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Alfredo Arreguin: There are 'incredible things' on the river of life

Author's note: What I love about this conversation — beyond the magnificent things Alfredo Arreguin says — is the way it came about. We’d called him for a story about his portraits of Supreme Court justices. But he talked to me like we’d known each other for years, and I asked the questions I needed for the initial story, but then the conversation wandered to talking about art, life, hope, the pandemic and more. And it was so interesting that we decided to air it separately. During the bleakest days of the pandemic, just before the arrival of the vaccine, here was a shot of warmth and joy from a world-class artist. I’m proud we aired it, and I think we could all do with another listen. — Ed Ronco

When you call Alfredo Arreguin on the phone, you aren’t strangers for long.

Arreguin, 86, has built a reputation as a painter of bright, vibrant works – full of bold colors and animals and nature … big shots of warmth in what has, lately, felt like a cold world. His work is in two Smithsonian museums, and he’s been widely praised and awarded for his painting.

KNKX called him mainly to ask about the portraits he did of two Washington state Supreme Court justices. But the conversation we had went to so many other places, we thought we’d bring you some of that, too. We talked as though we'd known each other for years, about his hometown in Mexico, studying painting at the University of Washington, dealing with the pandemic and more.

Listen above, and read some excerpts below:

On painting every day: “The only thing that keeps me stable is my painting. Even when I go on a vacation to Mexico or something, I’m really having a great time, but the minute I land and get in my house, I get back to my painting.”

On the arts, during a pandemic: “The arts are a wonderful medicine for the soul. We’re living through something that is so horrible, but at the same time, we’re realizing how much we need each other. There are good things coming out of this hell.”

On life, which he compares to a trip down a winding river: “When you get to my age, if you are flowing on the river to the sea, in a real comfortable boat, just enjoy the last days of your trip before you hit that other part, you know? I don’t think of the future, because the present is so appealing to me. … On the meanders as you go out on the river, there are incredible things that allow you to see what you really are, and what you want in life.”

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.
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