Spray paint has shaped Miguel Angel Godoy's life in a profound way, starting in 1995, when he was a middle-schooler—only, back then, he used cans to get high.
"I used to hallucinate when I was sniffing paint," says Godoy, 32, a former Army brat from El Centro who now lives in La Mesa. "I was having these visions with all these colors. The thing is, I wouldn't paint when I was like that. That was my introduction to spray paint."
Godoy's relationship with spray paint has evolved from being a source of "darkness" to a medium that's helped him understand who he is as a person and an artist. The result of this trajectory can be seen in Pull Together, Push Apart, on view at Monarch Fine Art Gallery (1205 Prospect St. in La Jolla) now through Aug. 25. An artist's reception will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24.
"You know how Jay-Z will say, My gift and my curse'? [Spray paint] was my gift and my curse," Godoy says. "So, I finally figured to tame it and to use it, and now that's why it's so ingrained. It's the first thing I picked up when I started painting."
The exhibition features five large-scale abstract paintings inspired by the seven chakras of the human body, which are the source of life force in Hindu metaphysical belief. The pieces are made up of swirls of bright colors dancing on the canvas, as if formed by puffs of smoke. At the center, the swirls morph into human figures in yoga poses that depict the principles of a chakra.
For example, in the painting "Anahata Touch" (pictured), a male embraces a female from behind to represent the heart chakra, which symbolizes divine, undying love.
Godoy's fascination with metaphysics stems from his wife, a yoga instructor who shares with him the Hindu principles she learns. He applies them to his work, not only through the subject matter but also through his technique. He mixes acrylic paint and spray paint with water, which have an oil-and-vinegar resistance to each other.
"I use it as a metaphor," Godoy says. "The paint and the water, they either work together or they resist, just like we do. We pull together or we push apart. That was the main inspiration to my work."
It was his technique that drew the attention of Elsie Arredondo, co-owner of Monarch Fine Art. She and her husband, Danny Arredondo, purchased the gallery in February and decided to change things up. In the past, Monarch exhibited works by more traditional, European-style artists from around the world. The Arredondos decided to add more contemporary work by local artists. Godoy's exhibition is the first time they've shown aerosol art.
"We were looking into fresh, new techniques and approaches, and the medium of spray paint was really intriguing to us," Elsie says. "Additionally, Miguel's roots in San Diego and with the Mexican culture are something that was lacking in representation in the gallery.
"We were drawn to his vibrant colors, his tech nique and his passion for the work that we felt was reflected in his paintings," she adds.
By discovering his technique, Godoy discovered himself. In a way, he was the water that resisted the spray paint, but he's finally realized how to work with it harmoniously.
"I've always felt that I've never had the opportunity to really focus on a body of work, something that really defined me," he says. "I feel comfortable putting my face to this work."