Beauty Lies In Our Ability to Abandon Ourselves: Interview with Muralist Dante Horoiwa

You are never alone. You are eternally connected with everyone.”
― Amit Ray, Meditation: Insights and Inspirations

Portrait of painter, Dante Horoiwa, oil and gold leaf on wood, 2012, artist: Ignore por favor.
Portrait of painter, Dante Horoiwa | oil and gold leaf on wood | Ignore Por Favor.
"Spirit Crusher" triptych, Dante Horoiwa
Spirit Crusher triptych | Dante Horoiwa


~ Minas Gerais, Brazil

Deanna Phoenix Selene: I originally discovered you while researching contemporary Brazilian artists. While some of your pieces do have a definite Latin feel, your name “Horoiwa” is Japanese, yes? And you have participated in a group exhibit at the Hong Kong Contemporary. Do you straddle both the Asian and Latin cultures then?

"Epiphany," Dante Horoiwa
Epiphany | Dante Horoiwa

Dante Horoiwa: Yes, I have Japanese ancestry. My grandparents came from Iwate-ken, Japan, in the early twentieth century. Somehow I’ve always felt very connected to Japanese culture, even growing-up on the other side of the earth, here in Brazil. But after all, we are all human beings belonging to the same family, regardless of geographic region.

Dante Horoiwa: Currently, I’m living completely alone in the mountains of Minas Gerais, in the middle of nature, a place rich in natural beauty, It is entirely surrounded by hills and some waterfalls, very far from the noise and rush of the city.

Dante Horoiwa, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Dante Horoiwa, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Dante Horoiwa: Returning to nature and being completely alone with yourself, I believe, is a way to be free of influences of society. The city feeds the need for psychological security. This psychological structure is one of greed, envy, anxiety, fear. We are always living for the future, for security, and consequently, establishing a meaning for our actions in an illusion.

Deanna Phoenix Selene: Do you ever miss any aspects of your former life?

Dante Horoiwa: I do not miss anything. But also, I do not wish I had done this earlier either; it was the right time for the right moment.

I received a great vision which made me decide to breathe fresh air:

I had a dream in which a strange woman with a golden ball on her forehead appeared, levitating on the outside of my studio. She told me that I should let the “branches” grow outside of the window.
And I asked her,”Where will I find you?”

She told me, “You´ll find me in the forest.” Then she moved away, levitating, towards the moon.
One month later, I became intoxicated by the turpentine fumes I was working with in my small, poorly-ventilated studio, and I realized that the dream was an inner-calling, a sign to move to nature and let my “branches” grow outside of the window.

To be alone is very important. You know, we are not taught how to be alone. We are never alone in the big cities. We are always trying to fill that emptiness, that discomfort with being with ourselves. We run away from loneliness, filling ourselves with noisy laughter, superficial relationships, “entertainment.”

The word ‘alone’ came from “All One,” meaning, alone in the sense of solitude, not of isolation.

Dante Horoiwa: I am presently working on a new series of paintings. It has been a cure for myself, exploring that state between sub-consciousness and consciousness and between self-consciousness and the world. Soon I´ll be able to share them.

Deanna Phoenix Selene: How old were you when you first started to draw? When you painted your first mural? What were the reactions of those around you?

Dante Horoiwa: I started to draw when I was three years old. My first public painting was when I was around seventeen. The reactions were always good. I always have had great support from my family.

Deanna Phoenix Selene: What is it like to see your work up on display in such large dimensions, there, on the side of a building for all to view? Is this different than when you have a piece showing in a private gallery?

Dante Horoiwa: In public spaces you are able to follow the creative process. When I was painting the mural in Rotterdam [Netherlands], every day a man used to pass by on his bicycle, and he would stop and take pictures of the whole process, from beginning to end.

Dante Horoiwa, street art in progress
Dante Horoiwa, street art in progress
Dante Horoiwa working on a public mural in Public mural Rotterdam, The Netherlands 2007
Dante Horoiwa working on a public mural in Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Dante Horoiwa: And he continued to photograph the mural even after it was finished, following the degradation of the painting through the seasons.

Public mural by Dante Horoiwa, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Public mural by Dante Horoiwa, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Dante Horoiwa: After a mural is finished, people will begin to picnic in front of the painting. It is almost impossible not to look at it if you are passing by.Whereas in an indoor space, you only enter if you intend to. There is less opportunity for encountering the artwork.

