Self-taught painter and photographer Guillermo Diaz has an eye for the finer things in life—literally. After spending years in a medical laboratory looking through a microscope, Diaz turned both his lens and his brush to the some of the smallest subjects he could find, taking macroscopic photos of insects and fungi, and rendering lifelike portraits in acrylic that are accurate down to the individual hairs. His current untitled show is hanging at the Hub Coffee Roasters, 727 Riverside Drive.
“I worked for a couple of private laboratories,” Diaz said. “So, we were mostly examining blood samples from patients, plasma, all those things, you know. [My inspiration] came from the laboratory. … Just, like, looking at things and then trying to transfer them to my canvas.”
After leaving his native El Salvador in the late'80s, Diaz began pursuing a medical degreee in 2001 before eventually trying his hand at both photography and painting in 2009. He started by shooting landscapes with a point-and-shoot camera in Houston before realizing the limits of his equipment meant he needed a professional lens to capture the detail he was looking for.
“I was trying micro photography, sort of doing a lot of insects and small things,” Diaz said. “So, mushrooms are kind of, you know, unique because one day they are there and then next they aren't. You don't have much time to prepare, basically. You go on a hike, and then you encounter these beautiful [natural] things. And then I set up my camera and all my lights, and I tried to capture all the details.”
Diaz said he's always been fascinated by nature, and spent plenty of time outdoors in Houston, where he still spends about half his time. He relocated to Reno two years ago to be closer to family, though, and has familiarized himself with many of the hiking trails around Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada.
“I've been doing more on landscapes, I guess because, moving to Reno, there's not that many insects,” Diaz said.
Some might consider a dearth of insects a positive aspect of living in the Truckee Meadows, but Diaz' subject matter also considers the human condition. Many of his paintings on display at the Hub blend hyper-realistic human features with abstract colors, glossy textures and patterns reminiscent of spilled liquid, which he calls the Wine Series.
“I was thinking about wine and passion and lovers and all those human emotions,” Diaz said. “People love wine, and I love wine, but I wanted something a bit more complicated and that's something abstract. But at the same time, I'm an expert on portraits. So, I wanted it to include that. But, just painting portraits, it's kind of boring, you know, if you see one you've seen them all. So, I wanted to do something different, something that totally no one has done before.”
Diaz is currently working on bringing the Wine Series to a show at an actual winery in the Seattle area. He doesn't maintain an online presence for his art, however, meaning the only way to view his work is up close.