José Campos at work in the studio.

In Memoriam - José Campos

Posted on May 26, 2020

José Campos was born in 1953 in El Salvador and first became a CE artist nearly 30 years ago. He recently returned to the studio program in 2018 after a long hiatus, and up until his passing in May 2020, was consistently creating artwork. During the shelter-in-place order, Campos was staying with his caretaker, Ana, and her husband, and would spend time drawing with Ana’s grandchildren.

Campos used a few words to communicate, but was adept at communicating with his eyes and his beaming smile. Seated at the first table in the studio, nearest to the gallery doors, Campos would greet everyone entering the studio with his characteristic grin. He would nod appreciatively when discussing his art and choosing supplies.

His artwork is light, airy, and rooted in a delicate mark-making practice. Campos would move slowly and deliberately, dedicating his attention to each line. Over time, his marks would amass, creating fluid-like forms organized in compositions filled with a sinuous tension. His characteristic bundles of fibrous marks stretch across the paper connecting to other forms like nervous synapses.

Campos’ art will live on at Creativity Explored for many years to come. Our upcoming exhibition, The park “a darling walk through the mind” curated by Ajit Chauhan, is dedicated to Campos and his memory.

Our teachers and staff shared the following words about José:

I worked with Jose briefly when he first returned to CE, and then only intermittently after that. But he would always catch my eye, and I would go over to see what he was working on.

He had such a beautiful spirit, sometimes mischievous as he would try and slip out the door. I loved his work, his own particular vision.

-Michael Napper

He was, aside from an amazing artist, one of my best friends at CE. He would somehow always make hardships in life seem more bearable whenever I was having a tough day. He in the end was always pure – Childlike and a true gentleman and gentle soul. I will miss him deeply and I will carry him in my heart always.

-Enrique Quintero

A remembrance from 29 years ago:

The exchange José had with Vincent Jackson was based on the fact that Jose didn’t want to make artwork at all. We thought we should try to pair these two in order to get Jose inspired to do more art work. Vincent who was working with him for a few hours every week, was actually quite loving with. Jose mischievously smiled and said “Capa, capa” and Vincent replied, “No more Capa capa, we are doing some serious artwork here.”

-Paul Moshammer

I was José’s Monday teacher for the past couple of years. He was a man of few words, but he had such a gentle warmth to him. In my mind’s eye I just see him with his big, warm, toothless smile. His drawings were gentle, like him, and he could take a month or more making a piece -with his light, feathery lines.  His work has such a beautifully delicate quality.

One memory stands out: I made the mistake one time of giving José Art Stix to use. I looked over at him at one point and his lips were completely black, as if he’d put on lipstick. It took me a second to realize that he ate a black Art Stix… his tongue and the inside of his mouth were also completely matte black... he looked like an actor in a Noh theater performance. Thankfully the stick was non-toxic, and José seemed to take cleaning his mouth out in stride.

His caregiver Ana is a phenomenal person. She and her family were very caring and affectionate towards José. I loved seeing how he would light up when she arrived and he would make a few hand gestures—as if milking a cow, “That means leche” or with a revving gesture, “That’s a motorcycle, he used to ride on the back of his brother’s.” She also showed me how he would make his signature, which looked like a spindly little spider. There’s something quite touching that this is how he seemed to see himself.

-Andrew Parker

here / studio / home by Liliana Torpey

      for José Campos and all CE artists who have passed

Here        the ceiling is high enough to reach you, artist

Here        the dancehall walls curve around your essence, artist,

                like a ribcage, or a spider, and your memory

here,        around your table, is a garland.

Here        around your table, is your place


Here        where there are no bounds

                where there is no out - side

                which is not a place at all, but rather

                an atrium, an opening, a channel

Here        each brushstroke, like a breath

               recalls you, remembers you, releases you

Here       the ceiling is high enough to hold you, artist

               and the sky resembles you 

               because it is boundless

               and always, despite the distance,



Untitled by José Campos, 2019, pen and colored pencil on paper, 22.5 x 14 inches
Untitled by José Campos, 2018, marker on paper, 22.25 x 16.75 inches
Untitled by José Campos, 2019, marker on paper, 15.25 x 22.25 inches
Untitled by José Campos, 2019, graphite and crayon on paper, 5.25 x 5 inches
Untitled by José Campos, 2018, mixed media on paper, 22.25 x 16.5 inches
Untitled by José Campos, 2018, mixed media on paper, 22.5 x 15 inches

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