Autobiographical art may be largest show in county


October is Carlsbad’s Arts and Culture Month, and coinciding with the celebration, the artist Santos will debut possibly the largest solo art show ever seen in San Diego County.

The exhibition, titled “Lost and Found,” represents the autobiography of Santos, a native Honduran, born Santos Leonel Orellana Paz in 1974. Filling the walls of a 20,000-square-foot Carlsbad warehouse is the show’s centerpiece, a massive mural integrating ancient Mayan iconography that forms the basis for Santos’ work.

The space belongs to True Honor Clothing and the show is a collaboration between Santos and the owner of the fashion business, Bardia Rahin, who is also the show’s producer.

The mural took 350 hours to create and was an intuitive response to Santos’ daily life, he said. Photographed and video-recorded, the gradual unfolding of the mural’s eye-dazzling “Maya Pop” imagery has been captured and preserved.

The free one-night event is from 3-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25, with a VIP reception — sponsored by Sika Wines — then is open to general admission. The space will be complemented with a curated exhibition of Santos’ work from the past eight years.

Santos came to the U.S. in 1985, settling in New York, a stark contrast to the ancient Mesoamerican culture embedded in his homeland. The bold symbolism that has defined Mayan civilizations naturally defines him, said Santos, and his art is an outgrowth of this symbolism.

Initially drawn to the “syllabic nature of physical science’s language,” Santos attended Marist College, New York, where he embarked on a career in chemistry. As a graduate in 1999, he worked for several pharmaceutical companies there, but was drawn to San Diego’s “Biotech Beach.”

The beach culture and the vibrant arts scene caused Santos to “pick up a brush for the first time,” and he has never looked back.

This art show marks a high point for Santos. “I’ve always dreamed of going all over the world and doing massive shows with a mural as the catch,” he said. The first step to realizing this dream was when Santos put out the call that stated simply, “I need a wall can you facilitate it?”

Rahin immediately agreed to Santos using his warehouse space. “He didn’t even think about it; he processed the information very quickly and made the decision,” Santos recalled. The event grew out of two days of informal talks.

Santos has long wanted to bring something different to the San Diego art scene, where a large space filled with art has no distractions of multimedia or music to detract from the experience of viewing the work. “Just hushed space with the comments of the viewers to provide the soundtrack,” Santos explained — more like a museum experience.

The art show’s title comes from Santos’ extreme focus on his art.

“Since I left the world of chemistry for art, I have been absolutely lost in my work,” he explained, sacrificing friendships, time with family and a social life along the way.

The event symbolizes that he is finally putting himself out to the public arena. Santos has found his voice, and the work on display represents a true journal of his life. “I wanted to go global, and with this event I’m doing it,” he said.

There will be a pop-up shop at the event for guests to purchase Santos’ art. VIP guests should RSVP to 760-633-1644. General admission is from 5-9 p.m. The location is 2350 Camino Vida Roble, Carlsbad.

Santos Fine Art Gallery is at 978 N. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024. Visit