Berkeley native Christopher Ybarra has spent the last five years developing his unique style he calls Southwestern Voodoo. The images in his paintings include cowboys, raindrops, stars, desert scenery, fire, angels, and guitars. Recently, his cowboys have evolved into skeletons, adding another element of mystery to the southwestern voodoo style.
Chris first emerged on the East Bay art scene in the early 90's. At the time, he was living in an RV, traveling around Death Valley, Mexico, and Arizona. His medium at the time was pastels. His drawings utilized powerful imagery and strong color contrasts that are also evident in his current acrylic work. The early pastel drawings evoke feelings of loss and sadness, likely resulting from the death of both of Chris's parents when he was growing up (although he claims his artwork isn't truly autobiographical). Chris's pastels were shown at the Weir Gallery in Berkeley, alongside works by Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead and local artist Tony Spears.
Observers of Chris's art have often compared him to surrealists like Salvador Dali. The scenes he paints are full of emotion and mystery, and often seem to tell a story. The "Starmaker" image in his room at Hotel des Arts shows stars raining from the sky, while a skeleton cowboy helps an angel place new stars back in the sky. If you stay in Chris's room, he says that he hopes "you will want to sit back, drink some wine, listen to you favorite music, and drift into the starmaker mural. Hopefully after your stay, the stars will rain on you from then on."
In 2005, Chris decided to devote himself as fully as possible to creative endeavors. While painting is his main obsession, he also enjoys singing at the Mel-o-dee lounge during weekend karaoke nights, and recently made his acting debut, starring opposite his wife in an independent film-noir style short film. Painting a room at Hotel des Arts was, according to Chris, "the perfect way to start the year  and the rest of my life as an artist. Most of my work has been on canvas, so working on walls, especially textured walls, was a challenge. I wanted to create a powerful image so that when people are in the room, they will walk into and be a part of my world and painting." After completing his room, he began a series of small, textured paintings, as well as a "storyboard" project in which his images are painted along with the text of a short story he wrote.
Chris dreams of someday returning to the RV lifestyle, but this time with the RV parked inside a large warehouse, where he will continue to create southwestern voodoo style artworks when he is not traveling. The warehouse will, of course, be in the desert, and he hopes to entertain friends in his warehouse/studio, surrounded by the same mysterious desert scenery that inspires his art.