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Check Out Javier Flores’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Javier Flores.

Hi Javier, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was born April 27, 1978, in Denver Colorado to Mexican immigrants, I’m the eldest of three kids. Raised in a blue-collar, middle to low-class household in Brighton, Colorado helped to instill a strong work ethic, honesty, and integrity. At the age of nineteen, I was shot in the lower back and subsequently paralyzed. I spent a lot of time angry, depressed, and for a short time suicidal, the only things to get me out of this mindset was family, friends, the visual arts and martial arts. A short time after getting used to being paralyzed I decided to start school beginning at Front Range Community College in Westminster and then transferring over to Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSUD). I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2008.

Upon graduating, I began working at Access Gallery a non-profit that helps folks with cognitive and physical impairments. In addition, I helped to start a cooperative gallery. In 2011 due to health issues associated from being in a wheelchair I left that cooperative gallery and became a member of another. In 2014 I applied and was accepted to graduate school and in 2017, received my Master of Fine Arts from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Upon finishing my terminal degree I came back to Colorado and was given a chance by my “Art Dad” Carlos Fresquez and started teaching a Watermedia class at MSUD, this class led to more opportunities within the art department to teach courses such as Drawing, 2D Foundations, and Printmaking. In the summer of 2021, I applied for and got the opportunity to teach full-time at Front Range Community College in Westminster where I am the Art Faculty Lead. I teach a number of classes related to two-dimensional work. Throughout this time, I have maintained my artistic practice and done the best I can to lead by example.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Obviously, the biggest struggle has been acclimating to the confinement of the wheelchair. I had to learn to do everything I loved from the seat of my chair. In high school at Brighton H.S., and after North H.S. I was a runner in track and cross-country. So that made up a majority of my interests and persona. I had to learn to become this new person and try to deal with the anger I felt towards the person that had shot me (who was never held to justice for the crime and was shot and died the very next day). Everyday activities such as getting places is harder for those of us confined to a wheelchair, but I am grateful that I have use of my arms. The psyche of being in a wheelchair also affects your love life and feeling worthy of being loved.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I graduated undergrad with a painting degree but had taken a lot of courses in printmaking as well as many other mediums. I am a multi-disciplined artist who mostly does printmaking but have done murals and some three-dimensional works. As an artist, I choose to associate with the idea of Lenguaje Vulgar, or vulgar language, a reference to cussing in Spanish. The connection of imagery to language is a symbolic reference to the visual lexicon I continue to expand to explore the daily hindrance of my disability among other issues. The implication of swearing or cussing in accordance with my art is a therapeutic tool which allows me to express frustration yet persevere. As a visual artist, I pursue a variety of mediums to best translate the biographical narrative approach to image and form-making.

By re-contextualizing common symbols, the viewer is led to a larger dialogue in which they must access their own personal context in relation to the art. The reflective aspect of my work is an exploration into identity in the form of culture, ecology, non-toxic masculinity, politics, temporality, loss and ultimately triumph. I’m most proud of my ability to persevere and like my parents always told me “no te rajes!” -don’t give up (in Spanish). The thing that sets me apart from others I believe is the ability to pursue my interests and incorporate them into a visual narrative, to work harder than others even though I am in a wheelchair, and to do the best I can to stay true to who I am and where I come from. I do my best to lead by example, there are times I falter but overall, I feel that is being human, you don’t always succeed, so learn from your mistakes and try not to do them again.

Where do you see things going in the next 5-10 years?
I see the art world is constantly changing, for example NFT’s. Growing up and being in the art world, you hear constantly that everything that can be done has been done. I never liked hearing that when I was in school because I felt it promoted laziness, the lacking to be creative in a creative industry. I still do not like that saying and tell my students constantly that it is false and bring up examples such as laser printing, NFT’s, C&C routers, even acrylic paints/inks were just created in the last century. I think it is important to embrace technology and not become one of the art dinosaurs that look up on innovation as the comet that is going to kill them all. Having said all that I am not necessarily a fan of trends, I enjoy a certain aesthetic and pursue that in my art practice but am constantly trying to evolve my own personal dimension.

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