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The skeletal, 'brutally honest' paintings of Raul Servin

As an artist who integrates current events and news into his pieces, Raul Servin is known to include subjects of immigration, family and politics in his work.

Servin is a Mexican American artist who was offered an opportunity that led him to the U.S. in 1968. He agreed to assist with an Aztec-themed mural at HemisFair ’68 - the official World’s Fair and the 250th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio. After his work, he met his wife, stayed in the United States and put a pause on painting to tend to family.

Officially trained at the Instituto Nacional de Bella Artes in Mexico City, Servin taught in his early days, back in his native hometown Acapulco, Mexico. His paintings consisted mostly of simple landscapes, flowers and seascapes at first.

Jiawen Chen

In the ’80s, however, Servin took a turn and joined art alliances and rebellion groups. His art afterwards contained political and economic elements that demonstrated the struggles faced by Chicanos during that time.

“There were so many differences and racism against Mexican Americans, the Mexicans, Spanish and Latinos in general. And also the Mexican Americans were fighting each other, instead of fighting together,” Servin said.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Arts & Culture News Desk including The Guillermo Nicolas & Jim Foster Art Fund, Patricia Pratchett, and the V.H. McNutt Memorial Foundation.

What took Servin to the path of painting specifically skeletal frames to address discrimination was due to a trip to California with his two friends. They were visiting before California was supposedly going to sink in the year 2000. His journey enlightened him as he and friends spent two days unclothed around luxury Rolls-Royce cars.

“(Afterwards) I started painting just naked bodies to ensure that when you're naked, you don't show your possessions like your clothes and your jewelry to the eye. When we saw the naked people there, everybody was equal back then,” Servin said.

Not only did Servin dismantle the idea that races were different on the premise of physical traits, he also appreciated the diverse differences of cultures.

Courtesy of Ramin Samandari

“I went even deeper — I started using the skeletons to erase everything from the persons and little by little, I began putting clothes on them. And when you put them back on, you can see that this is German. This is Mexican. This is Anglo. These are the clothes and ornaments that you use to make your identity,” Servin said.

Servin has made notable pieces as statements to Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton campaigns, the border and classism. His works have been displayed at the Gallista Gallery, Centro Cultural Aztlan and The Upstairs Studio.

Servin said he hopes to have more time to paint from his sketches and continue his work of being “brutally honest” of feelings and truths conveyed in his art.

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Jia Chen is a freelance journalist and photographer for Texas Public Radio. She began with TPR working as the Bexar County selected Summer Arts Intern in 2021. Her coverage includes arts & culture, technology, politics, and more. She holds a BA in Communication from University of Texas at San Antonio and has lived in San Antonio for over 20 years.