By Jonathan Clink
From graffiti art in a Bronx train yard, Johnny Camacho has come a long way in becoming an established artist.
You can see Johnny Camacho’s art on display at the B.O.B throughout ArtPrize. “Movement” is the theme for Camacho’s two-canvas painting.
“‘The Runner’ is an abstract depiction of us running a race in our lives,” Camacho said. “The hardest part is finishing the race, moving to the next stage of our lives.”
The second painting by Camacho is described “‘The Race’ is a cubistic expression of society in a race for something. Our mission is to complete or win, learn and grow. To move to the next level of our lives as we are forever growing through the seasons of each of our lives. Thank you for being a part of my journey.”
In life, everyone has their own path they must move throughout, each path has different challenges and adversity. Camacho‘s son and youngest child, Ryzen, was diagnosed with Leukemia at age 2 in February of 2015 and Camacho said the experience inspired him.
“When my son, Ryzen, got cancer, it just changed my direction as an artist and just made me more diligent and work harder to paint from the gut,” Camacho said.
“It’s like he’s a part of my story, his struggles his pains, are put onto my canvas,” he said.“There are so many people out there who have cancer now that I feel like my paintings can give them hope, can give them tranquillity and that people do understand what they’re going through. Even though he’s so young there’s no way to express what’s he’s going through but by being there I’m able to display what he went through on a canvas.”
Camacho is continuing to on a series of paintings, which tell his story about the trials associated with his son’s cancer. He has already prepared many sketches to base these paintings off of. Ryzen, now 3 years old, was declared cancer-free by medical staff in February, one year after being diagnosed.
Camacho’s arts roots didn’t begin on a traditional canvas. His first canvases were the sides of train cars. He first learned to appreciate the expressive abilities of art by witnessing and creating art with some older friends at a train yard in the Bronx at age 12.
“We all considered graffiti as the hieroglyphics of our time because if you looked at it a while you could see what the individual was communicating to you,” Camacho recalled.
At a young age Camacho and his friends would have to be on the lookout when they created graffiti art. Although never charged with trespassing or vandalism they did have some close calls.
Camacho said he began to truly appreciate the expressive abilities and the art of telling a story within the art. The more Camacho was around graffiti art the more he felt drawn to pursue examination among other artists throughout it’s history.
“Other artists were telling their story in a way that was more compelling and more passionate,” he said. “I was so young I was just doing it in Brook(lyn), but it was an awakening. I appreciated the colors and the lines that they would use. It opened my pallet, that this is something I could do or not knowing. I was so young that I thought this could be something that I could do. I loved to draw.”
Camacho really started pursuing painting at age 14. The train yards got his foot in the door and Camacho began going to art museums in New York City.
“[I] realized there was a bigger arena of next level of art which was contemporary art and that changed my whole perception of where I really wanted to go so I started painting at an early age after being influenced by Picasso, Dali, Kandinsky.” Camacho said.
Camacho was gifted early and grew quickly in developing his craft.
“I was 14 and started selling paintings in high school,” he said. “My friend set me up with this art curator and dealer in downtown Manhattan, in the art district,” Camacho said. “I met with Jonathan Shore and he said to set my paintings up and he asked me questions. Where do you see yourself in 10 years, and I said as a successful artist.”
Camacho spoke on how the freedom of expression was a major draw to an art career.
“I wanted to… express myself and tell my story,” he said. “And let people know my story from the gut, from within. The pain, the suffering, the struggles of a latina living in an urban community in New York City. The struggle of people going through their motivations and their pain. I was able to express on canvas how other minorities were living.”
Camacho said his work has changed as he has grown as an artist.