Studio Visit with Bart Vargas

The subconscious is a shark that is always swimming, everything gets in, everything gets processed.

I met with Bart Vargas at his home studio in Council Bluffs, which is about 25% home, 75% studio. Art covers every inch of this place. Even his stove has been turned into a temporary table top while he works on finishing pieces for his upcoming solo show at the Garden of the Zodiac, opening next Thursday 6/23 from 7-9!

His process for much of the work in this show is creating stencils of words and imagery, and then filling them in with dots of color. He works on many pieces at a time, going color by color filling in all the reds, then the whites, and so on. There is a lot of red, white and blue in his work, as this is his first exhibition of entirely political artwork. He calls it "A Year of Lies".

Read on to hear more about Bart's show, his process, and some truly motivating advice for young artists! ... and more pics of his amazing space!

Tell us about your upcoming show at the Garden of the Zodiac!

My upcoming exhibit at the Garden of the Zodiac is titled A YEAR OF LIES and other stories. Since this is an election year, and the opening is so close to the Forth of July holiday, I decided to focus on and expand a body of political paintings. For years I have been painting and building political artworks, but have never exhibited them in a solo exhibit.

Primarily, this show is a sarcastic yet thoughtful critique of our country’s current political situation, from how the Presidential race has basically devolved into Reality TV, to other topics, and other ideological contradictions, like the fact we are an anti-immigration nation of immigrants. I also explore more personal experiences I’ve had as a mixed race citizen traveling abroad and across the nation.

The opening reception will also explore Capitalism. All the paintings are for sale, but there will also be T-shirts, digital prints, stickers, and campaign buttons available for purchase.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?


The subconscious is a shark that is always swimming, everything gets in, everything gets processed. I don't think that only Art and the Art World influences Art, I know the World and everything in it influences Art, or at least mine. Sometimes I don’t realize all the influences until months, even years later.

How does using reclaimed materials and other resourceful methods drive your art-making?

Reclaiming materials drives my work. Our society generates so much material that we conceptually deem as waste. Most of those materials haven’t changed at all as a material, only their value, based on their original or intended use, has changed in someone’s head, making it waste.

I try to look at it as just a material, not its first use, and see what I can do with it. Whether it be used lumber, to all kinds of plastics from old electronics, toys, or food and product packaging, to using old house paint. I still have to by hardware, adhesives, certain colors, and finishes, but there are plenty of free materials around to build and paint with.

It certainly helps the studio budget, and make my production more prolific than if I bought everything new. 

How do you envision the Omaha art scene in 10 years?

“The Omaha Art Scene is going to be HUGE! We’re going to have so much Art Scene. It’s going to be really GREAT, people. The Omaha Art Scene is going to WIN, not lose, but WIN. You’ll see.”

I think the Omaha Art Scene has really grown and built momentum in the last ten years, and will continue to do so.

There are cornerstone Art organizations that will be here for years to come, such as the Bemis, the Joslyn, and the Union.

I am curious to see what will happen to the big three commercial galleries, as their respective owners grow older, and closer to retirement.

What I also have faith in, is the Artists themselves, and what they’ll do. I feel like many Artists have decided to make things happen by themselves with out the big institutions or commercial spaces. Like the old Sweatshop, Petshop, Project Project, Darger HQ. I feel like Art and Design is slowly becoming more respected in our society, and Artists are learning the importance of becoming more professional, take on the responsibilities of their own careers and do things for themselves. Especially with how professional practices are being more stressed in academia, or in our community through workshops at OCI, Artist Inc., the Union, etc.

I believe Artists are going to build on our current momentum, continue to expand what’s happening here, and make cross-pollinating connections with other Art communities, bringing more and diverse Art to Omaha, all while building our reputation.

What is your advice for young artists?

I have chosen to be an Artist.

My job is to be an Artist.

It’s my job to get up everyday, and make something.

I am my own boss.

I have to get up everyday, and make something, whether I feel like it or not, because it’s my job.

…and my boss doesn’t care whether I feel like it or not, my boss expects me to get up everyday, and make something.

It’s my job.

Get up everyday and make something, write something, perform something, sing something, scream something. Get it out of you.

Make it. Then do it again… and again… and again….

You can’t paint a masterpiece, until you’ve painted years of bad paintings that have taught you 1000’s of lessons without words.

You can’t write a perfect paragraph, until you’ve written draft, after draft, after subpar draft.

If you have a great idea, explore it! You won’t reach its full potential on doing a one off. Do it thirty times. Twenty-nine of them might be crap, but number seventeen might be brilliant! It’s just that you’ll never realize the full brilliant potential of the seventeenth version if you always quit after the first one.

Keep making.

Take risks.

Do the thing you don’t know how to do. There’s growth there.

Do the thing that scares you. There’s growth there.

Go to shows. Look at Art. Try to figure out how it was made.

Meet the Artists. Introduce yourself. Talk to them. Ask them about their work.

Travel to other cities, other countries. Go to shows. Look at Art. Try to figure out how it was made. Meet the Artists. Introduce yourself. Talk to them. Ask them about their work.

 Keep making.

 Keep looking.

 Keep asking.

 Keep living.

 Keep on keeping on.

Find Bart's website here
And more about his upcoming show here

-anna nance