Graduates of CNM: Reyes Padilla

Reyes Padilla is a New Mexico-based artist and CNM alumnus whose paintings and murals have made a big impact in Albuquerque and beyond
February 08, 2022

If you live in Albuquerque, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen artist Reyes Padilla’s work. His installation ¡Mira, Look! was purchased by Explora for the museum’s permanent collection, another one of his paintings can be found at the Albuquerque Convention Center, and his mural in Don Luis Plaza in Old Town is hard to miss.

Outside of Albuquerque his murals have appeared in places as far as Pennsylvania and the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum in Arizona. All this success earned Reyes the 2019 CNM Distinguished Alumni of the Year award.

Of course his success didn’t happen overnight. Growing up in Santa Fe, Reyes always knew he wanted to be an artist, he just wasn’t sure how.

“I just didn’t really see anything else that was for me. I knew I wanted to do something that was either music or art related. I didn’t have a plan B,” Reyes says.

After graduating from high school, Reyes moved to Albuquerque in hopes of becoming a full-time musician. He says at the time his paintings were more of a hobby. That all changed when, during a visit from his older sister, she drove him to CNM and convinced him to sign up for a few classes.

“I think she noticed I needed some direction,” Reyes says. “That was the best guidance I could have gotten.”

Before attending CNM, Reyes says he never thought a college education was for him.

“I was extremely intimidated by the college process, but we literally just walked in the door and all of a sudden I was enrolled,” he says.

Fast forward a few weeks and Reyes found himself sitting in class, learning from professional artists and CNM faculty like Lynn Johnson and Cheryl Dietz.  

“The classes were tough but the fact that I was learning from real artists was definitely inspiring,” Reyes says. “I would see them doing art shows outside of CNM and it really gave me something to shoot for.”

Around the time he started at CNM was also when Reyes began to realize he has synesthesia, which allows him to experience sound visually.

“When it comes to painting, I realized the music I listened to would drive the energy of the piece,” Reyes says. “I decided to tap into that a bit more and paint exactly what I was experiencing in my head.”

In addition to the music that shapes his work, Reyes says he’s also deeply inspired by his experiences growing up in New Mexico.

“A lot of the influences in my work come from the culture here in New Mexico. A lot of the colors and designs come from what I’ve seen growing up here.”

Reyes graduated from CNM in 2010 with an associate degree in Fine Arts. Since then, his paintings, murals, and installations have sold to a variety of museums and collectors.

In 2021, Reyes was the lead artist for New Mexico’s first permanent traffic mural located at the intersection of Fourth Street and Hazeldine Avenue in Albuquerque’s Barelas Neighborhood. He also had a recent solo show, “Santuarios,” at the Lapis Room in Old Town.

As for what’s next, Reyes says he has a few summer shows in the works, but what he’s most looking forward to is the Acequia Revitalization Project at the National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC), for which he was just selected.

“I’m really excited because I have a lot of love for the NHCC and everything it represents,” Reyes says.

You can learn more about CNM’s Fine Arts program here. For more information about Reyes and his work, visit his website.