From Bird City to the Windy City, native son and celebrated artist Joseph "Sentrock" Perez is still making waves. The former Valley resident, who now lives in Chicago, returns to the desert for a gallery showing this weekend -- paying homage to the journey he's been on and how far he's come.
"Welcome to Our Diary" debuts at Palabra Collective on Saturday, May 3. Sentrock, who is a member there, says this will be the only solo art show in his hometown this year. Nearly 200 people have already RSVP'd on Facebook to the free event.
The show, like many before it, is about sharing stories, a visual narrative.
"[It's] a very loose yet cohesive story line with the reoccurring character in different settings," Sentrock says. "As my work for the show started to build, I started to create different characters that reflected somewhat the same environments.
"Each piece for the show is like a chapter to a book. The 'we' or the 'our' in the title is like a reflection on my community as a whole, almost to say that I'm sharing others' stories along with mine."
The exhibition consists entirely of Sentrock signature pieces, all of which will be for sale. Each is heavy on the color and the message -- from that which is written outright ("tell mom I'll be home for dinner") to that which is implied. The character, complete with a human torso and limbs and trademark bird head, is seen in a variety of positions and situations. Each implies a transition from the last and a drive to keep on and continue to succeed, which has been the painter's personal motto in past shows.
The 27-year-old Big Brain Award winner continues to draw inspiration from his surroundings. Anchors in his life, from God to his family to a community of artists and friends, have always nurtured his painting, he says. And that's apparent here.
Since moving to Chicago to pursue an art degree at Columbia College Chicago, the artist says, his work has transformed immeasurably.
"At the end of the day, all artists are always students, continually learning, growing, discovering new ways to share our art," he says. "At times, I feel I'm more of a storyteller than a painter at heart, but I love to share stories through art."
Partly due to the influence of the city around him ("moving to a brand new city can be intimidating," he says), but also because he is finding his voice.
"Not too many people knew who I was or still am in Chicago, so my work had to speak for itself," he says. "The art has to be able to captivate the viewer without knowing my back story or who the artist is. To me that was a big deal for me, showing someone my art and having them like it without knowing me meant a lot."
For Sentrock, and Phoenix's Palabra owner Jorge Torres, this show is representative of how far the two have come in the art scene -- what Sentrock refers to as "allowing my art to come full circle."
"My first show was at a gallery run by Torres," Sentrock says. "He believed in my art from the beginning and always believed in the message of the art."
The new year has proved to be a busy one for the artist. After a successful, sold-out collaboration with BucketFeet shoes last holiday season, he recently won the People's Choice Awards for Red Bull Chicago's "Canvas Cooler" contest. The project consists of canvas-wrapped drink coolers for twenty hand-picked artists to take on.
He continues to engage in projects on the homefront as well and recently collaborated with local retailer Bunky Boutique on a T-shirt. The shirt features the tag "bird city state of mind" and his signature bird-headed character.
But his plans for the busy year ahead aren't all professional: Sentrock will marry his fiancée, Summer Rodarte, in June.
The exhibition opens from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, May 3, at Palabra Collective, 702 North Seventh Street. Admission is free. It will remain on view through Saturday, May 31. Visit the event invite via Facebook for more information.
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