Bio: Mano Sotelo
B.F.A. Otis Art Institute Parsons School of Design, Los Angeles CA
M.F.A. Academy of Art University, San Francisco CA
M.B.A. University of Phoenix, Tucson AZ
U.S. Army Reserve / Army National Guard, Long Beach, CA & Yonkers, NY
Mano’s work has been exhibited at the Coutts Museum of Art, Alexandria Museum of Art, Tampa Museum of Art, Coos Art Museum, Haggin Museum, Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, Tucson Museum of Art, University of Arizona Museum of Art, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson Desert Art Museum, Phoenix Art Museum, local and national juried and invitational shows, and a variety of Tucson galleries. Mano’s work has also been highlighted in competitions hosted by The Artist’s Magazine, International Artist Magazine, and American Art Awards.
Mano is currently Visual Arts faculty at Pima Community College where he teaches drawing, painting, figure drawing, color, composition and design courses. He has over 18 years of higher education teaching experience and has taught courses at Southwest University of Visual Arts (SUVA), Artist Network University (online), and The Drawing Studio.
Appointed by the Tucson City Manager, Mano is a former member of the Tucson Public Art and Community Design Committee. Prior to teaching, Mano worked for several years as a production manager and graphic designer within the graphic arts, printing and publishing industries.
Resume, gallery, and commercial client list available upon request.
My artistic practice can be divided into two general categories: observational, and the contemplation of beliefs and values.
I have divided my statement into three sections below to correspond with the painting categories found on this site: Allegory (Spirituality), Contemplative Prayer (Angels), and Regional (Observational).
For me, observational painting and drawing is an exercise in mindfulness. It directly provides an increased understanding of one’s external and internal world. In this practice, one can question their assumptions of what they think they are observing, become more aware and focused, solve problems, make deliberate decisions and ultimately recognize their accountability for the outcome.
Through the process of critical observation and thinking, one is provided with direct feedback on the profound impact of their thoughts, judgments and consciousness. For these reasons, observational practice has become a foundational component for the rest of my artistic work.
I’m interested in belief and value systems (i.e., philosophy, psychology, religion, and mythology), and the study of inherited truths. Specifically, how we create our own realities every day through the adoption of prescribed precepts and unquestioned thoughts we entertain as the truth.
It is important for people to make up their own minds; therefore, my work is not about teaching a certain perspective. Instead its purpose is to raise awareness to a topic so that the focus is firmly set on the viewer’s perceptions, giving them an opportunity to question issues for themselves.
The work that includes more spiritual iconography originated out of a religious upbringing; specifically, where I observed books, individuals, classes and rituals that professed to deliver individuals, and thus society, from evil. Evil can be defined as suffering, misfortune, harmful or wrong conduct or character.
Today, promises of salvation continue to be presented to the masses when we turn on the television, visit the book store, or the Internet. Although, this message of deliverance has been around for thousands of years, we continue to fail to find peace or enlightenment through any one person, organization, place, or book. If the truth were otherwise we would live in a world of peace. These paintings act as a response to my questioning and search for truth. Given this inherited and adopted state of internal and external conflict, the paintings respond to the question “who ultimately holds the key to our salvation or enlightenment?”
Faith is incredibly powerful; therefore, it is not my intent to dismiss or discredit any particular belief. Instead my objective, and evolving product, has been the observation of beliefs and values, their adoption and ultimate influence.
Although, the work is autobiographical, ultimately the people in the paintings could be substituted with anyone. That is, they symbolize questioning that is not isolated to me individually. Everyone experiences internal and external struggles. We can all discover the influence of our beliefs; and the power beliefs have in creating the reality in which we live.
Contemplative Prayer (Angels)
Prayer: Communicating and paying attention to God.
Contemplation: The action of looking thoughtfully at something for a long time.
This set of work represents the use of painting as an opportunity to engage in contemplative prayer. Theologically, philosophically and scientifically, the questions of reality and consciousness are still debated. Curiosity, awareness, and inquiry can bring about even more mystery; but they can also produce something even more awe-inspiring: a presence of something greater than oneself. That said, in order to explain these prayers (i.e., paintings), it is essential to first start with why I question.
This life is short and most of us spend our time simply reacting; we unconsciously engage in judging versus learning, giving into the automatic thoughts of our chattering minds rather than being deliberate in our thinking. I want to live a life that is more than that. I have sought to develop my understanding of myself and the world in which I live. Aspiring to expand beyond ideas of the truth I have derived from prescribed dogma.
I am acutely aware of my own conditioning. How my behavior and choices have been principally structured by my education, politics, spirituality, and culture. How my experiences largely rely upon perceptions that are based upon thoughts and feelings, which are based upon memories, beliefs and values.
Plato in his “Allegory of the Cave” speaks of this when he suggests that we individually move beyond what we would consider reality. When we take into account our varied mindsets, and our limited perceptual abilities, perception and reality are not always one in the same.
Fortunately, the mystery of life and the impulse to better understand it has been repeatedly revisited throughout history. A “great realization of the Upanishads of India … (is that) all the gods, all the heavens, all the worlds, are within us” (Campbell, 1998, p. 39); or, as Jiddu Krishnamurti puts it, “look within, you are the world” (1963). Buddha advocates for self-examination and believing only what you have tested; look within, not without. Socrates’ states that the “the unexamined life is not worth living”. Then there is the Greek maxim “know thyself”; and if you don’t know yourself, as Carl Jung accurately articulates, the “world will tell you who you are” (1983). So I have sought to be “capable of learning from that history in a true, that is to say life-enhancing sense, and of transforming what (others) have learned into a more elevated practice” (Nietzsche, 2007, p.71).
Through the combination of artistic expression and the practice of inquiry and awareness I have come to experience something new: a connection with something much greater than myself. Call it God, Yahweh, Allah, the Creator, a collective consciousness, consciousness prior to thought, or any name you prefer. In that presence, that is where I most want to be.
This selection of paintings represents prayers: a communication with and contemplation of God. The objective here is not to render the experience, simply to suggest it (Campbell, 1998, p.61). These paintings are as Goethe would say metaphors. When I look at my own spiritual path, or intensely experience life, I see these metaphors. I see signs and symbols that point to a greater truth, a mystery that reminds me of archetypes, emotions, patterns, dichotomies, and the miracle of existence. In this regard, whether taken literally, metaphorically, or as states of mind, Heaven and Hell are now. These paintings remind me that I have a choice.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. (2002). Beyond Good and Evil.
Cambridge University Press
Nietzsche, Friedrich. (2007). Untimely Meditations.
Cambridge University Press
Jung, C. G. (1983). The Collected Works of C.G. Jung: Volumes 1-19. Complete Digital Edition
First Princeton / Bollingen paperback printing.
Campbell, Joseph. (1988). The Power of Myth
Krishnamurti, J. (1968). The First and Last Freedom.
Krishnamurti, J. (Jul2, 2001) Be a Light Unto Yourself
Retrieved 2016, from
Krishnamurti, Jiddu. (1963). Talks by Krishnamurti in Europe 1963 (Verbatim Report) Saanen.
Retrieved 2017, from