Caleb Hahne Quintana’s Unconventional Perspectives

A Permission of Otherness

An interview by Evan Pricco // Portrait by Ian Lewandowski

In a seemingly simple yet striking gesture, Caleb Hahne Quintana holds a monumental glass of water high, examining its clarity. Known for his works of tenderness, memory, and fantasy, Caleb explores the concept of movement – how we move, how things move, how time moves, and how legacies move through generations. His latest exhibition, AURORA, showcased at Anat Ebgi in Los Angeles, delved into the themes of ebb and flow, reality versus fiction, and the juxtaposition of suburbia and the American frontier. Through deeply personal documentation of his own family’s journey and his Colorado childhood, Caleb, who recently adopted his mother’s name “Quintana,” is on the verge of creating a lifelong narrative that resonates with the mystery of otherness and the spirit of exploration.

A Routine of Momentum

The Post-Show Come Down

When one show concludes, Caleb finds himself seamlessly transitioning to the next chapter in his artistic journey. After his recent exhibition in Miami and a lecture at the Denver Art Museum, Caleb didn’t experience the typical downtime. Instead, he had already begun working on two paintings before his lecture, allowing him to dive right into a new project without starting from scratch. While he doesn’t view his work in terms of individual paintings, Caleb recognizes that each show is part of a larger, ongoing narrative. His exhibition at Anat was just a glimpse into his hometown, Aurora, but he believes there is much more to explore and express about this place he holds dear.

The Intersection of Home and Fantasy

Aurora: A Personal Journey

Caleb’s latest show, AURORA, emerged from a larger project that he plans to undertake – tracing his family’s immigration from Mexico to Colorado. While initially intending to focus on the landscapes that his family traversed, Caleb realized the ambitious nature of this endeavor, requiring ample time and travel. In search of a more immediate approach, he turned to his own hometown, Aurora. However, rather than creating literal representations, Caleb embraced the power of storytelling and embarked on a journey through color, people, and artful composition. He conveyed the essence of Aurora from the perspective of immigrants and the diaspora of migration, seamlessly intertwining this narrative with his Mexico project.

An Unconventional Exploration of Suburbia

A Fresh Perspective on Growing Up

Caleb’s interpretation of suburbia in AURORA stands out for its unique perspective. Representing the essence of rural, suburban places, he taps into the universal nature of these colloquial settings. Rather than perceiving a hometown as solely individualistic, Caleb believes that painting can capture a collective experience and culture. Through his artwork, he unites individual stories, such as his own in “I Am the Salt of Two Seas,” with broader narratives that resonate with people from different backgrounds. By addressing the concept of the American frontier, Caleb adds a layer of complexity to his portrayal of Aurora, showcasing the diversity of Colorado’s geography and topography.

Ebbing and Flowing Brilliance

The Power of Water Symbolism

One aspect of Caleb’s work that garnered attention is his use of water symbolism. In particular, his iconic paintings featuring hands holding glasses of water captured the imagination of viewers. These paintings, with their dramatic scale and thought-provoking themes of water politics, migration patterns, and access to clean water, possess a certain bleakness. However, even in their bleakness, they exude an underlying sense of optimism. Caleb attributes this optimism to elements such as the inclusion of star-lit backgrounds and the relatability of the paintings’ size. Water, as a symbol of life, engages viewers and prompts them to reconsider their relationship with this vital resource.

The Poetry of Unspoken Politics

Exploring Water as a Medium

While Caleb’s work often touches on political themes, he approaches them with a poetic lens rather than creating overtly political pieces. Rather than explicitly addressing political figures or events, his focus on water allows for a more nuanced exploration. Caleb recognizes the inherent power and complexity of water as a subject matter. By delving into its various implications, including access to clean water and the profound impact it has on life, Caleb encourages viewers to reflect on this resource in a new light. Through his paintings, he seeks to spark conversation and prompt individuals to think more deeply about the significance of water in their lives.

The Influence of Otherness

From Hardcore Music to Quintana

Caleb’s journey as an artist has been shaped by his affinity for hardcore music and punk rock. This love for a particular genre allowed him to experience a sense of “otherness” early on in life. The concept of permission to be different became integral to Caleb’s artistic process, challenging societal norms and seeking his own distinct path. His decision to adopt his mother’s last name, Quintana, was a pivotal moment in his artistic growth. By embracing his Mexican heritage, Caleb not only celebrated his family’s history and legacy but also found a stronger sense of belonging and purpose in his work.

The Absence of Inclusion

Finding Power in Simplicity

One of Caleb’s artistic trademarks is the absence of certain elements in his paintings. While some artists may feel pressured to include more, Caleb finds beauty in the absence of additional details. He believes that this minimalistic approach allows viewers to engage their imagination and interpret his work in their own unique ways. From a glass of water devoid of excessive adornments to the intentional omission of a snake in a painting, Caleb demonstrates the strength of simplicity. By leaving certain aspects open to interpretation, he invites viewers to actively participate in the artistic process and find their own meanings within his work.

