Red Mountain High School graduate Esao Andrews found himself at crossroads when he was 18 and had to choose between art or something safer. He said he feels he made the right choice.
Roughly 20 years later, the artist has dabbled in album art, skate decks, comic covers and murals. He has a solo exhibition at Mesa Arts Center’s Mesa Contemporary Art Museum through August 4.
“I like storytelling and art and it’s about the audience. I got into art as a way to show my appreciation for people,” said Andrews, who graduated from high school in 1996.
Andrews discovered art in elementary school. His father was a teacher and Andrews grew up playing with craft supplies.
“I remember building, like gluing wooden blocks or making it look like little structures,” he said. “I didn’t get into painting until I was in high school.”
As his time at Red Mountain was coming to an end, Andrews contemplated if he should pursue art or go to school for teaching; he gave college a try.
During his freshman year of college, Andrews said he looked up to another Arizona artist, Joe Sorren, whom he happened to run into on the streets of Flagstaff.
“I was visiting my high school girlfriend at the time, and I just happened to meet him and I was a big fan. We had coffee and I told him I was afraid of making a living as an artist and he saw my sketchbooks,” Andrews said. “I was about to register for the next semester of classes and I was going into teaching and he told me not to do it. He told me that I was good enough to pursue art.”
Andrews went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and now comes full circle—traveling home—with his exhibit in Mesa, which Andrews said is a showcase of his work through the years.
Andrews titled the show “Petrichor,” which symbolizes his return to Arizona.
“The word refers to the smell of wet stone or rain, basically. That shows me coming back to Arizona because that smell was such a nostalgic smell growing up,” Andrews said. “It’s a big showcase with me coming back to my home town.”
Andrews said the exhibit is a mixture of different tones. He describes it as a romantic yet dark and moody scenes from his imagination, while also having a Victorian-style pieces. However, it is his mural that attendees can expect to be drawn to.
The mural is based on the mythological creature, chimera, which is biologically composed of different animals. Andrews instead chose to use desert animals to form the creature.
“It’s part snake, bobcat, wolf, javelina and scorpion and other animals from the desert,” Andrews said. “I titled it Desert Chimera.”
Andrews exhibit showcases the story of a young artist who left his hometown to pursue his passion and is now ready to share it back home. He hopes he will be able to share his multifaceted career with the Valley.
“A lot of people know me through my oil painting and I do want people to just see that I do have a wide range of interests,” Andrews said.