Faces & Sneakers: A Conversation with Samuel Rodriguez
An interview with the California native informs us of his origins, his connection to sneaker brand, Puma, and cultural awareness.
Writer’s note: I’m the new guy here at Highlark Magazine. My name is David Landry, writing under the nom de plume, D3 The Concrete. You can call me D3.
I want to thank Mitch for the opportunity to share my writings on this site. I hope that you, the reader, will enjoy what I post.
The following conversation was from about a year ago, when I linked up, online, with Samuel Rodriguez, a visual artist from the West Coast, who’s been on a meteoric rise in the both the art and streetwear world.
Anyway, take a look at this, and feel free to reach out to me at my email: email@example.com, if you have any topics that you want to bring to my attention.
BOLD: Me // Italics: Sam
All art is provided by the artist for this article.
Tell us who you are and where you are from.
I’m Sam Rodriguez from San Jose, California. That is the South Bay Area located in Northern California to be more specific.
How did you get into the arena of visual arts?
I got into visual arts through watching Looney Tunes, The Simpsons, and various cartoons through the 80’s. I also used to stare at all the album covers in my uncle’s record collection. My eventual introduction to graffiti was what really shot up my passion.
Stanislavski, the theatre theorist/actor/writer talked about the “super-objective”, which he defined as “the core problem that unites and subordinates the character’s moment-to-moment tasks”. What is your super-objective?
I want to present faces and perspectives that have not been presented throughout art history. I am currently drawn to mixed identity, whether that means heritage, or style, I am interested in how these labels may overlap.
THE POWER OF STREET ART
An important part of streetwear is STREET. Your street art is POWERFUL. My favorite piece that I have seen of yours is the Xochitl piece. Tell us how is this power made manifest in your art.
Thank you! I think many of us artists struggle to express ourselves. Sometimes things could be too overdone, or on the other hand, not thought out enough. I can go into these pieces and have all sorts of intention, but in the end, the viewer’s impression is something that is out of my control.
What I mean is, an artist can only get so analytical about a work, but what matters in the end is feeling. I love music, and the best tracks are those that I have an emotional connection with. [Having] that sort of connection with people through my art is definitely something I can’t force.
I think feeling comes through when you respect and try to empathize with the person or subject you are representing. Nowadays there is so much visual information that is inspiring style which makes sense when we observe the current social landscape.
I have lots of visual information in my own work, as many of my contemporaries do, and I think it is important that we try hard to maintain the humanness of the people we portray. Feelings can get buried in eye candy and effects, sometimes. The pieces I have done could only be powerful because there is a real person behind them.
What is it like to work with brands and how does it feel to still be able to both infuse the art with your indigenous roots, and inform people about who you are culturally? (BTW your work with Cukui is STELLAR!)
I love working with brands, especially when we get together to share stories. I think today we live in a time where people are taking ownership of their identity and experience.
Before, we could read history, or turn on the television and hear other people define who we are, but now it’s inspiring to see the previously unseen, or unheard, entering into positions of power and altering the narrative to where we dictate who we are and who we’ve been. We live in the time of the self-made.
PUMA x 1800 TEQUILA x SAM RODRIGUEZ
Tell me about the shoe that has been the talk of the town: the 1800 Tequila x PUMA x Sam Rodriguez collaboration. It appears that you have had a long-standing relationship with PUMA (those GOLD Puma Clydes = WOW!) Tell us how did the process for this shoe happen and how long did it take for this shoe to be developed.
That was a dream come true, and I am so grateful to have been able to do that. Those gold ones were cool but I can’t take credit for anything except the shoe box design/illustration. The process of the 1800 Tequila x PUMA x me was around a year. It was 1800 who initiated it and brought us all together.
When I say a year, I don’t mean we were working non-stop (ha ha), but yea there are so many people that need to be considered through the process so it ends up taking awhile. The idea was to do a special release for Cinco De Mayo. That date is one that Mexican-Americans use here in the U.S. in order to have a special day to celebrate our heritage. It was proposed and granted during the time when Mexican-Americans and of course African-Americans, were fighting for civil rights. Most newly arrived immigrants from Mexico actually get confused as to why it is celebrated because it is the celebration of a battle in a specific Mexican state called Puebla, where soldiers fought and won against French invaders.
So there’s confusion because it would be like Canadians celebrating American Independence Day.
For the reasons I mentioned, pertaining to civil rights and recognition, the date is still relevant to us U.S. born Mexicans. We all agreed that we wanted to avoid the topic of the date itself, and I came up with the idea making something inspired by ancient indigenous hieroglyphics. The style was heavily inspired by the Aztecas and Mayas, but these are a couple out of so many [nations] to be found from North to South America. I thought it would be a good direction because it felt more universal. It was something that Mexicans from the U.S. and Mexico could both relate to.
From there, I put a contemporary twist on it, mixing in Graffiti, and Hip-Hop because I really wanted Non-Mexican people to relate to and love the design as well. We originally did a hand drawn illustration (later used as the shoe box art), then made samples. We decided to vector the artwork so that it was lines only, because the hand drawn look did not look good on the shoe. It translated very well after that, and after a few material and color revisions, we had something that felt good.
STAY IN TOUCH
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