Today we’d like to introduce you to Sebastian Tovar.
Sebastian, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I grew up in Koreatown, Los Angeles, in a modest but magical house of goofy oddballs. We lived on Westmoreland Ave. in an ivy-covered home with decorative nooks and tiny fairy shrines spread throughout to give the sense of playfulness and imagination. My dad’s musical theater compositions overflowed the living room, while an abundance of overgrown plants occupied my mom’s garden. The constant motto of “Yes! There is life here!” always seemed to be on display. Each room of the house was like another mystical friend to play with. My older siblings were preoccupied with getting older (bleh), so I eventually found a different cast to play with – spirits that would inhabit these rooms! I never really got to meet any of them, but as they were taking up space, I began taking on their energy. For over twenty years, my family became completely at one with this house… until Mr. Foreclosure came along and told us to GTFO, you’re not that special or different. We evacuated almost immediately, leaving behind a home that both protected and raised us. At that time, I was in an oil painting class at Pasadena City College, which served as an incredible outlet for me to explore this loss.
Almost ten years later, I’m still enveloped in making pieces that try to remedy this house/inhabitant dilemma, asking myself what’s more painful: the people fleeing the house or the stagnant home left alone all these years?
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I make abstract paintings that explore the exchange between empty and occupied space. I began deconstructing elements of the home—the bones, the familiar icons, the walls of inscribed hand-painted prayers, the luscious landscape paintings, and dusty books no one ever read.
Many of us feel indestructible living inside our homes, as we feel it supports us, but they are just as fragile and sensitive as we are. I became so sad after learning this, and began to feel tragic empathy for the home itself. It’s tough when you can’t thank something that’s given you so much! My paintings investigate this relationship, but they are also a series of thank you letters to that pretty home on Westmoreland Ave.
Have things improved for artists? What should cities do to empower artists?
It’s definitely hard to live as an artist without tons of money or solid relationships with successful people (which LA seems to have a lot of), but I think the best thing to do is to create stuff for yourself without the temptation of external recognition. But of course, if your parents praised you for your talents at a young age, then that set up a complex—hey, I’m working on it!
The next logical step is to connect with small artist-run spaces that aren’t afraid to take risks with the work they’re displaying. I’m amazed at how many spaces in LA that are doing this!
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
No current exhibitions at the moment, but I’m working on putting together a solo exhibition exploring the inhabitant leaving the home and existing in nature that I’m excited about. And of course, my work can also be found on my website and social media…