Justin Tolentino, Painter - St. Louis
 I seem to be fascinated with my past experience as a dedicated graffiti writer. Throughout my entire life I have been put in awe by vast cities and the type of life styles that thrive and perish in this type of community. My most recent works, and what I am intrigued with, consists of single character/icon in a color field landscape/background. The color field contains a hectic way of thinking and in the same picture plane a simple entity. 

The character in most cases is a mask or an over exaggeration of a thought, emotion or feeling. I employ characters to express a multi-faceted self-portrait of what is true, what is comforting and what is good. I convey humor and the irony of being human. I laugh back at life. Sending in the clowns where others would remain in quiet despair. All of these animated elements are frozen so as to be viewed for long periods of time by the viewer in order for them to completely analyze and ponder the thoughts and emotions conveyed by the figure in my paintings, prints, and/or drawings. I want the viewer to explore the characters/icons thoughts or meaning. Reading the figure's body language to determine feelings of the figure along with the colors I choose to use in the surrounding abstracted foreground and background. The collage like backgrounds, which I am drawn to, allow me to create not only an environment for the figures, they set a mood and an idea into motion that perhaps the figure could not do alone. 

Through my experience as a dedicated graffiti writer, I have taken that drive that I have and would use to explode on a wall to my canvases and panels. Graffiti writers live their lives just to make their mark on anything they see fit. Living a simple life, striving only to alter the urban environment and thus creating something new from the old cities in which we live in, something that is uniquely theirs. This, I feel, is the pursuit of most artists, simply to create. However, graffiti writers are not seen in this light, they are ridiculed for their practices, they are not considered artists, instead they are seen as public menaces who only wish to deface the already worn down city in which they live. 

I am taking from both worlds the high art world along with the underground art community and translating my experiences into a style, with the feeling and power of the underground.  

website: www.studiotolentino.com       email: justin@studiotolentino.com