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Spotlight On: Roland Santana, Abstract Artist


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"Live a life, fall in love with someone or something, get sad, and always get back up—you will find what you are looking for in your art."


With a well-rounded artistic background starting from a young age, Roland Santana had dreams of being a Hollywood director. Joining the theater program in high school and making low quality films, acting brought him out of his shell as a kid. Further nurturing his creativity, he soon spread his talents to music, forming bands and dabbling in the DJ booth as a college freshman. Always drawing on the side, it wasn't until entering a DIY art show that he realized just how impactful his art could be.


Many elements catch the eye when viewing Santana’s creations: strokes of bright colors, thin lines, abstract shapes, sometimes with mangled facial features staring back at you. Familiar shapes in unfamiliar poses confuse and pleasure the mind all at once, bridging the gap between what's real and surreal.



Roland’s inspiration for creating is growing up. Seeing how hardworking and persistent his parents were, instilled the same drive within him as an artist. Messages of hope and positivity come through in his work, reflecting an optimistic view on life and the future. Whether it’s to draw inspiration or attach a memory, the idea of art evoking emotion and raw feeling is evident.


"I strive to emphasize the imperfections with each scribble or stroke and that is what I want to be recognized for."

In Santana’s opinion, art should be open-ended, a form of inquiry and discussion. "I think the artist is an unreliable narrator, and should not be trusted. The artwork speaks to the individual observing the work in its own way." Each individual will have a different connection to the same piece, even evoking multiple meanings. Just let the art speak for itself.


Follow Roland on Instagram to keep up with his recent work.


Get to know Roland below, and check out his personally curated Spotify playlist here.


Favorite part about the Chicago creative community?

Everyone, or at least most people, are willing to talk about their work and share their passions. There is a strong sense of family here.

Favorite TV show?

"High Maintenance" is hilarious. I love how they approached the whole concept of different lives but still connected through one person, their drug dealer haha.


Favorite cocktail?

Old Fashioned is a classic, or just anything with bourbon. I tried this cocktail called Black Manhattan recently, might be my new favorite.


Favorite Chicago artist?

Ed Paschke is an amazing painter. I just discovered his work this past year, it literally glows and is a great inspiration right now.


Favorite spot in Chicago? (can be a neighborhood, restaurant, bar, etc.)

I love going to Pil-Zen! They've got good margaritas and food. Also I don't have to go far because it's literally right across from where I live.


"Spotlight On" is a bi-weekly series highlighting Chicago creatives with a twist. We share a slice of their stories and what they love, hoping to inspire and connect.


Words by Jasmine Muldrow