A Bigger Harvest: Spotlight on Ozzie Juarez, a Rising Star in the South Central LA Art Scene
A Journey Shaped by Upbringing and Personal Start
AJ Girard, an interviewer and art enthusiast, had the privilege of sitting down with Ozzie Juarez, a talented artist and curator hailing from South Central LA, to delve into his background and the experiences that have molded him. Ozzie, who recently showcased his solo exhibition “Por Debajo” at Ochi Gallery, shared insights into his creative journey and the initiatives he is taking to create promising opportunities for artists in his community.
During the conversation, Ozzie reflects on his early years, where the urge to draw and write on everything was irresistible. From doodling cartoons, portraits, and letters during class to expressing himself through graffiti, Ozzie’s artistic creativity was a constant presence in his life. However, his teachers and family never fully nurtured this talent, and growing up in poverty-ridden areas made it challenging to escape the grip of violence and limited resources. Despite these obstacles, Ozzie’s resilience, survival tactics, and resourcefulness shaped his perspective and determination to work towards a better future.
Tlaloc Studios: Fostering the Local Art Community
As an integral part of the LA art ecosystem, Ozzie plays a significant role in Tlaloc Studios, an artist-run community gallery and studio building in South Central. With thirteen emerging artists currently working out of Tlaloc, the studio has become a hub of creativity and collaboration. Ozzie wears multiple hats in this bustling ecosystem, connecting with fellow artists and curating powerful exhibitions that provide local emerging artists with equal opportunities to shine. Through Tlaloc Studios, Ozzie aims to create a sense of belonging and foster growth within the local art community, offering a platform where talent can thrive.
The name “Tlaloc” holds deep significance, drawing inspiration from one of the most ancient and widespread deities in Mesoamerica. Tlaloc, the ruler of rain and lightning, symbolized fertility and abundance, rightfully earning the title “The Provider.” In a similar vein, Ozzie aims to embody Tlaloc’s altruistic philosophy by providing a sanctuary for artists to flourish. Tlaloc Studios serves as more than just an exhibition space; it acts as a catalyst for connections with collectors, curators, and galleries, propelling local artists to new heights while preserving their cultural heritage.
A Journey of Growth and Self-Empowerment
Ozzie’s journey as an artist has been marred by societal expectations and doubts from his father. Without any formal art education until later in life, Ozzie’s early artistic pursuits, particularly graffiti, were not considered fine art. However, with unwavering dedication, rebellion, and hard work, he eventually proved his father wrong, obtaining an art degree from UC Berkeley. This pivotal moment marked tremendous growth for Ozzie, solidifying his place in the art world and reaffirming his path as a professional artist.
In his works, Ozzie intertwines various influences, incorporating elements from South Central murals, pre-Colombian manuscripts, contemporary cartoons, and graffiti. By blending generational histories, ancient folklore, and pop culture, Ozzie explores the complexities of his identity and the constructed nature of shared experiences. Through his art, he aims to challenge societal pressures and inspire others to embrace their authentic selves, paving the way for greater acceptance of diverse narratives in the art world.
Nurturing Community and Inspiring Others
Ozzie finds inspiration within his immediate community and encourages emerging artists to find strength in their surroundings. He looks to outsider artists, civilians, and gang members whose honest and raw mark-making resonates deeply. As a curator, Ozzie immerses himself in art, surrounded by artists who constantly fuel his own creativity. This supportive community empowers Ozzie to create impactful work and uplifts each other’s lives. Resolute in his mission, Ozzie believes that the art community needs more brown and black leaders to forge a brighter