Santos Orellana stands in front of his largest mural yet. He started with the infinity symbol, or the figure eight, in the upper left corner and worked from there. Photo by Ellen Wright
Santos Orellana stands in front of his largest mural yet. He started with the infinity symbol, or the figure eight, in the upper left corner and worked from there. Photo by Ellen Wright
Arts Rancho Santa Fe

Artist exhibits Mayan Pop art

REGION — Santos Orellana is getting back to his Mayan roots through his distinct brand of art, Mayan Pop. His murals can be found all over town, from the side of Café Ipe in Leucadia to Terminal 2 in the San Diego Airport.

Santos feels the need to do a mural every few months. He recently traveled to Santa Barbara, Honduras, the most violent country per capita in the world, to paint a mural on the elementary school he attended as a child.

The mural, titled Yo También Puedo, or I can too, opened his eyes to the type of art he was creating.

After doing an interview with the local news station in Honduras, he realized he was creating a language similar to hieroglyphics.

“I argued that these are reminiscent of the lines in Copán (Mayan ruins), and that maybe perhaps we lost it as a culture,” said Santos. “Maybe we’ve lost the symbolism in this way when it comes to lines.”

He said after painting for eight years, he’s realized that his art comes from something he considers bigger than himself.

“Little by little I started to see that the story is a lot bigger than it is and now I’m convinced that it’s a journal of my life,” said Santos.

He is close to completing his biggest mural yet, a 4,000 square feet large piece covering the entire side of an industrial warehouse as part of his collaboration with True Honor apparel.

He doesn’t get paid for the murals but he still feels rewarded after completing a project.

“For anyone to do this much, you have to get constant rewards,” said Santos.

His reward is personal insights.

After painting a mural in Mission Middle School in Escondido, he wound up talking to a student about his work. He was forced to explain his artistic process and learned more about his work.

When a girl asked what he was painting, he said messages.

“I receive messages from wherever and then I put them down in lines except I don’t necessarily know what the message is,” said Santos.

He never erases a line because he doesn’t feel that it’s his place to alter the work.

“I don’t feel like I’m the creator, I feel like I’m a vector,” he said.

His largest exhibit yet, Lost and Found, will be held Oct. 25 at 2350 Camino Vida Roble in True Honor’s industrial warehouse.

He’s curated his life works for the event and feels he’s finally ready to share it with the world.

The collaboration came about because he shares a warehouse wall with the company. He offered to paint a mural and the CEO accepted.

Another project he does to make fine art more accessible to the public is “Free Beans.” When traveling, he’ll leave his signature Beans print all over and post pictures. Whoever finds it, is welcome to keep it.

When presenting to the Encinitas City Council, Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz realized he was the recipient of one of his Beans prints, said Lina Echeverria, gallery assistant at Santos’ Leucadia gallery.

The print is a riff on a self-portrait he did years ago of a can of beans watching television. His choice of writing the word “Beans” on the can instead of “Frijoles” reflects his history of growing up in Honduras and becoming a man in New York.

He hopes the exhibition will elevate San Diego’s art scene and bring artists from across the globe.


This story has been updated. 

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