Creature of aesthetic: Brandon Maldonado
Almost indescribable, the image requires a double take.
Black aviator sunglasses and a trucker hat atop his short black curls, he zooms along on his gloss black beach cruiser. The elegant curves of the bike and the sparks of light glistening off the chrome wheels are confused by two small, furry things in baskets on either side of his rear wheel. Picasso, or ‘Pico’ for short and Leroy are the dogs of artist Brandon Maldonado. Their tongues shoot out with joy as the trio cruises the streets in the Lower Highland neighborhood of Denver, or LoHi where Brandon calls home.
A quick glimpse into his house/art gallery/painting and drawing studio which he has named Intersecting Parallels offers an accurate, yet complex illustration of who Brandon is. Antique furniture weathered and scarred by years of mysteries are strewn throughout the house, numerous fake crows peer out an elegantly dressed front window, perched atop a chair eyeing young couples and hipsters as they walk to a number of trendy restaurants and bars nearby.
Brandon has spent most of his life in Albuquerque, New Mexico only recently relocating to Denver, the city of his birth. Born in 1980 his creativity was influenced by fantasy worlds, skeletons and monsters like that of the Star Wars trilogy, his Skeletor action figure and the monsters of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Around the age of 10, he began soaking up the skateboard culture and style that are an apparent influence in his art to this day. “The major skateboard brand at the time was Powell Peralta. Most of their graphics were of skulls and skeletons, and that stuff really blew my mind. Skateboarding exposed me to this whole underground culture of break dancing, gangster rap and graffiti, which became most influential to me. There was something very real to it for me. It was both edgy and defiant, but at the same time very beautiful…” said Brandon.
His interests had instilled in him a deep fascination for the darker realm of graphic media which continues to be a predominant theme in his art, but where does his inspiration start as well as end?
Brandon is a creature of aesthetic in all aspects of life. “The visual language of art has the ability to communicate beyond the confines of spoken language. I believe this quality is the essence of visual arts and is the medium’s greatest strength,” he explains. His artistic fascination remains with the contemplation of the mystery of death, which has helped him exterminate superficiality from his work. He theorizes that since the beginning of time, humanity has tried to come to terms with this mystery involving the termination of physical life by providing answers to the abstractness of sentience and mortality. “[Death] is truly a great mystery and something I often think about,” said Brandon.
Brandon is illustrating an internal world, one we are familiar with and that is instilled within all of us. We can relate to his art because of the universal human emotions he illustrates. His goal is guiding the viewer to transcend the technical aspects of his visuals and experience the profound metaphysical and emotional concepts acutely referenced in his images. “The most rewarding part about being an artist is—it’s a very lonely profession, you have to be isolated working in your studio. People don’t relate to you, they don’t get you, and when you put [your art] out there they react to you like you’re speaking—like your paintings are about them. Something that is personal to you is also personal to them,” Brandon said, this relationship with his audience is what gives him the most pleasure.
This relationship along with his internal desire, drive his creativity. He often partakes multiple paintings at one time, alternating which he works on as his inspiration fluctuates. He is constantly sketching elaborate ideas as well as working on contracted pieces, the number of Maldonado works is increasing significantly.
Like many master artists of the past, Brandon’s art has become segregated into ‘periods’ as he has evolved. Beginning as a young artist with his ‘drawing’ phase his work consisted mainly of Dia de los Muertos themed art. At the age of 24 he began to learn the medium of oil painting which had intimidated him due to his lack of formal training and color-blindness. Under the wing of the Mexican painter Ricardo Chavez-Mendez well known for his trademarked style Curvismo, Brandon began to interpret the themes of classical painting and develop technique.
Now somewhat established as an artist and immersed into the medium of oil paint he had a new vehicle for his rampant creativity. Seemingly unstoppable, he began his continuing spree of oil paintings which include themes like Mythic Visions, Dia de los Muertos and the Rose period. Unlike Pablo Picasso’s Rose Period where he used cheerful tones of red in opposition to his preceding Blue Period, Brandon’s Rose Period consists of paintings including roses.
Consistent themes appear in his art, which, like most things either appeal to an audience who loves it, or is disgusted by it. “I don’t like it at all,” said one critic. He brings aspects of his life that affect him, and translates those into his own language. A bad break up, authority, the joy of riding a bike, loneliness, love, death, confusion and longing to name a few, all come out through the stroke of Brandon’s brush, his translation of life.
However much evolution has occurred in his technique, a consistency remains, stemming back to his roots of graffiti influence, “It was the big headed characters and often distorted anatomy that made a big impact on me, and also the boldness. It wasn’t really until I was in college that I began to understand and appreciate the works of the old masters, but once the floodgate opened I began to create a bridge between to two worlds and my own work,” said Brandon. Including an associate’s degree in fine arts, he also has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and world religion from the College of Santa Fe, however he considers his artistic style and appreciation primarily self taught through independent study of the master painters. “I pick up my paintbrushes and attempt to use art as a vehicle for inspiring change. The process of making a painting in itself is a meditation for me. I discriminately chose the themes of my work, making certain that each concept is ultimately something I believe is worth saying and contemplating,” he says, coincidentally defining himself.
Closing in on ten years from learning the medium of oil, the question is, what will his progress look like in that same time in the future? Maybe he’ll have cut his ear off, maybe he’ll live in a “modest house in a modest neighborhood” with a vast collection of other artists’ work, which he would prefer having over being an artist himself. Only he can elaborate: “It’s the journey that brings life purpose, people are always looking for a destination. If you listen to a song and wait for the last note, the bang of the gong, then you kind of miss the point that you should have been dancing the whole time. So, in other words, I’ll keep going with it and see where it takes me…enjoy the ride.”
I’ve pondered whether or not there is a boundary between Brandon’s highly fickle personality and his perfectionism. He’s worked since August 1st, eight months getting Intersecting Parallels to his liking, once staying up until 5 a.m. rearranging the furniture again and again. Perhaps it’s neither indecision nor perfectionism that drives his quirkiness, but to be simply satisfied with himself and his product.