Carlos Ibarra is an artist with a deadline—he had 30 days to complete a 5-by-9-foot painting representing Arizona as part of a national competition sponsored by tequila-maker Jose Cuervo. From a small studio space at the Monterey Court Studio Galleries and Café, Ibarra worked virtually around the clock to complete his painting and ship it off for an official unveiling. After Nov. 8, images of all the paintings will be placed on the company's Facebook page for an online competition. For more info, go to that Facebook page: www.Facebook.com/LosAmigosDeJose.
Are you from Tucson?
Originally, I'm from Nogales, but I've lived in Tucson on and off the past 18 years or so. About six years ago, I came back to finish school at the UA.
How did you find out about this competition?
I saw this announcement in the TPAC (Tucson Pima Arts Council) newsletter that Jose Cuervo was sponsoring a national competition. It was a call for ... Hispanic artists, and they would select 10 artists from across the country to represent their regions, their states. If selected for that part of the competition, the prize was $5,000. And then we were sent to Los Angeles for that event in September. Next, we're going to Chicago and then someplace else, where they will announce the final winner. Chicago is for the unveiling. I was selected to represent Arizona, and all 10 of us created a large painting. A transportable mural is what they are calling it.
What is the size of the canvas you're working on?
We had the option of 4 by 8 feet or 5 by 10 feet, or somewhere in between. The piece I am working on is 5 by 9 feet. And then these 10 paintings will become part of an online voting campaign on the Jose Cuervo Facebook page.
What's the grand prize?
The grand prize is $15,000. This is sponsored in conjunction with the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, along with Jose Cuervo and its distributor, Diageo North America. What they are trying to do is recall the art of the mural-painting. This isn't really a mural, but a large painting. But they picked artists they felt were able to touch on this traditional mural painting that's especially important in Mexico because of the three famous muralists: Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros.
Was it challenging?
The challenge is, we have to create this painting in 30 days, which is a huge challenge and why I've slept very little in 30 days. What you don't factor in is all the miscellaneous stuff that happens. I dropped one of my lamps, and the light bulb burned out, so I had to stop and go out and buy light bulbs and then come back and keep working.
Do you feel that 30 days is enough time?
I've spent everything from two hours on a painting to six years on a painting. It's very easy to get sidetracked or think, "Well, what if I do this a little bit differently, or change the color here?" That stuff takes so much time. You'll never be completely happy, but you don't have time to do that stuff. I have to go with my initial gut, let it be, get it done and move on. It's been a huge challenge, but very, very interesting and exciting.
Did you get direction on what to paint?
The theme is how Hispanics are shaping the new face of America. That's the way it was worded, and the only requirement was that somewhere in the painting, there has to be a Jose Cuervo Tradicional bottle. They were quick to say it was not about the bottle, but: "We'd like to see that somewhere in there." It's a bit of a challenge to figure out where I can put it in, but not feel like it's just a product placement. But I think my painting focuses mainly on people, the power of people—Hispanics in the United States and the importance of purchasing power, voting. So it's becoming a very important group of people.
When did you start working on the painting?
The 18th of September was my start day, so that means I (had) to finish this on Oct. 18, and it (had) to be shipped out on the 19th. ... From there, we go to Chicago on Nov. 8 for the unveiling of the 10 paintings. And then after that is when online voting begins. The final winner will be selected based on the number of online votes, plus a panel of judges.