Hector D. Llamas desperately tried not to become a professional artist. After growing up in San Luis Río Colorado in Sonora, Mexico, and Yuma, Ariz., Llamas earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Arizona State University, but says he planned on making more use of his minors in criminal justice and psychology. “I never thought art was gonna be it,” he says.
In his mind, the life of an artist was too mercurial – too reliant on clientele’s whims, too linked to the hardscrabble lives of artisans he grew up seeing in Mexico, who churned out pottery, weavings and jewelry not out of inspiration but out of financial necessity. “The artist part of me is I do it when I’m inspired to do it,” Llamas says. It was only after learning the art of framing art and managing a Scottsdale art gallery (formerly Arts Alive, now Think Art) for years that his secret hobby got out. “My bosses tell everybody I’m an artist and I tell them I don’t like it,” he says with a bashful smile. “I want you to make the judgment on your own. I’m not going to push [my] art on you.”
No pushing has been necessary for him to attract buyers to his abstract landscape paintings and vibrant, sensual mixed-media paintings of Catrinas, the iconic Día de los Muertos skeleton ladies. “I call them dames, so ‘Las Damas de Llamas,’” he says with a laugh. “Some that look like models, some that look like white people, some that look like Mexicans, some that look very humble, some that look very sad. I try to have a variety because everybody can adapt to this day.”
He’ll be showing his “Damas” in his Sonoran hometown – “literally a couple blocks away from my mom’s house” – at El Festival de La Catrina this month, but his pieces are available locally at Think Art (15125 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale, 480-998-9790, thinkfineart.com) and at hectordllamasfineart.com.
– Leah LeMoine
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