Des Moines — A metro artist is creating a series of works inspired by his roots and life here in Iowa. To be an artist, you have to go all in.

“Getting dirty, it sparks a lot of memory. You know, working with my father, ” Local artist Seso Marentes said. “I remember he used to tell me you know, Jose if you want to look like you were working, get dirty.”

He has been an artist for many years.

“To me the finished piece is great,” Marentes said. “But it’s the process for me that gets my senses really heightened and gets my motivation to see it finished.”

He has lived in Iowa all his life and his artwork reflects his own experiences. As well as his proud Mexican American background. It inspired him to start his Iowa series. It’s about his self-discovery, identity, and belonging here in Iowa.

It isn’t like your traditional Iowa paintings, like cornfields or any Iowa staples. Instead, his series includes paintings of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, the late Mexican singer Vicente Fernández to classic TV icon Cantinflas. His most special project this year was a painting of a childhood TV icon in many Latino households, Chapulin Colorado, the red grasshopper.

Marentes inspiration came from an East High school student discussion. The students wanted the school to feel like a community. Shortly after, a tragic drive-by shooting took place outside of East High School.

“My idea of what I originally wanted to bring to East High school shifted. I was like, you know what, these kids need hope. They need a hero. They need something to look forward to,” the artist said. “After that, I was no these kids need a hero now. They need something to look up to. They need to feel that security and so that’s how it came out to be.”

The project helped bring them together.

“So Chapulin was a way to bring that community and kind of cement it with that love,” Marentes said. “When I created that, I didn’t know how I was going to tie it all together with this many students participating.”

Some East high school students and staff picked up a paintbrush and the healing process began.

“You can only get that magic from Chapulin,” Marentes said. “When they started writing their names on the back of it, I made sure they put a wish. It’s capsulated now, so now their wishes are now in the universes. So if the universe grants them…great.”

He continues to inspire the community through his paintings.

“Everything that I’m doing is very important. I want the younger generation to see what they could be doing.”

And through his own life experiences.

“I want to break that kink in the chain and fix it. I’m here at Mainframe studios, I know other Latinos can be a MainFrame,” Marentes said, “Where I go next, I know they can go next.”

You can find Marentes and other local artist work at MainFame studios during First Fridays event each month. The painting Marentes is currently working on will go up for auction at the Iowa Latino Gala. You can check it out on October 27th at the Des Moines Heritage Center.

To learn more about Iowa Latino Gala you can go here.