Frank Ybarra captures memories and landscapes that ‘define Arizona’


Jose: IN SOUNDS OF CULTURA "S-O-C," FRANKIE'S WORK CAPTURES MEMORIES OF THE PEOPLE RNGS -- PEOPLE, HISTORY AND CULTURE HE SAYS DEFINE ARIZONA. JOINING ME NOW TO TALK ABOUT HIS WORK IS ARTIST FRANK YBARRA, FRANK WELCOME TO "HORIZONTE." I HAVE KNOWN YOU FOR A LONG TIME. I HAVE SOME OF YOUR ARTWORK IN MY OFFICE ACTUALLY. I WANT TO TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT AN EXHIBITION THAT IS CURRENTLY AT THE PHOENIX AIRPORT MUSEUM. WE HAVE A COUPLE PICTURES OF THE GENERAL EXHIBITION THERE. IT CAME AS A SURPRISE TO YOU I UNDERSTAND.

Frank Ybarra: YES, INITIALLY I WAS COMMISSIONED BY THE AIRPORT MUSEUM TO CREATE ILLUSTRATIONS FOR A BOOK THAT WAS ABOUT THE NEIGHBORHOODS THAT EXISTED AROUND THE AIRPORT WHEN I WAS A CHILD AND I GREW UP IN ONE OF THOSE NEIGHBORHOODS.

Jose: PLACES LIKE THE GOLDEN GATE BARRIO WHERE SACRED HEART CHURCH IS?

Frank Ybarra: YES EXACTLY. THE PIECES ARE ABOUT THE NEIGHBORHOODS, PRIMARILY MEXICAN FAMILIES, AND IF YOU SEE THE SHOW YOU CAN SEE EVERY DAY SNIPPETS OF LIFE. LIKE I DID A PIECE ABOUT A KITCHEN AT BREAKFAST TIME AND YOU CAN SEE THE PAN DULCE RHINGS LIKE THAT ON THE TABLE.

Jose: THE SWEETBREAD

Frank Ybarra: YEAH. A MOM HANGING HER LAUNDRY OUT ON THE CLOTHES LINE AND A GROUP OF PEOPLE PLAYING AT MASS. THERE IS A PIECE ABOUT SACRED HEART AND A FESTIVAL GOING ON AT SACRED HEART CHURCH. THINGS LIKE THAT.

Jose: THIS WAS WHAT? ABOUT 10 YEARS AGO?

Frank Ybarra: ALMOST THAT I WAS COMMISIONED. I GUESS THE BOOK NEVER GOT PUBLISHED. THE AIRPORT MUSEUM OWNED THEM SINCE THEY COMMISSIONED ME TO DO THEM. I FOUND OUT ABOUT A COUPLE YEARS AGO THEY PUT TOGETHER THIS EXHIBIT AND NOW IT IS IN TERMINAL THREE.

Jose: IN BETWEEN ALL YOU KNEW WAS THE BOOK DIDN'T GO FORWARD AND THEY OWNED THE PIECES YOU KNEW NOTHING ELSE.

Frank Ybarra: UNTIL THIS.

Jose: UNTIL YOU WERE TOLD THAT THEY WERE ACTUALLY ON EXCIBIT. SO YOU HAVE A PARTICULAR DISTINCTIVE STYLE. WE’RE GOING TO GO THROUGH A FEW PIECES YOU HAVE THAT REFLECT THAT THEME. TELL US YOUR APPROACH TO STORYTELLING. HERE WE HAVE THE CACTUS. THERE IS A FOCUS ON ARIZONA.

Frank Ybarra: OH, YES. I GREW UP HERE IN PHOENIX OFCOURSE AND MY WORK IS PRIMARY ABOUT ARIZONA THE DESERT SOUTHWEST AND OFCOURSE THE MOUNTAINS. THE PIECE WE SHOW HERE IS TITLED SONORA OVERLOOK AND BASICALLY LANDSCAPE PIECE. I ENJOY DOING LANDSCAPES OF THE DESERTS NORTH OF PHOENIX AND BASICALLY THAT IS WHAT IT IS ABOUT. I JUST ENJOY THE LANDSCAPES OF ARIZONA AND CREATING THEM IN MY WAY.

