The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Artist draws from his roots
Master Sculptor and artist, Arturo Singh, prepares on a rendering he’s working on for a sculptor of his father. T.William Wallin | [email protected]

It was the early days of the 1930s in California. The Mexican revolution had just ended, and immigrants, as well as in Europe, were eager to get their foot in the door of the United States and the dams flooded over with workers. Land was up for grabs and the fields were filled with cotton, sugar beets, lettuce and turnip patches even as the Great Depression hit the American Midwest.

During this time, artist and master sculptor, Arturo Ruano Singh, was born down in the Imperial Valley of Holtville, Imperial County. Singh studied in the ‘70s at City College.

Singh comes from a rich culture and historical roots. His father, a Sikh Punjabi Indian born in India, moved here in 1919 after serving time in the British Army to work in farm labor. His mother, was a Tepehuan Indian from Durango. She and her family were heavily involved in the Mexican Revolution, all active members of the Ville Forces.

All of this influences his work, says 81-year-old Singh.

“Because of my family’s ties with the revolution and the war, I tend to create a lot of my art using the past bloodshed and history of the people who fought for their lives,” says Singh. Singh says he gets his artist’s flow from his mother. Also an artist, she raised her children to look at the world through an artist’s eyes.

“She was always playing music for us when we weren’t working out in the fields, Singh says. She’s the reason I listen to music every time I work in the studio. She was a music lover like I am a lover for art.”

According to his son, Stone, Singh is very attached to anything earthbound or earth grown.

“Being an agriculture worker himself, he has a connection with all things nature, which comes out in his drawings,” says Stone.

Singh says he began to draw what he saw: the life and times of everyday workers, farm laborers, people down and out of luck.
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In the ‘70s he moved to Sacramento for work and art. “I was hanging around with a lot of student artists from Sac City College,” Singh says. “They kept saying ‘Arturo, Arturo, you gotta come over and use the big kiln they got.”

It wasn’t until he was in his mid 40s, when Singh became a resident artist at City College, that he found his calling at the educational institution. When he was enrolled he became friends with an older, more experienced artist, Gregory Kondos.

Singh says Kondos continually influenced and pushed him to create art for himself, and not to care what others perceived or judged.

“Kondos really motivated me and my abilities and pushed me. While I was a resident he encouraged me,” says Singh. “Some of the sculptures I have here wouldn’t have been finished if it wasn’t for him.”

It was at City College that Singh says he really began his artist’s career.

He finally had the tools and resources he needed and was able to meet professors and artists that could point him in the right direction. Soon enough he was getting letters from Governor Jerry Brown to do commissioned pieces inside the Capitol, the Sacramento Zoo and the Native American center.

These days, Singh can be found in his garden or studio, working on multiple projects: a respected homage of a 4-foot sculpture of his father, or a Chicano series of workers, dancers, and everyday people from his childhood, the zoot soot days of the ’40s and ’50s.

“I lived in a house without running water, not much education and the wealthier population looked at us like dirt and the hippies of that time,” says Singh. “But now I have artwork all over California parks and government buildings. I just want to teach other artists around the world and have them see my work and hear my message.”

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