Inner Child: Arturo O’Farrill on David Shrobe’s “Protector of Mothers” As told to Souleo
I relate to this image on a lot of levels. The head of the protector or standing figure looks like something I would see growing up in Mexico. There was a lot of frightening yet reassuring imagery you would find during Day of the Dead and in certain masks.
The figure on the floor also resonates with me. The cylindrical head and the holding of the staff is all part of African and Afro-Cuban imagery. There are some real Mexican and Aztecan rhythms in the piece with the way it is laid out, from the angle of blue to the jutting green in the background.
The stars at the very top remind me of my time growing up in New York City after leaving Mexico when I was five or six. As a kid I used to draw my stars just like that with the shading and projection. At one point I was a graffiti artist and everything I tagged had that outline.
From the stars to the backpack to the sneakers so much of the work is modern and colorful even though it is enshrined in traditional folkloric imagery. It reminds me of my heritage and that I am part of the Indian, Native American, African, Mexican and Cuban worlds.
Arturo O’Farrill is a Grammy Award-winning pianist, composer, educator, and founder and Artistic Director of the nonprofit Afro Latin Jazz Alliance.
[This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity]