- Griffin Swartzell
Local painter Cymon Padilla loves Caravaggio. The Italian baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio painted the Roman god Bacchus as a young man proffering wine and toying with his toga. In tribute, Padilla gave Bacchus a little modernization.
"He's got the snapchat filter on his face and some random emojis," Padilla explains. Bacchus now bears a bubbled-out face and appears surrounded by sassy emojis — pills, booze and a few rakish faces — that Padilla thought Caravaggio might have his Bacchus send, given access to modern tech.
"A lot of my work is sort of ripping off of art history," says Padilla. In his untitled upcoming show at the Modbo, he has done a few other such pieces. He put a bong in the hands of a John Singer Sargent portrait to help the subject have some fun. He also drew inspiration from a bust of blisteringly crazy Roman Emperor Caligula. He shows the bust stretched out and distorted, painted over a background of abstract shapes for a piece that reads early internet. The other places the bust over a razzle-dazzle camo pattern of the sort that was occasionally used on World War I ships. Padilla gives the bust cartoonish melting eyes to add movement.
"I've always wanted to take a cartoon aesthetic, or at least that realm, and play with it with some classical art themes," he explains. His dedication to classic painting techniques reads clearly in his works, though he says he's still learning them. More obvious is his sense of humor and fun. He enjoys hearing people laugh at his openings.
"I think that sometimes art takes itself way too seriously," Padilla says. "I appreciate art that takes itself seriously. There are some artists who cover some pretty serious, say, social and philosophical subjects. I'd like to maybe do that someday, but in the meantime, I'd just like people to laugh at a painting and find it funny."
Sitting in the corner of his studio, overlooking the rest of the show, there's a classic Da Vinci background. On top of it, Padilla has painted Dat Boi, a low-definition CGI frog on a unicycle and a certified dank meme.
"I feel like there's a very certain demographic that's going to get that painting," he says. "I spent 16 hours painting a joke, which I'm OK with."