New digital art series on Metro Blue Line: Artist Daniel Barajas

Metro Art has been piloting a new digital art series, and the inaugural exhibition is launching at the Blue Line stations. More People Than You Know features portraits of transit patrons created by local artists. To celebrate the upcoming reopening of the refurbished rail line, we are featuring an interview with each of the commissioned artists. Make sure you look for these portraits displayed on the newly installed digital customer information panels. This is Metro’s first transit corridor with this new cultural amenity.

Daniel Barajas – Interview – Thursday, July 18, 2019
Works in neighborhood: Ramona Park, Long Beach

Where do you live and work?
I was born in Michoacán, Mexico, and settled in Long Beach at the age of four.  This vibrant city was home for 23 years, and my art studio is currently in the Ramona Park neighborhood. I have a strong connection to the area through school: I received an associate degree from Long Beach City College and a BFA from California State University, Long Beach. I immediately landed a design job after graduation, so I have been very fortunate.

What type of art do you make? What is your primary medium?
I make representational art, focusing on the figurative and portraiture. My primary medium has been oil painting and charcoal, but most recently, I have been working in digital because it lends me some flexibility. I also work from photographs as source material. I love drawing from life and have done numerous drawings of people that I know. The challenge is to represent their likeness, and I hope that the subjects connect with their portrait.

I love working with oil paint. Oil painting is a more methodical process for me and I find the medium more forgiving to use than acrylic. I enjoy the richness of the medium and am drawn to history, especially the Baroque and Rococo periods, as they were about opulence and color. I am inspired by Old Master paintings. I also people watch, and that has also been a source of inspiration for me in terms of portraiture.

What would you like to share about Roosters, the portrait that was selected for the More People Than You Know (MPTYK) series?
The meaning of the portrait is ambiguous. It touches on the idea of my being gay and not being able to feel comfortable with that for such a long time. I recently came out to my family. It’s been amazing. I identify myself now as a new individual. For the portrait, I painted an imaginary man, who looks both confident and vulnerable and was placed in front of a minimal background. He’s like a wallflower, blending into this lush pink backdrop. The roosters are a symbol of masculinity. Through this portrait, I was trying to investigate how we are judged based on what we look like. I want the viewer to create their own interpretation of the work.

Are there new professional pathways that you’d like to pursue?
I would like to be an art teacher because I have such respect for teachers. I hope to provide the mentorship to young students and inspire them to be artists. I did teach art to six-year-olds at camp one summer. From that experience, I learned that students want to be heard and acknowledged. I observed how impactful mentorship is for students and young professionals through one of my mentors, Daniel Dove.