Thursday, June 21, 2007

Joe Bravo's Tortilla Art

CBS news discovered an artist in East Los Angeles who paints on tortillas.

Joe Bravo said he's been at it 30 years, explaining, "I didn't have money for canvas, so I just started painting on tortilla."

And there is some serious motivation, he says, for using them: "I grew up eating tortillas, they represent the Mexican, Latino, uh, life, our food, our family, just, you know, our heritage. … It's a responsibility to accurately portray my culture to the world"

A tortilla exhibit is breaking attendance records at L.A.'s Mexican Cultural Institute. The small, non-profit gallery was on the verge of closing its doors, but its fortunes could be turning, thanks to tortillas, Kauffman says.

In his home studio, Bravo begins with the biggest tortillas he can find, then adds fire.

The burn marks are inspiration, he says, as if the tortillas tell him what they want to become.

"We look at things sometimes and we see images in them," Bravo explained, "so the tortilla is a perfect vehicle for that."

Coated with acrylic, and with burlap on the back, the tortilla becomes a flexible canvas.

"If (the tortillas weren't) coated with varnish, (they) would break," Bravo says. "It's like I'm encasing (them) in plastic."

Whether kitsch, or fine art, Bravo's works are earning Bravos not just form lookers, but buyers, including celebrities.

"Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers bought Virgen de Guadalupe," Bravo told Kauffman. "Tyra Banks commissioned me to do a portrait of her, and I did one of Hillary Duff, as well."

Some of his pieces sell for as much as $1,500, Bravo says.

Joe Bravo has become quite well known for his innovative use of tortillas as a ground for traditional painting. Here's what he has to say about his works: "I use the Tortilla as a Canvas because it is an integral part of the Hispanic Culture and my heritage. For the subject matter of my tortilla paintings, I use imagery that is representative of Latinos, conveying their hopes, art, beliefs and history. As the tortilla has given us life, I give it new life by using it as an art medium."

"The preparation of the tortilla for painting is as important as the actual painting itself. I first bake several tortillas to get the right texture, shape and coloration for the image I want to paint."

Bravo's Tortilla Artworks are part of a high quality limited edition series. Each painting possesses unique characteristics and no two works are alike. Therefore, the pictures used on these pages are approximate representations of the artist's Tortilla Paintings. To inquire about or purchase Bravo's Tortilla Art, contact him at: Email:

To see much more of Bravo's work and learn much more about him and exhibits his work appears in, visit his Web site at

Tortilla paintings are now on display at a Fresno, Calif., art gallery, Arte Americas, whose Web site can be found at

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