Art and the City

Artist Portrait: David Amoroso


It is a sense you get when you first glance at the painting. You know right away that David Amoroso sees the intricacies as well as the major influences that shape Latino culture within the broader national culture. Identity is more than language or a coincidence of backgrounds; there is a palpable joy of belonging, being a member of the group.

David works with each subject and theme in a distinctive series. Each is really a category of emotional identities. Those emotions may be at their strongest and truest in “Machos” and “Immigration.” David paints portraits of Attitude – the fierce determination and steel pride of those who have had to fight for everything they have, be it in Mexico or the United States.

His paintings, prints, and photographs are mostly portraits, individuals, but his people share more than traditional art and music, food and styles. David fully understands the emotional complexities involved – the beauty of the artistic inheritance that features an historic identity with nature, the rising out of the soil, the dependence on the earth.

He combines motifs that at first seem incongruent, like flower patterns and tough guys. This adds richness to the identity along with the defiance, an emotion that was absorbed from both Spanish and Indian roots.

David also applies his skill to American pop culture of the 50s and 60s: “Americons.” From Elvis and James Dean to Marilyn Monroe and Marlo Thomas, it’s a fun throwback to icons of whom we never seem to tire. They hover in a timeless space all their own.

David lives and has a studio in Arlington. He exhibits all over the metropolitan area, and you can find his work in public and private collections nationally.

Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art
I grew up in the middle of Latino-land in the 1950s: Tucson, Ariz. But the truth is, I don’t remember the word ever being used. Did it even exist then? Many of my friends had “Spanish” names: Jacome, Lopez, Amado, Salvatierra, Manzo, Molina. Some had Mexican heritage that I didn’t know about, like the Ronstadts and Boyds.

It didn’t matter one peso. Most of these families were prominent merchants, doctors, lawyers, politicians, and very much a part of Tucson’s social fabric.

I also had friends named Jones, Vermeulen, Lundquist, McMillian, Dupuis, Pruzzo, and Kenski. If we thought about it, we would have realized that we had Irish, German, Swedish, French, Dutch, Italian, Polish, and plain old English backgrounds. Everything. We didn’t think about it.

What we all shared was a rich mix of art, music, and traditions. I fell in love with the colors of Mexico, only 60 miles away: pure blues, oranges, lavenders, brilliant yellows, and reds. You could see them in flowers that lit up the trees, climbed the walls, and burst from the cactus.

I loved the Mexican muralists: Rivera, Siqueiros, Orozco. Theirs was the art of the people. The art of the revolution. You can still see that tradition in and around Tucson. We also grew up with American Indian ceremonies and dances on the nearby reservations. We had the cowboy heritage in the annual rodeo and rodeo parade. We had Western music with its tumbleweeds and lonesome prairies. Joyful Mariachis. Jazz clubs and folk music. And rock and roll.

David Amoroso is able to reach into that mix of traditions. He brings visual elements together that give you the personality of the complex Latino culture and its place in the 21st century.

At the Galleries
“Narrative Figures”
Hill Center Galleries
Old Naval Hospital
921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
May 4-June 25
Opening reception: May 17, 6-8 p.m.
This is another terrific show at the Hill Center. Seven artists bring a kaleidoscope of choices on media, technique and subject. In “Narrative Figures” Elissa Farrow-Savos, Linda Button, Suzanne Vigil, and Tracy Frein interpret images of women in sculpture and painting.

The constructed pieces of Elissa Farrow-Savos come to life starkly. The intent is to unleash the “untamable,” the “inner wildness and ferocity that makes all women beautiful.”

With Linda Button, mannequins are the message. She is fascinated with the “majesty and the distortion of human figures made out of resin, linen, plastic, wood, and even chicken wire.” Her “stained” oil paintings are carefully built up with thin, transparent layers that reflect, magnify, and exalt these nonhuman stand-ins that petition your attention behind their glass partitions.

Suzanne Vigil draws magic. Mysteries. You are drawn into the story and you want to know who and why. The how is with color pencil and a technique that plays down its own excellence. The works are large and beguiling.

The portraits of Tracy Frein are a black-and-white pursuit of emotional realities. She uses a technique she calls “drawing by subtraction.” She begins with color pencil on drafting film and then strips away the colored pencil to expose strong, interrelated black-and-white values. The subjects appear self-confident and formidable, which belies an inner frailty.

In three independent shows, Christianne King, Ken Bachman, and Sandy Hassan celebrate the magic of color.

In the flowing paintings of Christianne King, color exalts for its own purposes, and she gives you buoyant but solid landscapes that capture the emotions and the truths of a place.

Ken Bachman is “drawn to landscapes where the play of light and shadow in their colors captures the specific moment. I aspire to use a delicate touch to set a calm and pleasing mood.” He succeeds beautifully.

Sandy Hassan writes, “Quilt making is my expression of joie de vivre.” You see that in her joyful perfection of color harmonies and patterns – the colors of smiles, melodies, and peaceful rhapsodies.

“This Earth”
“Artist’s Pick”
Capitol Hill Art League
545 Seventh St. SE
Reception: June 3, 5-7 p.m.
The Capitol Hill Art League has two shows that share the month of May in CHAW’s gallery space. Both are juried shows and are comprised of league members.

“This Earth” is up now, and will continue through May 20. “Artist’s Pick” will begin on May 23. The reception will be on June 3 at 5-7 p.m. There will be wine, cheese, and brief comments by the juror. This is always a delightful opportunity to talk to the artists and get personal insights into their methods and purposes.

A Capitol Hill artist and writer, Jim Magner can be reached at [email protected]. His award-winning book, “A Haunting Beauty,” can be acquired through