Though it’s been nearly 12 years since he was released from prison, for contemporary artist Louis Carreon, the value of redemption remains a salient beacon not only in his art, but also in his life. It would take a prison sentence for drug trafficking coupled with his substance addiction to prompt a sobering revelation that continues to prevail him to this day.
“After prison I realized that I had literally sold addiction to people,” Carreon says. “I was so angry. The first tattoo I ever got, straight out of prison, was ‘Redemption’ in big letters across my chest.”
Though the narrative of his art has evolved through the years, today it embodies the narrative of his life—redemption.
“I had no focus. I was just painting for me,” Carreon says of his art after prison. “I kept going through my trials and tribulations in life, but deep down I always knew God intended for me to be doing something with creative messaging.”
In exploring the value of redemption and its relationship with religious iconography seen in the historical art periods of Byzantine, High Renaissance and Florentine, Carreonsets out to reinvigorate classic styles of art with modern themes. Recently, the focus of his paintings is often a religious or biblical figure, but with a contemporary skew. Each figure resembles historical religious icons fused with Carreon’s contemporary bold lines, bright colors and abstract shapes.
On a Friday afternoon, he paints from his Fairfax studio, where dozens of his paintings line the walls. With a paintbrush in each of his hands and the Grateful Dead blaring off the concrete paint-splattered floors, Carreon stands unrelenting before an unfinished piece—one of his saint-like figures. He’s just returned from a sabbatical in Ethiopia where he spent weeks praying, fasting and learning from Orthodox Christian priests and their devoted congregations. As he ebbs with the movement of the paint, from one minute to the next, the piece evolves before Carreon’s eyes, changing in shape, color and character.
Even with a narrative that continues to progress, Carreon has acquired a steady group of collectors over the years. Carreon’s first auctioned pieces were sold in 2015 for $12,000. His works of similar size have more than quadrupled since. His narratives have developed a very exclusive and loyal clientele of who share his passion for transcendence and redemption.
“To me, exploring value of redemption is everything,” Carreon says. “Most human beings feel bad when they do something bad and that alone in itself shows you that there’s something bigger than us or else we wouldn’t care.”
Though he was brought up religious, Carreon credits the adversities of his past for initiating a rediscovery of spirituality and religion. Fascinated by the nuances of classic art and how it relates to religious iconography, up ahead, Carreon will debut a new piece modeled after one of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s masterpiece sculptures. With conceptual input from Dr. Ori Z. Soltes, a professor at Georgetown University with expertise in biblical narratives and art history, Carreon strives to redefine the classics. Just as many rap and hip-hop artists of the 90’s did, Carreoncontinues to flirt with classic art as he coalesces it with modernization. To learn more about Louis Carreon, his redemption and religious iconography, visit his Instagram page.
“I seek through art the same as I seek through God everlasting life eternal. Unless you go back to God as a man, you only have what your parents have imparted to you as a child,” Carreon says. “I went against religion for a long time. At some point as a teen, religious becomes not cool, especially if you’re a rebel teen. But until you go deeper, you don’t understand it. The reason I say ‘religious iconography’ is because that’s what it’s been called for lifetimes. I feel like the word ‘religious’ itself is offensive and controversial.”