Written by: Karla Rodriguez
A gumball machine filled with dentures, a portrait of a tooth riding a bicycle, and another one depicted as Saint Mary. These are just a few of the unusual works of art created by Riverside City College alumni Jesus Castaneda.
Castaneda debuted his first solo exhibition “Extracted Manifestations” at the Division 9 gallery in downtown Riverside, Sept. 4 to Sept. 25.
Castaneda started taking art classes at RCC in 2003, which has played a huge role in his art career.
“I just took classes for the fun of it, ” Castaneda said. “It wasn’t until my art professor Denise (Kraemer) took me aside and introduced me to a few artists that I was able to really get into it.”
The professor still teaches art at RCC and Castaneda has her to thank for where he is now. “I knew that he was going to be bored in the class so I would give him extra things to do,” Kraemer said. “He is the type of student that makes a teacher look good.”
Kraemer indirectly helped Jesus Castaneda with his career as an artist, inspiring him and also believing in his art, Castaneda said. She pulled him off to the side and helped him with his technique and later, introduced him to the world of art as an artist. From the moment Kraemer helped him, she became an integral influence on his career.
“Jesus showed up in my beginning drawing class and after the first assignment,” Kraemer said. “I realized that he was a very talented young man. He was already focused on his art and just needed a few suggestions on finding his way into the art scene.”
When not working on his art, Castaneda spends his time as an Orthodontist assistant. What does this have to do with his art? “Believe it or not, most of my inspiration for art comes from what I see as an orthodontist,” Castaneda said.
He makes sure to always carry his sketchbook while on the job so when he sees something that captures his attentions, no matter how strange, he can sketch it in his book.
Despite his success, Castaneda had his insecurities as an artist and was, at one point in time, unhappy with his drawings.
“I never thought that I would be where I am. Having my own art show was something I always wanted but I didn’t think I was good enough. To have people admire your work is really humbling,” Castaneda said.
Even now, Castaneda admitted that he gets frustrated at times, but he is continually improving.
“I actually really don’t like being labeled an artist,” Castaneda said. “It’s unfair to only apply that label to a select few. I feel that everyone is – and can be an artist.”
Castaneda advises students who wish to pursue a career in art, or any other subject, to be themselves.
“It sounds cheesy but I really feel that once you let yourself be you, you can do anything you want,” Castaneda said. “That’s the good thing about art: that you get the freedom to just let your creative juices flow.”
Kraemer has no doubt that Jesus Castaneda will continue to do great things, she says “I meet a lot of talented young artists but many of them don’t have the talent and the drive to endure in the art world. I think (Castaneda’s) work reveals that Jesus has both.”
In a couple of years, Castaneda hopes to continue having solo exhibitions and improving his art form. Castaneda’s next show is yet to be determined but he will keep pursuing international exhibitions for his art.