Adrian Arias: Addicted

Adrian Arias, local poet, visual and performing artist visited the Poppy to offer the Professional Development Track a taste of his addiction.

adrian arias limes

Limes. Limes for ceviche. Limes spread on the table. A lime in Adrian’s hand. He walked around the room and beckoned its scent by scraping his nail against the peel. One by one, each person sniffed the lime in his hand.

In 2002, Ceviche became an art piece.

Why art? Art is to “create an aesthetic, [to] share [a] vision of beauty with something horrible,” Adrian tells us. “Art is an addiction,” he says.

His whole family is art. His mother was a poet, and his father was a painter. He looks upon his daughter as a masterpiece, and he poses the question of why even consider her in the category of art? “Maybe because we are addicted to art?” Adrian reiterates. “There’s a lot of beauty around it,” he explains.

But what is art? As Adrian sees it, it’s full of layers: it is solid, transparent, rigid, an illusion, and a part of us. Why do people do art? Adrian insists that people do art to shine, to be happy; but art is painful. Art is a cure, but maybe it’s a sickness too, provokes Adrian.

For Adrian, art-making is a pervasive passion. When he went on a European vacation, he felt compelled to read his poetry at a café. He’s taken white shirts and draped them in the forest around and on redwood trees. In 2006, he wrote poems on wooden clouds and shared them with the city of San Francisco, one of which still floats in Balmy Alley. He’s collaborated on a gold medal photography project with Susana Aragon.

“Don’t forget to caress the fish when you are making ceviche,” an interlude from Adrian as he explains projected photos of his life’s history and work.

While in Peru, Adrian collected garbage that was on the street, put masking tape on it and named it. It is his purpose to find beauty in everything. “[I] refurbish [it], put [it] in a personal way and create a new aesthetic,” he explains.

Years ago during the Mission Arts & Performance Project (MAPP), Adrian produced exhibits based on colors. He outfitted a garage with one color, starting first at yellow and ending at black. Seemingly simple projects like these are ones that Adrian’s daughter remembers—ones that help her when the weather is gloomy in her college town of Boston.

Adrian passes copies of his published books of poetry around the table for the group to view as he continues to describe photos of his life’s work. The uneven roundness of the limes keeps them from rolling off of the table in the center of us.

“I’m trying to quit,” Adrian says half in jest, but his commitment to art is enabled by the community of San Francisco. For May 16, Adrian organized the Illusion Show in the Mission Cultural Center: five hours of spontaneous art-making where the artists dressed in white, and the audience was asked to come in black. Illusion Show was a success because artists like to share their art; they like to “honor ephemeral things in life,” says Adrian. He describes that “shar[ing] moments of beauty without expecting something back” is what saves him from a destructive addiction to art.

The Red Poppy Art House is very good for his addiction, Adrian tells the Professional Development Track. Through the Poppy, Adrian has met many artists and collaborated in the space uncountable times. One such project was a collaboration with the musician Rupa, where Adrian composed poetry, and Rupa composed music to the poetry.

Thinly sliced onions, like his grandmother taught him to cut, and gentle cubes of fish marinated in lime juice at the head of the table. At the end of his photo presentation, ceviche was scooped onto plates and passed around the room. Sounds of delight echoed between participants.

It is at spaces like the Poppy with attentive audiences where Adrian has been able to express his addiction—the innermost pains and the exuberant beauties of it. It is at this meeting that he speaks of the great pain he feels from political and social injustices and bursts black ink over his body in representation of such pain. It drips and he smears it over his chest.

This installation of Ceviche comes to a close.

– Aleksandra Bril, Red Poppy Art House Writer