Dante Horoiwa, solo show at the Anno Domini Gallery, San Jose, California
Dante Horoiwa, solo show at the Anno Domini Gallery, San Jose, California

Dante Horoiwa: But for me, I create everything I do with the same intensity. In this sense there is no difference. If there’s connection made between my work and a viewer, it will be the same.

Deanna Phoenix Selene: Do you consider yourself a street artist or a contemporary painter? Does the distinction matter? Does taking one label or another affect how your art is perceived?

Dante Horoiwa: I do not consider myself a street artist. It’s been about four years since my last mural, the one in Rotterdam. But the importance isn’t in the names and labels. The word is not the thing.

Deanna Phoenix Selene: In your blog, you honor Mauro Hiroyassu Shoyama. Was he a teacher of yours?

Dante Horoiwa: Actually, I have not studied in any art school, but he was a master and a mentor, like many other people I have met in my life. Besides being a painter, Mauro worked producing canvases, so I met him because of that. I started ordering my canvases from him and we became friends. I used to visit his studio to watch him paint and listen to his stories. He had a unique technique; he could create any metallic color just by overlapping the colors. One day, I was watching him paint. At first, the painting was red, then he began to cover it all up with black, and after some minutes it became golden. The final result: iridescence.

People, such as Mauro, whom I have met in my life, these encounters, when we look back, we realize how crucial these individuals were in directing the course of our lives.

Deanna Phoenix Selene: What makes an effective work of art?

Dante Horoiwa: I don’t know what you mean by “effective work of art,” but I believe the beauty lies in our willingness to abandon ourselves. How silent and alone we can be. Both for those who express and for those who observe, same thing, this strange force that move us so deeply.

Deanna Phoenix Selene: Is there ever such a thing as “bad art?”

Dante Horoiwa: I believe “bad art” is everything that is reduced to the level of merchandise to be sold and purchased, consumed as soon as possible and then discarded. The whole world is being sold, as well as the acts of people, the reason so many live and the reason they create. Things that are produced inside this sphere of psychological safety can not touch the silence. But who am I to say what is “good” or “bad”?

Deanna Phoenix Selene: Where would you like to see your work go in the future? What sort of questions do you wish to explore next?

Dante Horoiwa: Where it deserves to be. I’d rather not hold myself to the future.

Deanna Phoenix Selene: Advice for an up-and-coming painter?

Dante Horoiwa: Do not seek for results, expecting or wanting something out of it, if you really love it, you never get tired of it.

I will share with you a favorite quote of mine from a poem by Rumi:

There is a life-force within your soul, seek that life.
There is a gem in the mountain of your body, seek that
O traveler, if you are in search of That
Don't look outside, look inside yourself and seek That

~From the book, Rumi, Thief of Sleep

Further Notes:

To view more of Dante Horoiwa’s work or visit his artist’s blog:

Combustus Managing Editor | + posts

My dream: to create a unique vehicle for artists and visionaries from all genres and all over the globe to inspire and learn from one another.


  1. John Siddique on January 13, 2013 at 12:42 am

    Thank you Deanna and Dante for this very inspiring interview. You are very right Dante, aloneness is a vital aspect of a true human relationship with ourselves and others. The ‘political’ world wants power over us so we are trained to be lonely rather than to understand the nourishment and power of solitude and living from our souls.

    It’s great to be introduced to your art too.

    With gratitude

  2. Adam on January 13, 2013 at 9:39 am

    “It is beautiful to be alone. To be alone does not mean to be lonely – it means the mind is not influenced & contaminated by society” J. Krishnamurti. ‘Solitude is the price of greatness’ Yogi Paramahansa.

  3. Destry Sparks on January 13, 2013 at 11:04 am

    It is a pleasure to discover your work, Dante. I grew up in a very rural, small fishing village. Some of the best moments in my life were alone in the forest. It is wonderful to see an artist who also appreciates nature and solitude. I am glad that your work is seen beyond the gallery setting where only art world people go. May you continue to find amazing things to share with others. ~Destry Sparks

  4. Dante Horoiwa on January 13, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Just wanted to say thank you, Deanna, for the attention, and to your readers for the lovely comments and for taking the time to read and stop by.

    It´s great to be introduced to your poems too, John, amazing and inspiring interview!

    Best Regards,

  5. Lynn Arnold on January 13, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Very interesting article! I lived for eight summers alone in the woods on an island, at one point in my life.
    My real friends were the deer, wolves and of course my cat. I really think it saved me. Solitude is wonderful!

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