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Despierto: The Art of Mario Godinez

Despierto: The Art of Mario Godinez
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“Godinez has plunged deeper into his own unique way of blending multicolored biomorphic shapes that teeter on the edge of representation and illusion”

An Art Awakening

by Cayetano Garza Jr.

Artist Mario Godinez signs his work with the cognomen “El Mago”, which is Spanish for “the magician”. In many ways his Surrealist paintings can only be described as magical. He conjures internal reactions from the viewer as deftly as a magician pulls a rabbit from a hat leaving just enough room in each piece for one’s own interpretation.

This mental slight of hand is as much a mechanism of the Surrealist style that Godinez chooses to paint in as it is a byproduct of the artist’s own working methods and visual language. With each new series of paintings Godinez dives deep into his own subconscious bringing to light his own fears, wishes and ambitions which then resonate with the viewer through the universality of these themes.

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As a high school art teacher in Roma, TX for the past eight years, Godinez has had an opportunity to perfect his teaching skills while finding his own unique voice as an artist. Avoiding the occupational pitfalls of falling out of practice on his off-time, he utilizes his instructional time to demonstrate technique to his students by letting them see his process firsthand. The students work in tandem with their instructor as he guides them through the process from initial sketch to finished piece.

“I take out a canvas and I start the whole process,” says Godinez, describing how he’ll then offer his students different ways to proceed with their own piece.

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“I like to start a project with the kids so I’m not just talking the talk but also walking the walk. And they learn better this way.”

Godinez instructs his students best through live demonstration, being careful to explain creative decisions and offering the students a variety of answers to any questions they might have. Once they grasp the concepts he’s laid out for them, he’s conscientious about giving them the breadth to explore and experiment. In a lot of ways his teaching technique echoes his own experience as a student and the way his favorite instructors taught him.

“They really let me do my own thing,” says Godinez, “They weren’t behind me telling me what to do or how to do or you’re doing this wrong. I really don’t like telling my kids ‘this is wrong.’”

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Godinez says he came by this realization the hard way in the beginning of the career and now he allows his students to explore art on their own terms knowing that an unconventional approach can sometimes create fantastic results.

“They become unique and one of the best artists we have.”

He’s also careful to council the students that fall into the trap of emulating their teacher a little too much encouraging them to work past it and find their own way.

“A lot of eyes,” laughs Godinez.

If eyes are the window to the soul then the eyes that are peppered throughout Godinez’s latest output are the windows of a skyrise apartment that houses the artist’s soul with some shades half drawn and some wide open. It would be easy to ascribe their presence to Godinez’s role as a teacher, but that would be limiting the metaphor.

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“It’s funny because it’s one of the first things we teach them. They’re so fascinated by it. We go through a whole session on how to draw eyes.”

Godinez points out the importance of eyes in a piece of art.

“It’s one of the first things you look at.”

Their importance takes a front seat in his latest series “The Heart of the Artist” where we see Godinez again paying homage to his favorite artists, his cultural heroes, and biggest influences by painting surreal portraits of their hearts. Godinez revisits Dali, Kahlo, Cantinflas and others in this series but the devil’s in the details.

Godinez has plunged deeper into his own unique way of blending multicolored biomorphic shapes that teeter on the edge of representation and illusion – a pair of eyes could be seen as part of the sides of two opposing faces or the face of an owl simultaneously being part of what looks to be humanoid figures, melding one into the other, seemingly meandering within the outline of what represents a heart. Somewhere in that mix the viewer will begin to make out the face of Salvador Dali himself staring at you with his iconic wild gaze before the portrait melds back into a cacophony of imps and dimensional portals.

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Although Godinez says the colors he uses are a callback to the multicolored neighborhoods of his native Guanajuato, his work manages to supersede any cultural cliches.

For Godinez the work is ultimately motivated by the joy of producing art itself and its therapeutic properties.

“When I create my artwork I usually do things I like. What’s going to make me happy when I do this.”

Although he admits to repeating himself thematically, he says he approaches the work subconsciously letting the small details fill themselves in.

“Sometimes my images just repeat,” he says.

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“I end up doing a lot of Salvador Dalis, a lot of Fridas, a lot of little monsters, Cantinflas because that’s what makes me happy.”

Godinez may start with a familiar and comforting theme but then he unleashes his subconscious as he begins to work on an initial idea only taking time to step back and try to interpret any deeper meaning once the piece is complete.

“This is my outlet to a lot of the monsters we all have inside – depression, anxiety, stuff like that.”

In this sense even the eyes he’s been painting take on a deeper meaning like self awareness and enlightenment.

“I’m becoming aware of a lot of the things I’m doing and a lot of the decisions I’m making and a lot of the things I’m going through.”

Godinez admits that the greatest epiphany is one that he’s carried since childhood – the pursuit of art.

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