Photo: Sam Milianta
Jorge Arellano may be best known around Salt Lake City as the frontman for the long-running punk band All Systems Fail, but after a very successful showing at the 2011 Urban Arts Festival and participating in the upcoming Craft Lake City, that could very well change. “I started doing stencil art with my friends,” says Arellano. “At that time, we didn’t have an option to do silk screening, so spray painting was the easiest thing to do, and the easiest way to spray paint on clothes was to use a stencil.”
Upon moving to Salt Lake, Arellano abandoned stencil art for many years until he created a few pieces for All Systems Fail—most of which he never even showed the band. He began creating stencil art again, quite secretively, but his talent and love for the art couldn’t be hidden forever. His first public showing was at the Urban Arts Festival in May, and he was overwhelmed at the response. “I wasn’t ready for it. I took pretty much everything I had, and after only a half-day, I had sold every piece I brought.”
Arellano is markedly humble about the attention given to his art. “It feels good.
Sometimes with the band, we practice for weeks or months without doing anything new, and we go home from practice and think ‘Why are we doing this?’ But then we play a show, and we all realize why we do the band in the first place. I feel the same way about my stencils.” He still creates his art in a somewhat secretive manner—he works on single pieces for months at a time, sometimes without showing anyone.
Aesthetically, Arellano’s art is an extension of his personal beliefs and his personal history. Some of his pieces are extremely stark and pointed: One in particular depicts a four-year-old girl with a look of absolute fear in her eyes and proclaims “I Could Be Illegal,” which speaks to Arellano’s feelings toward so-called illegal immigration. Another piece of a fourteen-year-old girl with a bandana covering her nose and mouth, and brandishing a machete, is somewhat open to interpretation. While some have remarked that Arellano’s art is quite dark, there is no denying that the talent involved, and the messages conveyed, are absolutely worthy of attention.