Mario Ayala (American, b.1991, lives and works in Los Angeles) works with vernacular imagery associated with the representation of brownness and Latinx identity.
HKWhere does the process begin for you? How long does it take to fully develop an idea?
MAUsually I’m sorting through folders of images and other things I archive. Sometimes I’ll revisit some phrase or a word I’ve written down and expand on that. It can take a while, though, as I like to leave some space for the painting to evolve a bit on its own.
KHHow do you know when work is finished?
MAIt’s a feeling. That said, some compositions are more figured out than others, I guess.
KHDo you ever think about your work in terms of whether it is easy to live with or not? Some pieces are so grand you can’t wrap your head around them, but to be able to live with such “loud” works is an entirely different thing, while others are so simple that you might underappreciate them, but then they become the best to have around in a living area.
KHI do, but I wouldn’t say it dictates any of my decisions when making a painting. Some works end up being more livable, and some just don’t.
KHWhat kind of reaction do you hope to get from people?
MAI’d like to evoke several reactions out of people. A reaction that’s both overwhelmed and familiar, maybe.
KHWhen it comes to influences, are you more of an emotional, “live by the moment” type of artist, or is there a steady ground and inspiration from which you always source?
MA I think there’s a streamline pattern of thoughts that travel throughout the work, sort of symbiotically. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the work as a compilation mix someone gives you. I like to make YouTube playlists of my own when working on a new series. Sometimes a track I’m stuck on will even end up in a painting somewhere.
KHWhere are we genre-wise? Do you change genres with each project, or do you stay in any particular lanes?
MAIt can be totally random. Right now, 3 February 2020 at 10:11 PM, I am onto The Flamingos’ “Love Walked In” and Soda Stereo’s “Cuando Pase el Temblor”.
KHSo when you paint faces, are those real people, people you know? I mean, you’ve painted musicians before, too!
MAI source faces from lots of places. Many times I’ve used myself, my family and friends, but like you mentioned, there’ve been occasions where I painted more recognizable faces, like 2Pac, Nate Dogg, etc.
KHIf I’m not mistaken, your dad is the one who got you into this whole thing, right?
MAI’m very close to my Pops—and yes, he actually introduced me to drawing. He’s been a trucker for over twenty-five years, and grew up interested in cars and motorcycles. We share a lot of interests in similar things, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that he brought me around a lot as a kid.
KHSo how does your family feel about the work you make? Do you seek their advice?
MAI’d like to think that they like it, and I actually really enjoy it when they want to talk about the work I make. I’m fortunate to have the people in my life that I do, so they play a significant role in the work I make, as does the way I was raised and the experiences I had with those around me growing up.
KHWhat did you want to be growing up?
MAI wanted to be a cartoonist for the Sunday paper and a veterinarian. I guess I’m not that far off: I still draw, and I have two pups and a snake.