"I am from a small village - El Manantial, Coahuila - just outside Torreon, Mexico, and came to the U.S. as a shy seven year old. In the eleven years that I have been painting professionally, I have come to realize that my work is defined both by my familial roots in northern Mexico and by the subtle, mystical environment of my adopted home in West Texas. My creative process is immersed in this dual identity; I paint what I feel, that which is me. You will see on canvas the richness of my grandparents' folk tales alongside the adventures of the 'new life' created by my hardworking immigrant parents. Through symbolism, metaphors, and pictorial language, I tell my story."

- René Alvarado

The symbolism in René Alvarado's paintings is a complex mixture of adopted and personal iconography. He draws on the rich cultural heritage of his native Mexico where the reverence for Catholic saints and the cultural folklore intermingled. His metaphorical imagery remains rooted in his cultural heritage yet embraces the world he has traveled and his adopted home in West Texas.

Alvarado spent his early childhood in El Manantial, in northern Mexico, where he was born in 1972. There he enjoyed a close relationship with a large extended family in the small village near Torreon. There was little in the way of comforts or entertainment by US standards — no televisions or movie theater. What the community did possess was a highly developed sense of ritual, acted out in story-telling, music, and religious celebration and identity. These years had great impact on Alvarado's creativity and his rich visual narratives.

Today Alvarado lives in San Angelo, Texas. Several years ago, he acquired a 1929 neo-gothic church and converted the handsome, white stucco structure into an open space for living and working. The 32-foot-high transept, accented with heavy timbers arching skyward, serves as Alvarado's studio. Canvases in varying stages of completion are scattered throughout. Saturated with fresh, bold color, the paintings play off one another while their surfaces move from glazed, luminous application to heavily modeled brushwork.

The eclectic studio, filled with collections and junk store finds -- castoff dolls, mannequins, vintage ceramics, vessels and wooden boxes, provide inspiration. To one side, a large work bench holds assemblages, many of which serve as compositional elements in paintings. Throughout, a sense of the surreal and self-reflection cohabitate. Surveying his space, Alvarado acknowledges that all paintings, to a degree, are self-portraits, "a theatrical stage where one can recreate self."

This young artist has already received much recognition in his career. In 2008, the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts featured Madonna as Muse: The Paintings of René Alvarado, curated by Jim Edwards with an accompanying catalogue. The show is traveling in 2009 to the Wichita Falls Museum of Art at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas and the Museum of the Southeast in Beaumont, Texas. The Texas Commission on the Arts and the Texas Legislature appointed Alvarado as the 2009 Texas State Two-Dimensional Artist.


Artist's resumé

Video / from El Manatial

Video / Madonna as Muse

Rene Alvarado: Memories from El Manantial
at the Latino Cultural Center
Dallas Art News, 2011

Rene Alvarado named
2009 Texas State Artist

Madonna as Muse:  the Paintings of Rene Alvarado
Essay, Jim Edwards / Curator

Perspective, Dr. Enrique Cortazar
Director, Instituto de Mexico en San Antonio

Visit the artist's website