My portraits are both intimate and remote at the same time; they are a mirror looking back at me. As a teenager, I moved with my family to northern Italy, a transition that I welcomed. Thanks to a talented ear I learned Italian, and my time as the outsider looking in, only lasted a short while. Portrait painting was a method to create a sense of belonging, while still on the outside.

I may have left Italy, but the life and education I received there remain influential in my work. In Italy, I was surrounded by hundreds of years of pieces striving for perfection. A former teacher once said to me that art is an example of what can survive of the excellence of human beings. It may be antiquated, but I work toward perfecting the line, the color and the composition of each piece. The subject may feel modern, but I want to strive for the perfect technique, much like my principal influences: Giovanni Boldini, Pietro Perugino, Diego Velasquez, Pietro Cascella, and Michelangelo Buonarroti.

Each piece is an attempt to find an equilibrium. Often, the subjects I choose to paint feel like a pop culture reference, but they are balanced with strong technique and heavy art history references. Finding equilibrium is important to me. I come from two different cultures: Peruvian and Italian. I need to find a way for both sides of myself to co-exist. As much as Boldini, John Singer Sargent or Velasquez influence my work, so do photographers such as Terry Richardson, Mario Testino, Richard Avedon, or directors such as Federico Fellini, Stanley Kubrick, Elio Petri, and Francis Ford Coppola.

Instagram: @samiariazfinearts

Artwork by Sami Ariaz Bolanos

Gage Academy of Art acknowledges the Coast Salish Peoples as the original inhabitants of this area and connecting waterways. We understand the land that Gage occupies is unceded territory and that today many Indigenous peoples live here and without their stewardship, we would not have access to this space. We honor the Coast Salish Peoples’ sovereignty, rights to self-determination, culture and ways of life. Since time immemorial, Indigenous peoples have called this territory their sacred land. We commit to learning, educating others and repairing the legacy of historically harmful relationships between non-Native and Native peoples in King County. In doing so, we will be honest, and recognize the experiences of Native peoples to include genocide, forced relocation, forced assimilation, and land theft. We also acknowledge Native peoples are survivors, present in today’s world, thriving. We encourage everyone here today to ask themselves: what can I do to support Indigenous communities?

In an effort to be transparent, Gage is contemplating this call to action and re-working how to best support Indigenous communities.

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