Recently a very good friend passed away in a tragic accident.  His name was Francisco Rios, and it seems his impact on me may have been greater than I would have originally credited him for.

I met Cisco through another friend, Ahmad, when I was working at Blockbuster Video several years ago.  It was a quick meeting, literally checking out movies and chatting for a few moments.  At the time I was painting when I could and working to make ends meet with the bills.  As an artist I tend to look at people a little differently, I notice things others may not notice at a quick glance.  With Francisco I was taken by his quick wit and immediate warmth and familiarity.  The other thing was his hands.  They were huge, but perfect in proportion, strong, but not in a muscular way.  The way you would think of God's hands if they had been sculpted in marble by Michelangelo.  

It's a strange thing to notice right off the bat, but that's how I see things sometimes.  I often told Cisco that the only real reason I kept him around was because I was having a love affair with his hands. 

Over time I saw Cisco several times at work when he would come in with Ahmad and we would always chat.  By this time, Ahmad had been introduced to my art and shared it with Cisco.  There was a retrospective of works coming through Houston of Jean-Michel Basquiat and once again we met there.  It was the first time we saw each other in the "real world."

Friendships grow at a strange pace sometimes.  Francisco started dropping by the house every once in a while.  The first time was to see the art in person.  Then to see works in progress.  He was always so supportive, and very vocal in his appreciation.  One of my works, "Merger," he bought as a wedding gift for his sister, Loreta.  He carried it on the plane rather than check it as luggage.  He was working as a waiter at the time and although I told him I would swing him a deal on the painting, he insisted on paying what it was priced at.  When someone buys a work of art from you like that, it means something.  It really shows how much they value you as an artist.



Many months after the wedding he told me that when the boarding call for the flight came he was about to give the airline attendant his ticket when he realized that the painting was still back in the terminal.  he had to make a split second decision to board or go back for the painting and possibly miss the flight.   He chose the painting.  Luckily, he still made the flight.  He apologized and was genuinely concerned that I would think poorly of him for having left the painting behind in the first place.  I thought the story was great.  How could you ever really hold anything against such a good hearted guy?

Francisco and I started discussing the ideas and where my art comes from.  He took great interest in the thought process behind the works.  He encouraged me to follow up on ideas that I had in my sketchbooks.  One idea had to do with the use of diamond dust on acrylic paint to make works shimmer and sparkle.  I agreed to try it and decided that he should be the test subject.  So I photographed him and in a week or so I had a diamond dust coated canvas of Cisco in hot pink.



I gave him the painting.  It seemed to be the right thing to do with it.  After the initial photo shoot he was ready for anything I threw at him.  He agreed to be in my Genomic series on the Walt Disney canvas.  It was later that I was informed that he was once banned from Disney World for shooting a party popper at Mickey Mouse.  Life does have its little ironies doesn't it. 

When Monica came to the US from Australia, Cisco made sure she came over to our place to meet us.  I'm glad I got to meet her.  It meant a great deal to me that Francisco would share a whole part of his life with me in one swoop.

It was important for me to have Cisco be in one of the Genomic paintings.  Not only was he one of my good friends by then, but he had told me several times about this gallery that was near his workplace that I should check out.  He said my work would be a great fit.  I never went and checked it out.  Once again, coincidence rears it head, and another friend actually contacted the same gallery on my behalf . A few weeks later I was represented by the gallery and had a solo show to get ready for that November.



Cisco was so proud and excited.  When Walt Disney was done Cisco and I had one of those great conversations about the nature of art.  The nature of the portrait.  A painted portrait isn't a photograph, it's deeper somehow.  And paintings aren't treated like photos.  They last much longer.  They hang where people can see them.  Even a portrait of someone you don't know can hang in your home.  For someone to have their portrait painted it can be quite a revelation that the work may last longer than they do. 

Cisco got to see the painting on the gallery wall.  He got to see his image added to a greater idea.  A part of something bigger.  I can't explain to anyone in words how much that means to me.  The fact that he was one of my friends who saw the work develop, and he understood what it was about.  He got it.  He supported it. 

When I took the photos to use as the source for Walt Disney, Cisco was concerned about how he looked that day.  I told him that he would never be as young and beautiful as he was right then.  Every day he'd be older.  Those photos were taken in October. 

When the show was over we started talking about my next project, The History of Rock and Roll.  There were all sorts of technical challenges involved with the production of my ideas.  Once again, Cisco was up for it.  This time he let me paint his torso in warpaint to try a technique of "invisibility paint."  The work is called "Sahara Standard" and, at the time of this writing, is still unfinished.  The figure was finished though.  It came out amazingly. Francisco got to see it and for that I am really glad.  On the flip side I am saddened that he will never see the work completed in its entirety. 



For the last year Cisco has been on my case to get a studio and make bigger works.  Working at home limits the size of my paintings and after Genomic was over I took his advice and got a real studio.  

Francisco came by and saw it for the first time and was so proud of me.  He thought it was so great and so cool.  Now, I would be able to really let loose and do those big works. 

He only got to see the studio twice.   

The photos for Disney were taken just over two months ago and he's not here anymore.  And yet he lives on in that painting.  It's funny.  It seems like we just had that conversation about how long a painting lasts.  Hopefully a portrait will outlive us.  It will be a way for people to remember you when you're gone.  It will make you immortal. 

It doesn't feel like a very fair trade now.  Now it just seems like canvas and paint to me. 

Francisco Rios was an inspiration to me.  He was one of my biggest fans.  But more than that, I loved him dearly for the way he loved me, my art, and shared that love with everyone.  His impression on the landscape of my soul has been much more profound than I could have ever expected.  For those who knew him, you know what I mean.  One life touches so many.  The tendrils of our lives wrap so tightly around the people we meet and touch, and sometimes we don't even realize it. 

For me, his loss has been profound and yet enlightening.  He would have liked that.