Luis De La Torre arrived in Chicago’s neighborhood of Bridgeport at the age of seven. Although he had spent most of his childhood in the states of Jalisco and Nayarít in western Mexico, he was actually born in McAllen, Texas, near the U.S.–Mexico border in 1969. These early years may continue to unconsciously inspire the work of this accomplished and dedicated artist. While his paintings and illustrations do not appear to be overtly Mexican on the surface, many of the ancient Mexican concepts of life and symbols of faith and power continue to appear among his many layers of imagery.
De La Torre’s work expresses the many dualities the artist experiences in his own life. Like the artist, who grew up Mexican in the heart of the U.S. Midwest, his paintings reveal two cultures, two histories, and two distinct worlds fused together into a single enigmatic hallucination. The dreamlike scenes De La Torre often represents hail from the diverse lands that fuel his imagination – the real and the subconscious, the urban and the mythical. De La Torre feeds his muse a diet of U.S. pop culture, current world events, and rituals that mimic ancient ceremonies, then starves her with his own sleep deprivation exercises to see what she reveals. Like an archaeologist, he digs far down into his weary conscience in order to unearth metaphors from the past into the present.
As a former student of the late watercolorist, Irving Shapiro (1927-1994), and a graduate of the American Academy of Art (1994) in Chicago, Luis De La Torre’s approach to making art is based within a classical academic tradition. He has worked on restoring the gilding at the historic Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University and the Illinois and Iowa State Capital Buildings and participated in the Frank Lloyd Wright House “Wing Spread” restoration project in Racine, Wisconsin. His knowledge and appreciation of the humanities, sciences and other disciplines of human achievement have become essential in his approach and artistic expression. History, geography, and philosophy are folded into the observations De La Torre makes on canvas alongside war, consumerism, and what he sees as the corporate commercialization of contemporary life.
Much of this artist’s work seems to spring from his observations as a sort of traveler in this country. His point of view is informed by literature, by what he has learned of past civilizations, and what he retains of his own ancient culture. Luis De La Torre continues in this way to draw inspiration from his deep roots – both indigenous Mexican and Christian. His art continues to evolve as he walks through the sequence of chapters in his artistic career, and although his art now mostly belongs to urban America, his visual language still contains an accent of someone from a far off land. Luis De La Torre has remained acutely aware that he has been transplanted to this life in the U.S. and he therefore struggles to recall lessons from the past. When pressed to describe his own work, the artist explains, “The essence of my art is a combination of creativity, persistence and a civic consciousness resulting in art that speaks of universal issues affecting us all.”
Visual Arts Coordinator
National Museum of Mexican Art