he met a little girl who struck his heart. He asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, and she said, “An artist.” He looked around her, saw the lack of funding for the arts, and wondered if she would ever get her dream. Also, strong, beautiful memories of his mother and art came flooding back from his childhood, along with his desire to do art. He was moved to paint this child, and it is his favorite painting in the collection on display at the library. He says, “This painting is a portrait of a little human. She has a dream. What will her life become?” She lives in South America, but she could be any little girl, any little human, anywhere.
Erick continues to develop his technique and style as an artist. He also believes in a life of service and giving back to the community locally and abroad. He volunteers for Magis Americas/Friends of Fe y Alegria in the United States and Venezuela’s Voice in Oregon. Fe y Alegria Venezuela is where his journey began. Fe y Alegria is all about the right to education and to build local community. VVO provides educational scholarships for Oregon high school students and cultural support of Venezuelans in our community. Erick is an active member of the Oregon Society of Artists, which provides opportunities for artists at all levels of accomplishment. Don’t be surprised to find Erick volunteering, greeting guests, and connecting with students, artists, instructors and the amazing OSA staff.
Erick’s story and his art are a testament to the dynamic nature of culture, identity, and artistic expression and the beauty of a giving life as it unfolds.
For more information about the Living Room Gallery art program, contact Angela Wrahtz at firstname.lastname@example.org. This program is sponsored in part by the Tualatin Arts Advisory Committee.
For more information on Erick and his art, visit www.criollopaintings.com.