Have you ever seen a piece of art and wondered what on Earth you might be looking at? You may have taken a closer look, analyzed the brush strokes, danced your eyes across the painting while searching for meaning beyond the pigments before you. If you’re anything like this type of viewer, you have likely experienced feeling something while scrambling to place words or meaning upon Hilario Gutierrez’s works.
When it comes to Gutierrez’s work, trying to put words to the essence of his paintings almost takes away the magic. Each piece goes beyond description, beautifully integrating soul and heart into every aspect of the creation process. Throughout our conversation, he emphasized the feeling of his paintings versus the actual technique that creates them. “I do not take responsibility for making the painting. I take responsibility for being the brush,” he says, “I am not painting, I am the brush. It comes through me. I don’t have a style; I have a feeling. People don’t recognize my work. They recognize the feeling”. His work must be seen beyond the confines of a computer screen or magazine page. It must be felt—inhaled, exhaled, and sensed in all its familiar and unfamiliar dimensions.
A rather unconventional journey to becoming an artist, Gutierrez was a hair colorist and owned a hair salon for 35 years. His life’s plot twist would happen on New Year’s Day in ’94 during a visit to Monument Valley with his wife. It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon as a shadow cast from Thunderbird Mesa when he would experience what he calls the epiphany that awakened him to become the artist he was destined to be. “I wasn’t, and then I was an artist," he shares as he remembers spontaneously exclaiming to his wife, “I’ve got to start painting!” while feeling moved by the desert, his most loved environment. This pivotal moment in his life changed everything that was to be. When he got back home to Phoenix, he couldn’t afford the more expensive paints and instead chose acrylics, a medium he is still drawn to paint with today. For two years, he learned to control the paint, finding painters and ideas that would influence him as he continued to follow the artistic call.
He never accepted failure as an option. Gutierrez listened to the “failures,” but they didn’t mean that he had failed; it just showed that the painting wasn’t headed the direction he needed to go. “That’s why I can do ten paintings, and only one sells and forget the rest. I don’t take it personally,” Gutierrez reveals. Gifted with a combination of artistic vitality and truthfulness, Gutierrez has transformed countless blank canvases. Each piece captures an unexplainably deep feeling, transmutes an essence, and awakens a sensation within the viewer. His pieces are more than what can be seen on the canvas and are always titled accordingly to emanate further that which he’s trying to communicate through his work. He says, “The title is as important to me as the painting” and that a nuanced connection can be illuminated within the title, the painting and beholders relationship through the lens of their life experiences. In other words, meaning can be made that expands, and potentially enhances, one’s identification to his art.
“Paintings and titles are moving through my head right now,” he adds as he unravels the frequency to which art is continuously existing in his life. It’s clear as day how passionately involved yet humbly attuned to his gift this magnificent artist is. A body of work that must be experienced in person, Gutierrez’s art can be found at SmithKlein Gallery and is constantly inviting its audience to feel life’s greatest mysteries—life itself.