Jose: WHAT I THINK MOST PEOPLE KNOW OF YOUR WORK ARE YOUR IMAGES AND THE NEXT PIECE WE HAVE COMING UP IS YOUR DAD, I THINK.

Frank Ybarra: YES.

Jose: AND WHILE THIS ISN'T IN THE AIRPORT MUSEUM OF EXHIBITION IT IS TYPICAL OF THE KIND OF IMAGES YOU CREATE. KIND OF CAPTURING THE ESSENCE OF THE HISPANIC NEIGHBORHOOD. TELL US ABOUT THIS ONE.

Frank Ybarra: OKAY. MY DAD PASSED AWAY IN '99 AND I DECIDED I WANTED TO DO A PORTRAIT OF HIM. I HAD AN OLD PHOTOGRAPH OF HIM STANDING NEXT TO HIS CAR AND IT WAS A MEMORABLE PHOTOGRAPH FOR ME BECAUSE I LIKE THE WAY HE IS STANDING AND HIS BIG SMILE. I DECIDED TO DO A PIECE ABOUT IT. I ADDED THE TRUMPET AT THE TOP. THAT IS AN ACTUAL TRUMPET BECAUSE I PLAY TRUMPET IN SCHOOL. SO THE IDEA BEHIND THE PIECE THAT IT IS MY TRIBUTE TO HIM. HE WAS A MUSICIAN TOO. HE PLAYED GUITAR AND SANG AND HE WAS VERY GOOD. SO, YOU KNOW, IT IS MY TRIBUTE TO HIM. THE TITLE IS TRANSLATE TODAY THE COMMON WORKER AND A TAKEOFF FROM THE ERIC COPELAND PIECE THE COMMON MAN.

Jose: THIS IS KIND OF YOUR STYLE; AT LEAST WHAT YOU ARE KNOWN FOR. AND DO YOU DO PIECES THAT AREN'T -- YOU TALKED ABOUT YOUR LANDSCAPE WORK BUT AREN’T IN TERMS OF PORTRAITS AND THINGS LIKE THIS TO YOU DO NON-HISPANIC?

Frank Ybarra: DO I DO NON HISPANIC? WELL, IF I AM COMMISSIONED. I HAVE DONE PORTRAITS FOR PEOPLE USUALLY THAT’S WHEN…

Jose: BUT NORMALLY YOU ARE TRYING TO TELL A STORY ABOUT THE SOUTHWEST. SO WE HAVE ANOTHER PICTURE THIS IS ANOTHER LANDSCAPE. THE GRAND CANYON I THINK IS WHAT YOU ARE DEPICTING HERE. IT IS JUST GORGEOUS.

Frank Ybarra: THANK YOU.

Jose: SO TELL US ABOUT THIS PIECE.

Frank Ybarra: THIS IS A COMMISSION PIECE I DID YEARS AGO FOR A CLIENT. IT’S A TAKE OFF OF THE NORTH RIM. THE TITLE IS NORTH RIM VIEW. I, YOU KNOW, I JUST WANTED TO DO SOMETHING STRIKING AND COLORFUL FOR THEM AND GLADLY THEY WERE PLEASED.

Jose: IT IS A GORGEOUS PIECE. THE NEXT ONE IS SOMETHING THAT GOES BACK TO THAT THEME WE WERE TALKING ABOUT AND IMAGES OF HOUSEHOLDS AND SO FORTH AND THIS CERTAINLY BRINGS BACK MEMORIES FOR ME. LAWNMOWERS.

Frank Ybarra: YES THE OLD FASHION LAWNMOWERS. THIS PIECE IS ABOUT MY PARENTS. YOU SEE A PORTION OF THE HOUSE I GREW UP IN IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD DOWN BY THE AIRPORT. MY MOM AND DAD ON OCCASION WOULD DO THE YARD WORK TOGETHER AND SO I KIND OF CAME UP WITH THIS IDEA OF THEM—OF THE TOOLS THEY WOULD USE. THE TITLE IS A MOMENT AT HOME. THIS PIECE ALSO WAS USED AS THE FEATURE PIECE FOR THE FREE ARTS OF ARIZONA ART AUCTION A FEW YEARS AGO.

Jose: LAST PICTURE TALKED ABOUT TRADITIONAL HISPANIC AND THIS IS THE PINATA.

