Artist Angel Otero’s brand of visual storytelling is a unique one: he creates oil skins from paint poured onto glass and peeled off in sheets once it dries. But as a child growing up in Puerto Rico, Otero had a very different understanding of what art was -- and a more traditional career path laid out before him. Otero shares his brief but spectacular take on his artistic process and body of work.
Judy Woodruff: Artist Angel Otero’s brand of visual storytelling is a unique one. He pours paint onto glass and then peels it off in sheets once it dries.
Tonight, Otero gives his Brief But Spectacular take on that process and how his roots help shape his work.
It’s also part of our Canvas series.
Angel Otera: My name is Angel Otero. I grew up in the island of Puerto Rico, very working-class, middle-class family.
My father was very pushy with the idea that I could follow his steps of being an insurance agent. And I did. I was a horrible salesman. I kept dreaming about being an artist, a painter.
So I quit the job. On a Saturday morning, I remember telling him, like, hey, this school called the School of the Art Institute of Chicago saw my artwork. They offered me a scholarship to start studying painting.
At a young age, I came across a book by Jackson Pollock. What I had learned as a child was that art has to be something that you recognize, that tells a story, all these things. And looking at images of this work felt very liberating and felt that they were paintings made with the idea of just the movement of painting and, you know, the physical part of it.
Then, when making art in Chicago, I didn’t know how to find my own voice. I had around my studio a big pile or a big mountain of dry oil paint that I didn’t want to throw away. I decided that I wanted to collage it on the canvas.
Most of the professors were kind of laughing at the ideas or think that I was coming up with saying that my paintings are about the warmth of Puerto Rico, about the Caribbean colors. That was when I started going back to those memories of growing up with my grandmother.
And from there, I departed with the idea of composing all this imagery, collaging dry oil paint. I started having quite a good response to it. I started painting small pieces of glasses with different colors, scraping the paint off that glass, using those new skins to make new works.
Some of those old stains of old colors that were in the glass were reflecting themselves on the new skins almost like print. I said, whoa, wait a minute, I can make a painting on a glass, and it can be figurative or abstract, and, eventually, I can paint another thing on top of it.
The blurriness of how things change as our life changes over time is very interesting to me.
My grandmother passed away four years ago. I know she would still not understand at all nothing of what I do, but it would have been very amazing to see her face or her thoughts about many of the works.
My name is Angel Otero, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on my body of work.
Judy Woodruff: Very sweet.
And you can find additional Brief But Spectacular episodes on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.