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Painter Ariel Vargassal combines stylistic cues from Pop, Surrealism, and magical realism in crisply depicted micro-fables of the human condition. In each tableaux the figures are accompanied by domestic and wild animal counterparts whose presence signals a deeper meaning. Each detail of costume, creature, and sometimes confection signals that the scene is a metaphor, despite its plausible rendering. Color is saturated and thus emotional. To be enjoyed for their beauty, puzzled upon for their strangeness, and wondered over for their significance of message, an exhibition of new works for the modern moment opens at Building Bridges Art Exchange in Santa Monica on September 4.

L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?  

ARIEL VARGASSAL: Since I was a kid. At the time I didn’t know the concept of being an artist, but I was very excited about creating, molding, drawing, etc. I still remember the first time I saw The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch in one of my uncle’s art books, and I was mesmerized. From that moment on I became obsessed with creating visual stories. I was an introvert child so art gave me a voice, it does something very deep, makes me feel complete.

What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about? 

I’m a social commentator. I paint people and animals to create metaphors about social and political issues.