The Intersection of Violence and Sensitivity

A Multifaceted Approach

Caleb’s affinity for boxing and jiu-jitsu may seem incongruous with the sensitivity and emotional depth of his artwork. However, he sees these seemingly opposing aspects as complementary, and they contribute to his multifaceted identity as an artist. Just as boxing and jiu-jitsu are highly ritualistic and strategic, so too is the process of painting. Caleb draws parallels between the controlled moves in martial arts and the deliberate decisions made during the creation of a painting. Both require a balance of intention, planning, and executing precise movements to achieve desired outcomes.

Decisiveness and the Essence of Time

Exploring the Impact of Choice

One of the critical aspects of Caleb’s artistic journey is the acquisition of decisiveness. With the infinite possibilities afforded by painting, Caleb recognizes the challenge of making definitive choices. He understands the significance of decisiveness in achieving his artistic vision while acknowledging that it is a skill that takes time to develop and master. Caleb found inspiration in the work of Alex Katz, who demonstrated the power of remaining focused and consistent over a span of seven decades. He draws from Katz’s ability to refine artistic expressions while constantly searching for new possibilities, and aims to embody a similar balance between continuity and evolution in his own work.

The Pressure of Constant Evolution

Navigating the Expectations of the Art World

As a rising artist in an era characterized by enhanced access to information and broader audience reach, Caleb acknowledges the pressure to constantly evolve his artistic style. However, he has learned to balance this pressure with staying true to his creative vision. While aware of current trends favoring maximalist painting, Caleb resists the temptation to conform. Instead, he embraces the power of absence and simplicity, content with his unique approach. Caleb recognizes the value of mystery, poetry, and allowing viewers to interpret his work, rather than creating art that solely caters to popular demand.

The Liberation of Identity

Quintana: A Gateway to Belonging

Taking on the name Quintana was a transformative moment for Caleb. It represented a reclamation of his Mexican heritage, overturning the narrative of erasure and assimilation experienced by his family. By embracing his mother’s last name, he ensured the preservation of his family’s history and the continuation of their legacy. For Caleb, Quintana embodies a sense of belonging and serves as a testament to his identity. It allows him to delve deeper into his artistic exploration of themes related to his family’s heritage and to convey stories that might otherwise remain untold.

Time Travel and Intergenerational Tales

Preserving a Family’s Legacy

By carrying the name Quintana, Caleb feels a profound connection to his ancestors and their stories. He recognizes the importance of preserving his family’s history, especially the remarkable events that unfolded during his great-great-grandfather’s involvement with Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution. Through his artwork, Caleb breathes new life into these intergenerational tales. He finds joy in the ability to perpetuate these narratives, acknowledging the unexpected turn his family’s history has taken and celebrating the diversity that flows through his veins.

In conclusion, Caleb Hahne Quintana’s artistic journey is one characterized by a profound exploration of identity, migration, and the power of storytelling. From his tender portrayal of suburbia and the American frontier to his thought-provoking use of water symbolism, Caleb’s work captivates viewers and challenges societal norms. Through his artistic expression, he invites us to reflect on our own stories, the importance of preserving heritage, and the beauty of embracing otherness. Caleb’s decision to adopt the name Quintana showcases not only his personal growth but also his commitment to honoring his family’s legacy. As his artistic narrative continues to unfold, we eagerly anticipate the stories he has yet to tell.


1. What inspired Caleb Hahne Quintana to pursue a career in art?

While Caleb’s love for hardcore music and punk rock initially influenced his artistic inclinations, it was his affinity for expressing “otherness” that propelled him on his artistic journey. The search for personal and creative freedom drove Caleb to explore new avenues and challenge conventions, ultimately leading to a career in art.

2. How does Caleb approach the intersection of politics and art in his work?

Caleb prefers to employ a poetic and nuanced approach when addressing political themes in his art. Rather than creating explicitly political pieces, he often uses water symbolism as a means to explore critical issues such as access to clean water and the impact of water on migration patterns. Through his work, Caleb encourages viewers to reflect on these subjects in a contemplative and thought-provoking manner.

3. How does Caleb find balance between evolving as an artist and staying true to his unique style?

As a rising artist in an era of constant change and trends, Caleb acknowledges the pressure to conform. However, he remains steadfast in his conviction to stay authentic and true to his own artistic vision. Caleb recognizes the value of simplicity, absence, and allowing viewers to interpret his work, resisting the temptation to adopt popular styles solely for the sake of staying relevant.

4. What impact has adopting the name Quintana had on Caleb’s artistic journey?

By adopting the name Quintana, Caleb has experienced a profound shift in his sense of identity and belonging. Embracing his Mexican heritage and honoring his family’s legacy have imbued Caleb’s work with renewed purpose and authenticity. Through his art, Caleb delves into the stories and history of his ancestors, injecting their narratives with new meaning and ensuring that their experiences are not forgotten.

5. How does Caleb navigate the challenges of making decisive choices in his artwork?

Caleb acknowledges the inherent challenges of making definitive choices in his creative process. With painting offering endless possibilities, he recognizes the importance of developing decisiveness over time. Drawing inspiration from artists like Alex Katz, who exemplify focus and consistency over the span of their careers, Caleb continually refines his artistic expressions while remaining open to new possibilities and interpretations.