Ricardo Sanchez: Bekartoe on Mortality and Morality

Bekartoe (Ricardo Sanchez) wants you to know you’re going to die. But not to worry, he’s not coming to get you. He just wants to make you consider this inevitable endpoint, and he’ll do that by showing you his oil paintings. 

“Whenever I think about death it makes me think about what the purpose of my life is,” Bekartoe mused. “In a way my art is just me thinking about death and mortality and working out what's important.” 

When asked what is important, Bekartoe responded: “the answer is really going to be different for everybody.” For him, it's helping others, mutual aid, and dependable friendships.

Bekartoe is an artist who lives and works by these principles. Aside from screen printing and painting, he runs Bad Business, a van that redistributes lightly-used clothing to those who need it. This philanthropic project is carried out alongside his wife, Jessica Sanchez, who also does vocals in their band, IMGONNADIE, a name that pairs well with Bekartoe’s paintings. The band’s style, which Bekartoe described as freeform and expressive also reflects the form that figures—kneeling, dying, and fallingtake in Bekartoe’s paintings.

Bekartoe got his pseudonym when the child of an artist he was sharing studio space with attempted to write "Ricardo" on one of his paintings. The misspelling seemed fitting, he said. "I was making these mortality pieces about death and stuff and a little kid is signing them." 

Still, Bekartoe's work is definitely not kid's stuff. He earned his BFA in Painting and Screenprinting in 2014 from NSU in Tahlequah, OK.

“I just started painting after, basically breaking all the rules,” Bekartoe said. “They  taught me all this stuff, and I thought ‘What if I don’t do it?’”

He has continued expanding his style in his personal artistic practice, his professional work as a screenprinter at Ambition Co. and with Jessica, for their business Skewed Press.  At Ambition, Bekartoe’s prints for whoever walks in the door. However, when at Skewed Press, he’s more selective. 

“As far as my client base goes it's more of a tight-knit group,” Bekartoe said. 

Skewed Press has worked with Tulsa Noise and Cult Love Sound Tapes. His work as a  screen printer often bleeds into his painting. 

“Whenever I paint I kind of have a silk screen mentality in the back of my head,” Bekartoe said. “So I’m painting in a way that if I wanted to take a picture of it or scan it, I could run a silk screen print later on.”

“It's nice to have a means to help my friends create something and then help them support themselves by making this merch for them,” Bekartoe said of running Skewed Press. “I’m just trying to make art with my friends you know?” 

Bekartoe’s earliest influence came from the paintings of Francis Bacon. Lately, he looks to local artists like Sacul Rensiw, Swan Shekinaa, Michol Moss, and the many artists who participate in the Cult House Mural Project for inspiration. Learning from fellow Tulsa artists, Bekartoe has taken to using spray paint for the big bold colors that make up the base of his oil paintings. 

Bekartoe’s work has become more political since COVID-19 and this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. Along with his usual motifs of graves and figures crouched on their knees, Bekartoe has added bombs and televisions to signify the power of the media in shaping public opinion and the ways mankind’s abuse of the environment turns our violence right back on us. 

 “In this kind of era I think it's important,” Bekartoe said. “I think there is a possibility for change so I really want to portray some of those ideas out on canvas.”

You can find Bekartoe’s work on his website bekartoe.com or by following him on instagram @bekartoe