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Roosevelt Díaz

interview transcript

Date of Interview: Dec 01, 2001
Location: Panama
Topic: A conversation with Roosevelt Díaz
Interviewer: Mercedes Lizcano

LatinArt:  How would you define the art of Roosevelt Díaz?

Roosevelt Díaz:  It is, above all, a very sincere art. I was greatly influenced in my childhood, when I lived close to Nature, at the beginning of my artistic career. Since then I have been more curious, even ingenuous, experimenting with different trends and technical procedures.

LatinArt:  Has this been a conscious and deliberate evolution?

Roosevelt Díaz:  I use a diary where I set down, at the same time, all my progress as well as all the criticism. I am my harshest critic. I have always felt the need to face a great challenge. Most galleries are governed by the demands of the market. Apart from that, I have always aimed toward change and experimentation.

LatinArt:  What techniques have you used throughout the course of your career?

Roosevelt Díaz:  I have worked a great deal on the texture and color of oils. I have utilized modeling paste and brush strokes imposed one upon the other to work the texture. Lately, I have also worked with acrylics. The exhibition currently being shown at this city’s Museum of Contemporary Art is a good example, although without doubt oils give me far more freedom and I enjoy the viscosity of the paste. I have also used paper, watercolor, colored pencils, earth, and Indian ink to express my ideas.

LatinArt:  Through what stages have you passed?

Roosevelt Díaz:  I began with landscapes, as almost all Panamanians do, and then went on to a much more primitive form of art searching for something more creative. Afterwards I reached a stage which some critics called magic realism, around ’86, when I began to be known at the galleries. And from there I passed through a more sub-realistic stage, very childish, more sincere. Some critics and people who know me consider that as my most personal stage. In 1995 I began with the theme of reptiles, which is what most people know me for. From there to the more pre-Columbian stage, with more sober colors. I then went back to colors as a challenge. I am working now on local customs and manners, or more picaresque subjects.

LatinArt:  One can see that color is always a constant over the course of your career.

Roosevelt Díaz:  Colors are like a challenge for me. At times I begin a painting in one color, then the subject matter of the work suddenly leads me to evolve toward another. I am very instinctive and allow myself to be influenced.

LatinArt:  It seems that the subject matter is very important in your career. We spoke before of trends and have commented on the subject matter of your pictures. Now, turning once again to color, the subject matter once again comes up. Could we say that the subject matter is the starting point for your expression?

Roosevelt Díaz:  No, I do not feel that the subject matter is my inspiration...

LatinArt:  What is it that inspires you?

Roosevelt Díaz:  Without any doubt, what inspires me is the immediate environment, based on which I select the subject matter. The color goes along with this environment in which, naturally, the subject matter is also included.

LatinArt:  What are your challenges?

Roosevelt Díaz:  To do what is the most difficult. I don’t want to be more of a painter, I consider that the matter of texture has been overcome; I would like to search for purer concepts.

LatinArt:  Would you consider your art more conceptual of late?

Roosevelt Díaz:  I have always been so, but more now if that is possible.

LatinArt:  Which artists do you feel have influenced your career?

Roosevelt Díaz:  Guillermo Trujillo and Raúl Vázquez. Jackson Pollock also, although more for his attitude: he also follows his intuition much more than the market and was constantly experimenting. The same thing happens to me, fame does not matter nor does it influence me. I don’t care if I sell my pictures, but want to experiment and evolve. If my art is not appreciated in Panama, I will have to go to another country, although of course I would like to stay here.

LatinArt:  The biennials can help you in this projection and the acceptance of your art.

Roosevelt Díaz:  I have taken part in different Biennials, but do not believe that it is the best form. At times there is too much manipulation, and to a certain extent the artistic part or creative message one is able to contribute are betrayed. At times Biennials are in the hands of those who are not artists and who are not educated as such, who spend their time saying what contemporary art should or should not be. As a result many painters nowadays begin to experiment with subject matter or new forms of expression, which are more in vogue.

LatinArt:  Finally, I would like to ask you one more question. What are your greatest preoccupations on Panamanian art?

Roosevelt Díaz:  That Panama is almost entirely lacking in art critics, in schools of art, which offer possibilities for experimentation, and that the official classes fail to help the artistic expressions.

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