Last Wednesday I found out my mentor and role-model, Carlos Cortez, passed away at age 81. Carlos symbolized for me what it was to be a true artist of the people. Artist and Poet, he died of heart failure at 7:44 PM on Tuesday, January 18, 2005, at his home in Lakeview. He was surrounded by friends and listening to the music of the Texas Tornadoes when he passed away. I met Carlos in Los Angeles in 1998 and I was immediatly inspired by his humility and his beautiful spirit. At that time I was doing an internship at the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, one of the largest political poster archives in the world. I remember driving he and his wife Marianna around LA and enjoying every minute of Carlos's stories. I learned early last year (Jan 04) that Marianna had passed and that Carlos' health was failing. So in July I paid him a visit with the intention of telling him that he has taught me what it means to be a true artist of the revolution. I wrote him a letter where I promised to him that I would keep the tradition of social serigraphy going, and that I would commit to be an artist that was accountable and representative of the people. He had me read the letter aloud and it made him happy. I had a nice dinner with him and we laughed and talked. By then he was on hospice care and I knew it was only a matter of time. I remember sitting on his couch and flipping through his books. In one of his books he wrote a beautiful short poem to his wife Marianna. He said that the house was empty without her, that he missed her so. When I learned of his passing, part of me was sad, but another part of me was happy that he now would join his beautiful wife.
Then last nite, I finally had the chance to say goodbye, 10 days later. A great tragedy happened last nite, a story which I will tell at another time, but the chaos of the evening lulled me into a deep sleep. I had a vivid dream. I was in New York, at a cultural center. I walked into the printmaking room, a small room with light blue walls and flourescent lights overhead. It was a classroom with a large table and a bunch of woodcutting supplies. There at the end of the long table, was Carlos Cortez, carving away at one of his linocuts. He was carving with one hand and holding the linoleum with his other hand. For those that don't know, Carlos was a linocutter and woodblock artist. There he was with his long white hari and his big belly. It seemed like class was just over. I walked up to Carlos, and he stood and gave me a big hug. He told me to continue working and to keep going, to stay true to the movement. He held me for a long time in his warm hug. In my dream, I was not suprised to see him. I was aware that he had passed, but I was not surprised to see him. It must have been those dream states where the abnormal happens regularly.
So he came to say goodbye. I am grateful for this and I view it as an indication to continue with my art form. I will be developing a page on my site dedicated to Carlos Cortez, and I will post images of his art work as well. Que Viva Carlos!