We had the good fortune of connecting with Rizaldy Celi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rizaldy, why did you pursue a creative career?
Since a young age, I was always interested in artistic expression. I watched Bruce Lee’s martial arts movies and Bob Ross’ painting episodes often. The original Star Wars and Alien trilogies were also on the top of my list of cinematic adventures. I illustrated in my times of loneliness and wondered about things that didn’t exist in my current life. It was a pretty typical Asian-American childhood. Growing up though, I guess I just got lost in the shuffle. That also seems typical. Throughout high school and college, I found drugs and alcohol to be my companions and used them as a means of escape from my feelings. I’d say it was mostly the feeling of hopelessness that I couldn’t stand. There seemed to be so little to be excited about, so why even get out of bed. After college, I did the worst thing that an addict could do. I made money. I worked for a couple of start ups after earning a business degree and thought that was a means to an end for the way I felt. Hopefully, I could either find value in a job that valued me, or I could use my money to let loose on the weekends. It was the latter. I spiraled from one relationship to a new girl, one job to a new gig, and one baggie to a new bottle. Don’t get me wrong, some of it was enjoyable, and I did my best to look for creative work(mostly in film and photography). But because my mind was so clouded, it was hard to understand that I wasn’t looking for work where creative tools were used, I was looking for a place where expression was accepted. The advertising industry wasn’t my best bet. I brought myself to a point where I got really sick from all my bad habits. I couldn’t work and therefore couldn’t make anymore money. It brought a new feeling of hopelessness to my life. It was the best thing to ever happen to me. My family and my girlfriend at the time took care of me for over a year until my symptoms had resided. From the point I had been prescribed medication until now, I have been sober. It’s been years and never have I been more accepting of my artistic expression. I think because of that, I was able to realize there are places where my creative mind will be accepted. Of course, there are other hardships in my career now, such as representation and marketing. But, I find that much easier to deal with than being in a career where I am questioning the purpose in my activity. I pursue an artistic career because I have to. It is the only way for me to find value enough to make peace with myself. There will always be tradeoffs in work and life, but trading hopelessness for hope is an easy one for me.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My work begins as self-serving I believe. Every once in a while I hear good things from people about my art, like it’s beautiful or they felt something from it. I’m glad for that. But, mostly it allows me to work out my thoughts and feelings without hurting or burdening anyone else. It’s personal. My ideas about love and the world do not seem unique to me, but I feel it is important in the way that I need to be happy so I can treat others with kindness. As of the past two years, I have been painting with oils and acrylics. I have moved from photographing, to a less literal medium to suit my needs in creation. There were also other aspects of the artform that I didn’t enjoy very much, such as collaboration with subject and other artists. I think when your visions can all align, or when someone relinquishes their share of creative input, you can make some impactful work. But, I think that is a rare occasion, and the latter wasn’t beneficial to my creativity. I have learned lessons in the craft of drawing and painting that I couldn’t have learned in film and photography. Mostly, patience. I value that more than anything else I have learned. I think the hard part I have always dealt with is where my art physically belongs. When I was taking photographs it was hard to imagine them as advertisements or magazine covers. With painting, my works have seemed to be more of home decor than anything else. Right now, I am ok with that. I like the intimacy. I don’t feel like my professional story is uncommon. If there is anything I would want the world to know, it would be that there is always hope when you’re ready to take responsibility.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
LA is a beautiful place. When I have visitors, there are a handful of places and activities I share with them. High priority on the list would be art galleries, of course. Behind my old place, there is this small space called “Loft at Liz’s”. I used to smoke(when I used to smoke) on my back porch and see people go in before I checked it out myself. I’d also walk my friends over to the tar pits and the museum. At LACMA, they would have jazz music outside in the summer on Fridays I believe. That’s always a pleasant time. If my visitors were as into photography as I was, then a walk around DTLA would be suiting. I think downtown is something you have to see if you rarely come to LA. I have some friends who do stage work and never mind seeing them in their crafts, so a show would be a great thing to put on the list. I think Cherry Poppins LA is the name of one of the performance groups. The typical nightlife activity of bar-hopping wouldn’t be on the top of my list these days, but I could manage as long as there is a dance floor. If we preferred something a little more relaxed, General Lee’s in Chinatown would do the trick. There are also a few awesome art galleries in the area.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
If I can even speak about success, it is not without mentioning my family. My mother, father, sister and brother-in-law. And, Pam. My most recent years go to them. Also, a couple of dead guys, including Alan Watts.