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The Art of Daniel Esparza

Posted on June 04 2017




Growing up in Compton in the ‘80s and ‘90s was rough, if not downright bleak. The Watts Riots and subsequent "White Flight" opened the doors for a sharp decline in economy within the city. Reaganomics, the harsh onslaught of illicit drugs, their peddlers, and turf wars gave rise to violence and further exacerbated the rivalry between gangs like the Bloods and the Crips.


Some would make the allegation that the extent and severity of crime in Compton was commonly exaggerated by media and glamorized by music culture popular of the era. California based artist, Daniel Esparza knows firsthand just how dubious that claim could be.


When Esparza was a freshman at Compton High School, during their absence his family's house had been robbed, not simply of jewelry, elec­tronics, and valuables, but cleaned out, stripped completely. The thieves even absconded with the furniture. An unnerving and duplicitous invasion of personal space; an experience which prompted the Esparzas to relocate to Riverside, California. Moving to the Inland Empire afforded them the proxim­ity to members of his extended family; a key element in the development of the artist, with skills and virtue.


An insular period of Esparza's life, these formative years fostered a sense of familial belonging and cemented the importance and impact that family imparts upon an young individual. The family Esparza, finan­cially minded, remained more committed to community within the house­hold. Without the internet and equipped with an undesirably small black and white TV/radio combo left them relatively unexposed to media and pop culture, and without the lust for ancillary possessions and dogmatic regimes. His family relied on each other for entertainment and gratifica­tion. Their lives were focused on activities within the Esparza tribe where creativity and values could thrive unfettered.


Esparza’s artistic talent lay dormant, until when in second grade, friends dared him to replicate a page torn from a comic book. Amid a moment of chi­canery, he tried to pass  a piece of the original off as his own. Caught in the





lie, he was asked to reproduce the page in the company of his peers. Ner­vous, but undaunted, young Esparza acquiesced. The results successfully impressed his contemporaries and which immediately following fermented into a drive to continue illustrating on the daily. Supported and encouraged by his family, he was apprenticed to family members with an artistic aptitude, ultimately nurturing his preternatural talent.


Esparza's practice has always been intrinsically influenced by the history and culture of his family, drawing from Hispanic folklore and custom. His most recent body of work pulls straight from these traditions with beautifully executed, hyperrealistic, portraiture of women clad in Dia de Los Muertes costume. His paintings are as eerie as they are alluring - breathtaking but heartbreaking in the fact that to pull your gaze away is formidable as well as if you were to extend your reach to touch the soft curves of a cheek, caress an arm or run your fingers through tresses, your fingers would only be met with canvas. A bittersweet trickery of the artist's immaculate, immense capa­bility. As Esparza explains what it is to celebrate Dia de Los Muertes, "it's a reminder that we can't take things for granted, we are all here for one lifetime at a time. Make the best of it... [The] Day of the Dead helps to bring people together once a year to all celebrate the lives of remembered loved ones without having to do this by yourself. It's more sad when you visit a gravesite by yourself, than it is with hundreds rejoicing with you."


Today, Esparza derives his influences from the perspectives and ideologies from the ever-morphing world around him, with an extraordinary awareness and empathy for others around him. One never knows what will inspire you or when inspiration will come. He admits to being mutable, consistently garnering knowledge and experience from interactions with his art and would-be critics. Esparza is true to his art, never compromising. At this time, he insists on keeping his current work under wraps but maintains the values imparted unto him by his family as an altruistic artist. For Esparza, it's about the craft, the tactile experience, and the bringing to creation to life, not about the dollar sign.




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