Artist aims to highlight Sonoran beauty
When Marcelino Clemente Flores III painted the sides of buildings, it was anything but vandalism.
While the Pascua Yaqui native was growing up in the Tucson community of Old Pascua, Flores painted plain church walls into murals as part of an effort to aesthetically renovate the place Flores called home.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but our community was thought of as a blight,” Flores said.
In the time he spent volunteering to beautify Old Pascua, Flores found his passion for art and has since been asked to paint buildings in the Miracle Mile area for the Oracle Area Revitalization Plan in 2009. Flores spent much of last weekend tucked in the middle of a row of white tents, painting swipes of earth tones onto a white canvas and displaying the work on the bustling streets of downtown Tucson at Tucson Meet Yourself.
Ryan Revock/ The Daily Wildcat Artist, Marcelino Clemente Flore III works on an unnamed oil painting on Saturday at the Tucson Meet Yourself Festival.
Flores, 40, graduated from the UA in 2001 with a degree in regional development and now holds a position as a council member of the tribe. When his love of art began, Flores said his mother scolded him, urging him to become an engineer or doctor.
Flores began his first years of study at the UA as an engineering major.
“I didn’t speak English, and so math came really easy,” Flores said, adding that he changed his major once he started a family.
Flores said he finds similarities between math and art.
“Math and art come together,” he said. “There’s a place where you’ll bridge it. You’ll see it, you’ll recognize it, you’ll feel it. And the reason I can say that math is the same as art is because I’ve done a calculus problem and found that the answer ends up being some ratio of pi, and it’s beautiful.”
Flores said much of his work is influenced by his own dreams, adding that he also creates pieces inspired by the beauty of the Sonoran Desert.
“The desert is very much a part of our culture and traditions, and that’s kind of what I focus on but not the icon of deer dancers, or pascola,” Flores said. “And I always get asked because I’m a Native American if I can paint an eagle with feathers and painted dancers and coyotes, but I don’t like falling into that prejudice.”
Flores said he also likes to paint hummingbirds as they are considered messengers in Native American culture.
Tucson historic preservation officer Jonathan Mabry said he asked Flores to do the work on Miracle Mile and added that Flores’ art is more than just paint on a canvas.
“He’s involved in keeping the traditions alive,” Mabry said.
David Moreno, a fellow artist, tribe member and friend of Flores, said he admires Flores’ artistic talent and the drive that keeps him at the palette. Although the techniques of both artists are very different — Moreno paints with acrylic while Flores works mostly with oil — Moreno said he gains a lot of inspiration from Flores by watching his work ethic.
“Even when he was beginning to paint, he always had that vision, and he worked so hard on his technique in painting to accomplish his vision,” Moreno said, “That’s what I admire about him. It’s his tenacity to keep painting. He paints a lot, and I think that’s the mark of a true painter.”
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