FARMINGTON — Amado Peña's heritage and the landscape of the Southwest influence his paintings.
"It's a mix of traditional imagery and interpreted in contemporary techniques," Peña said.
And for the last few years, he has been traveling to community colleges to talk about his art. Monday, Peña will answer questions during Inside the Artist's Studio, a presentation that is part of the Broadening Horizons Speaker Series at the Henderson Fine Arts Center Performance Hall at San Juan College.
The presentation will also include clips from the documentary film "Amado M. Peña Jr.: From Culture to Canvas." The film details Peña's upbringing and his success as an artist.
Peña, who now lives in Nambé Pueblo, north of Santa Fe, grew up in a mixed-heritage family. He describes himself as a mestizo — part Mexican and a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona. Both of these cultures are reflected in his artwork. Because of the different cultural elements infused in his artwork, he said it can be difficult to define.
"I deal with people," he said. "I deal with storytelling. I deal with landscapes."
He said he is influenced by who he is and where he is.
"I'm not in New York, so I don't paint New York landscapes," he said.
Instead, he paints what he knows — the landscape and people of the Southwest. While he is Yaqui and Mexican, he doesn't paint for a particular group of people. Instead, Peña said, he chooses a subject and paints to pay tribute to it.
In addition to more than 40 years of experience in art, Peña taught for 16 years in Texas. In 1994, he established the Art has a Heart Foundation. The nonprofit organization provides college and university scholarships to high school students from low- or middle-income families in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona. The foundation gives preference to students who are adversely affected by geography, family circumstances or other challenges.
Because of his love of teaching, Peña said he started offering presentations at community colleges. College art majors learn certain techniques and philosophies from their teachers, he said.
"What I bring into that environment is a different perspective," he said.
While tonight's program is geared toward college art students, Peña said anyone from the community who wants to know about art can attend.
Bev Taylor, the owner of Artifacts Gallery and president of the San Juan College Foundation's board, will moderate the event.
For the first hour, she will ask Peña questions about his art and his life.
Taylor said she likes the artist's style and interpretation of the Southwest.
"It's simple, yet it's complex in it's simplicity," she said.
After Taylor finishes asking Peña questions, the audience can ask questions, too.
Peña encourages attendees to come to his presentation armed with questions.
"If you come to listen to me and you don't have a question, you better go home," he said.