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About Dior Vargas

Dior Vargas was born in Havana Cuba of Hungarian, Italian parents in 1930. His father was renown architect in Cuba, designing many of the classic buildings in downtown Havana. At the age of four he left Cuba to move with his parents to Hawaii. His father had found employment there, designing a railroad for a Sugar Plantation. His family made many trips to South Florida. Cuba was forbidden destination because of the U.S. Embargo.

In the early 70's he returned to Hawaii finding work on the set of Hawaii-Five-O. It was there he met the famous Japanese Batik Painter, Takeo Nakamura. Batik painting is extremely difficult to master. A style of painting using links on rice paper that originated in Japan. These techniques are traditional and only passed on from generation to generation.

Nakamura accepted Dior as his student. They spent six years together, four of them in Japan. Dior learned all the ancient techniques from Batik's most famous master painter Takeo Nakamura. Dior became so adept at this difficult painting technique, that he quickly rose to international prominence. His paintings have been collected by the Sultan of Brunei, Cher, Princess Diana, Sean Connery, Angie Dickenson, Rockefeller, A. Koshogi, Jackeline Kennedy Onassis, and others.

Dior became involved in the entertainment industry and moved from Hawaii to the Los Angeles area to be close to the movie industry. He found an apartment in Long Beach, California. It was here that he met and developed a close relationship with Sumi Fujamoto. Sumi is owner of Lyons Art Supply store and is considered one of the best art framers in California. Sumi Framed most of Dior's early work.

Dior's paintings are untypically large. He painted his epic pieces on wood covered with rice paper in the ancient Japanese style. His early work is unusual because he batiked the frames of his paintings, thus making the frame a part of the artwork.

In need of storage Dior shipped a number of his original 1970's paintings from Florida to Lyons Art Supply in Long Beach, CA. Sumi stored them for Dior and they have remained with Sumi since then.

Dior is often confused with his cousin, Alberto Varga, the famous Playboy Pin Up Artist from Columbia. The two were gifted artists. However, their subjects and techniques are quite different. Both are deceased now, Dior dying in 2009 from unknown causes and Albert in 1982.

Sumi Fujimoto

The definition of a saint is a person who does common things uncommonly well. this describes Sumi Fujimoto exactly. Born in Compton, California1926 of Japanese parents. His father graduated from medical school in Moscow. Medicine was not his fate in the United States. Growing strawberries was. Pearl Harbor changed their lives forever. In 1942, at the age of 15 his family was relocated to Japanese interment camps.

Sumi went to Gila Rivera in Arizona. His father to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sumi's high school education was received in Gila River. He was such a good student, he was recommended to attend the Army Medical Corps School at Fort San Houston Medical Training School. After Houston he could go either to Cleveland, Ohio or Los Angeles, California to join relatives. He opted to go to Los Angeles. His reasoning: both locations were equal distance from Houston. He chose Los Angeles to be with his two brothers that were farming strawberries in South Gate. He attended UCLA during the week and worked on the strawberry farm on weekends.

In 1956, Sumi met his wife Kiyo. They bought a home in Downey, California and they still reside there. In 1990, they founded Lyons Art Supply in Long Beach. It was there he met Dior Vargas. They developed a life long relationship.

 Sumi never received his High School Diploma from Gila River. In 2005, he attended classes in Downey and received his diploma. He finishes what he starts.

He's a very private man. Small in stature but big in life. My interview with him concerning Dior Vargas answered a riddle that had been intriguing me. Why would an internationally known artist gift 50 plus pieces of his artwork to Sumi? The answer is now clear. Dior trusted and respected him. An unusual man that has survived with dignity, unusual life altering episodes. Now at 89 he wants to share this art with the world.

The Restorer

Roy Hassett is a well known artist in the Long Beach area. He has created more than 900 ink and oil paintings. Most of them in ink. He met Sumi at Lyons Art Supply. Sumi has framed much of Roy's artwork.

Batik painting is ink on rice paper. Dior Vargas' artwork although in surprisingly good condition needed some reinking. Who better to do it than the master of ink, Roy Hassett.

The Photographer

Justin Galliger, long time employee of Lyons Art Supply. A well known Long Beach Photographer. It was Justin's expertise that brought the Vargas' paintings back to life. The depth of his experience and professionalism became apparent during the shoot.

Talented and much admired for his work, Justin played an integral part in bringing Dior Vargas' paintings alive.