By LARISSA COPELAND
It’s a sunny September afternoon, and Carlos Barboza is several feet in the air, working on his latest project: a mural filled with iconography that represents Yukon, situated at the mill on Route 66.
“I was wanting to do something colorful, something that pops and catches your eye as you’re going down Main Street,” he said. “This is the big one – the one I’ve been waiting on. It’s an exciting prospect to be able to put something right on Route 66, right in front of one of Yukon’s biggest, if not the biggest, landmark that we have. I want to make sure this is the best work that I’ll do.”
He hopes this piece will become part of Yukon’s landscape, with its own identity.
“I want this mural to be its own location, and its own place to see. I want to provide something for Yukon that can maybe put it on the map in the art world.”
It’s the Yukon artist’s largest piece to date, and coincides with him winning first place in the Oklahoma State Fair’s mural challenge.
Barboza was one of 20 muralists selected from 72 applicants for the challenge.
As part of the competition, artists were tasked with filling a blank 8-foot by 12-foot canvas with whatever they wanted – but the work was required to be completed within a single day.
“It was a different experience from other murals I’ve done,” he said. “Usually there’s a lot more preparation. Whereas with the mural at the state fair,
wI was more able to come up with the design as I went along.”
But, as he’s done before, Barboza rose to the challenge.
“Knowing I would only be painting from morning until sundown, I had to pick a design that was simple enough to finish in one day, but that was complicated enough to impress people,” he said. “I feel like I found a good balance of the two – something I could really dig my teeth into and know I’d done a good job on, and finish it at the same time.”
Earlier this year, Barboza, who has lived in Yukon since moving from Costa Rica at the age of 10, quit his job at a land surveying company to paint full-time.
His work can be found across the Oklahoma City metro, including Yukon businesses.
Barboza loves capturing human emotion in his work, so he knew that he wanted to incorporate that into his state fair entry.
“I wanted to do something very expressive and cool,” he said. “In this case, I love doing detail on faces, and I wanted to do something with a lot of detail and a fun background.”
For inspiration, Barboza turned to a photograph. Rather than agonize about making a perfect copy of the photo, he decided to incorporate the expression into his own style.
“I created my own character,” he said.
The result was a wild-haired man who rewarded bystanders with a saucy wink and a wide grin. Done in black and white, the man was a stark contrast against the bright pink and yellow background.
“I kind of made him a little more surreal,” Barboza said. “It’s more cartoony, but I wanted to implement some realistic lighting and textures to a more cartoony face.”
When Barboza learned that he had taken first in the competition, he said he wasn’t sure how to react.
“I try to never have an expectation that I’m going to win,” he said. “I think sometimes that’s a healthier way to see things – at least, not to consider it a competition. But when I found out I had won, it was very gratifying. It was shocking to me, and when my name was announced, I was a little flustered.”
Barboza called the overall experience “delightful.”
“It was very fun to be, for one day, surrounded by really talented artists from Oklahoma,” he said.
And while the time frame was reduced from weeks of work to a single day, Barboza said that gave him a chance to express himself in a different way.
“I got to follow that whimsy,” he said. “I got to play around, and overall that was great.”
More of Barboza’s work, along with his contact details, are available at www.carlosbarboza.com.