Frank Ybarra: YEAH. THIS PIECE IS CALLED PEGALE

Jose: PEGALE MEANING HIT IT

Frank Ybarra: YEAH SPANK IT. YOU SEE A BOY HITTING A PINATA. AT FIRST GLANCE, IT LOOKS LIKE A PARTY SCENE, BUT IF YOU LOOK CLOSELY THE PINATA IS MADE OF BRICKS.

Jose: OH, I HADN'T CAUGHT THAT.

Frank Ybarra: IT IS MY COMMENT ON THE WALL.

Jose: THIS IS A RECENT PIECE? THIS IS A POST-TRUMP ELECTION PIECE?

Frank Ybarra: YES.

Jose: I SAW THE PAPEL PICADO TOO WHICH IS A TRADITIONAL HISPANIC ARTWORK USUALLY ASSOCIATED WITH DAY OF THE DEAD.

Frank Ybarra: IF YOU LOOK AT THE BOY'S SHIRT HE HAS THE CAUTION SIGNS OF THE FAMILIES RUNNING ACROSS THE HIGHWAYS YOU SEE THEM DOWN IN CALIFORNIA. IT IS A COMMENT ON THAT SUBJECT.

Jose: YOU GOT POLITICAL. IS THAT TYPICAL OF YOUR WORK?

Frank Ybarra: USUALLY EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE I’LL DO SOMETHING.

Jose: SPEAKING OF YOUR WORK, WE HAVE ABOUT A MINUTE LEFT. WHERE CAN PEOPLE GO TO SEE IT?

Frank Ybarra: THE PIECE I JUST SHOWED?

Jose: WELL THAT PIECE FOR SURE BUT OTHER PIECES ASWELL. YOUR EXHIBIT IN SCOTTSDALE?

Frank Ybarra: IM IN A GALLERY CASA DE ARTISTAS IT’S ON MAIN AND MARSHALL WAY AND MY WORK IS THERE ALL THE TIME. YOU JUST HAVE TO LOOK THEM UP FOR HOURS AND TIMES AND WHAT NOT.

Jose: YOU ARE CERTAINLY AN ICON OF THE LOCAL ARTS SCENE AND SO WONDERFUL TO HAVE YOU ON. THANKS FOR JOINING US. AND THANK YOU FOR JOINING US FOR "HORIZONTE" AND ARIZONA PBS, I AM JOSÉ CÁRDENAS, HAVE A GOOD EVENING.

"HORIZONTE" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE FRIENDS OF ARIZONA PBS, MEMBERS OF YOUR PBS STATION. THANK YOU.

Local artist Frank Ybarra captures the picturesque scenes of the southwest through his art, displaying images of the desert landscape, Grand Canyon and his childhood home in Phoenix.

Ybarra’s paintings are colorful and geometric, showing the beauty within everyday life. He gains inspiration from his surroundings and from his childhood.

“The pieces are about the neighborhoods, primarily Mexican families,” Ybarra says. “You can see everyday snippets of life. I did a piece of a kitchen at breakfast time… and one of a woman hanging up laundry on a clothesline.”

Landscapes are a common theme in his work. The bright oranges, yellows, purples and reds of the Arizona sunset are shown in his paintings of the mountains and wild. He says he focuses on the deserts north of Phoenix.

Ybarra also paints portraits, like the one of his dad leaning against a truck with a big smile on his face. His father passed away in 1999, inspiring him to paint the portrait in his honor. A bright, shiny trumpet stands out in the painting, resting in the air above his father’s head. Ybarra plays trumpet, and he says adding the instrument was his tribute to his dad.

It’s not common for Ybarra to create pieces that are also political, but it does happen. One painting shows a boy smashing a pinata. If you look closely, you can see that the pinata is actually made of brick and is meant to represent the proposed border wall. Ybarra says it’s not typical with his work, but he wanted to share what he thought of the wall.

Ybarra’s work can be found in Terminal 3 of Sky Harbor Airport in a collection of paintings titled “Stories from a Local Community.” His work is also displayed at the southwestern art gallery Casa de Artistas in Scottsdale. For more information on Ybarra go to ybarraart.com.

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Frank Ybarra, painter

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