By definition, Francisco Flores is an artist. He works out of a gallery, participates in First Friday and creates evocative visual pieces.
But Flores says he doesn’t like art, at least not in the traditional sense, which he describes as “making pretty things.” Flores’ work is intrinsically complex, provoking a deeper dialogue about space, community, architecture, self-reliance and spirituality.
Flores earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary arts and performances with a focus on interactive systems from ASU. Last year, the 27-year-old went back to school to get his master’s in interdisciplinary studies with a digital art focus.
“With school, I was just making things related to how I can bring ideas of sacredness and well-being to aesthetics or an installation or a functional thing,” he explains. “That’s why I don’t like making art. For me, it’s not about something that looks cool; it’s about engaging that line of thinking.”
Flores grew up in Tijuana, Mexico, where he says he was exposed to a lot of adversity at a young age. When he was in high school, his mother sent him to live with an aunt in Yuma, an experience he was initially opposed to. He didn’t know any English when he arrived.
Flores learned the language very quickly and was soon at the top of his class. When he graduated, he went to ASU to study psychology. Flores says he has always been an “outsider,” but was fascinated by the human condition, which lead him to ASU to study psychology.
“When I was in college, I had this uncle who was a big teacher to me and sort of deconstructed a whole religious paradigm,” he says. “It allowed me to think about real sacredness, which is our bodies and our relationships and how we commune with the world and ourselves, so that’s why I started studying psychology.”
Flores’ interest in sacredness and spirituality ultimately lead him to art and performance, where he was able to visually explore those concepts. He started working with audio, video, computers, cameras and microphones as mediums of self-expression. Flores says his background in psychology deeply informs his art.
“It was kind of weird, but I tried to study how God intersects into our everyday or how I can bring the cultural aspects of religious people into mainstream culture,” he says. “And how do we have those values in our everyday, how can you bring that without the religious aspect?”
Flores wants his audience to think about their connection with their environment, their community and themselves. His most recent exhibit, “Crystals and Lasers,” explored the ideas of meditation, intention and well-being. The crystals represented universal healing, while the lasers created a sense of purity.
“We try to do new things that are functional, even though they’re artistic,” Flores says. “They try to have an interaction that allows you to think deeper or see yourself in another perspective.”
“Crystals and Lasers” was not initially intended to be an exhibition. Flores describes it as more of a “ceremony,” a manifestation of his search for spirituality.
“I needed an experience that allowed me to feel that, to make it real,” he says. “I needed to make it a tangible thing.”
Flores says he wanted it to be an intimate experience, so he only invited a handful of close friends. Each person took turns sitting within a grid of eight crystals as a slew of laser beams reflected off of them. Flores encouraged the participants to meditate and set intentions, an experience he described as “beautiful and surreal.”
Flores curated photographs from the event and displayed them at Unexpected Art Gallery in downtown Phoenix in July. He says he also introduced temporality as another theme of the exhibit. He chose to use 21 days to represent the journey of practice and progress. He coordinated 21 consecutive events inspired by self-reflection and well-being, including dinner, dance performances and meditation nights.
“I wanted to make a point on being consistent and having a practice,” he says. “It was hard, but it was amazing because…I know that people need this. We need spaces of inclusion. We need spaces of practicing well-being. We don’t have enough spaces where we practice that.”
Flores says this is a common theme across urban spaces, a concept he explored in his thesis while at ASU. He wants to transform spaces to be more conducive to connectivity, an environment he found when he went to Burning Man music festival in August.
“The environment allows you to connect with the people in a way that’s not about how you look or what you have,” he says.
Though Flores says being around people makes him feel “alive, inspired and with energy to do whatever,” some of his most memorable moments have stemmed from solitude and self-reliance. He says meditating and being alone allows him to “restructure things within.”
“I’ve had moments of just being alone in a random city and not having anybody, it’s just me and my backpack,” he muses. “It really allowed me to be a better version of who I am.”
Flores doesn’t think life imitates art, he believes life is art.
“I think life is the greatest art form,” he says. “I think this body is the greatest art there is…the laboratory that nature is. I’m against the whole concept of artists because an artist is a lot of things.”
Flores hopes to redefine the way the world thinks about art by restructuring ourselves and our environment. He says his time at ASU really helped him develop his style and sense of self.
“I was just doing a bunch of crazy stuff like merging aesthetic with sacredness, thinking about cities and well-being,” he says. “I’m interested in this redesigning of urban spaces and being able to sort of engineer for empathy and humanity.”