For almost two decades, Spanish artist Domingo Zapata has made New York City his home. 

With his love for painting combined with the rich cultural history of Spain and the vibrancy of the cosmopolitan jungle, he has creatively merged modernity with the past.

Zapata is adding to the fabric of American art with a poignant, commemorative World Trade Center American Flag Installation, following his successful "A Bullfighter in New York" exhibition, which took place from Nov. 6 - Dec. 24 at the C24 Gallery in Chelsea.

"For me, the south of Spain plays a great influence in my colors. I think the south of Spain is a very rich region culturally and combined with Mallorca, a place where there is a lot of history with painters," he told Latin Post in an exclusive interview. "I like to go back in time and study the masters and their creative process. I respect my heritage and culture and I mix it up with my other life here as an American. I have been in New York for 15 years, so it's a good combination."

Born in Palma de Mallorca, Spain to parents who are from a little town outside of Granada, Zapata grew up as a "huge fan" of the great Diego Rivera; his "Neo-Expressionist" paintings are made with oil and acrylic, often incorporating mixed-media, collage and graffiti as well as sculpture.

Commemorative American Flag Installation for World Trade Center

Currently, Zapata is in the process of creating an intricate yet powerful "25-by-10-foot piece" collage of a flag made out of materials from all 50 states as a commemorative mural for the lobby of Freedom Tower in Manhattan. The poignant piece will remain on permanent display.

"I am not done with it yet, I am still working on it. It's a complicated project because I am doing a collage and it's organic because I am using material from all the 50 states, [like] wood from San Francisco...I am still putting it together and it's like a maze, combining all of these different materials to represent every state in the United States," he explained. "I am making the stars in stainless steel and it's very well polished, so when you look at this installation you see yourself reflected in the stars, so you are also part of the installation."

Where was Zapata on 9/11?

"I was on a holiday trip in Spain at that time, so I wasn't in New York. I lived not far from there, in Tribeca. Fortunately, I happened to not be in the city," he said. "When I came back, it was very sad. For everyone who was in New York, it was a life-changing experience."

"For me, it's a huge responsibility, of course; it represents a tribute to the past and also a gate to the future to the hope and the union that was created among Americans," he added. "Even if we're not all from here, we're all New Yorkers...I wanted to put all that together in this piece. It's a huge honor."

"A Bullfighter in New York" Exhibition

On Nov. 6 - Dec. 24, Zapata held his latest exhibition, "A Bullfighter in New York" (Un Torero en Nueva York) at the C24 Gallery in Chelsea.

"The show was a big success. For me, it was a really fun experience because it was my first show in a gallery in Chelsea; it was a big deal. I wanted to imagine what a bullfighter would do if he came to New York and had to do what New Yorkers do every day, like take the subway or go out to brunch. I wanted to make it funny and bring that part of my heritage here. It was like I was the bullfighter of New York...It was a little bit funny/serious."

Zapata used actual bullfighter jackets made by a reknown Spanish bullfighter jacket tailor named Gusto Alcaba.

"The bullfighter jackets used in the fights have so much energy. It's almost like between glory and death - it's just the jacket, that's the protection they have.  The closer they get to the bull, the closer they are going to get to glory but at the same time, the more risk and danger there might be, no?"

"With a lot of respect to those jackets, I made them colorful and powerful and then put them on stands so that they would become sculptures. The turnout was amazing, the result was great, and I was very happy. I need to figure out if I can get more of those jackets because people love them."

Considering this writer was fortunate to have studied in Sevilla, Spain, and is also a fan of the Flamenco dress, this writer suggested that Zapata name his next Spain-inspired exhibition, "A Sevillana in New York."

"Maybe that will be part two! La sufrida mujer de torero (the suffering woman behind the bullfighter) comes to New York!" he said.

Gladiator Sculpture at the Newly Renovated Colosseum in Rome

One of Zapata's next commissions includes a panel for the newly restored Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

"It's another very long-term project, they are doing a renovation of the Colosseum and I have been asked to do a gladiator, but it's a very slow process because they are taking years to do it," he explained.  "I was in Rome last summer to check out the space. I intend to do something really cool. I am going to be working with limestone and then paint over it, so that's the idea. I am just waiting to get confirmation to get started."

Contemporary Muses

Like a brushstroke, Zapata is as smooth and colorful as his art work.  Often known for painting beautiful, contemporary muses like Colombian beauty Sofia Vergara, Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan, Zapata's work may be often overshadowed by his famous fans and art collectors, but he's open to criticism from the art world -- as long as it's not said directly to his face, he laughed.

He also used "mixed mediums" to create another muse -- a contemporary version of Mona Lisa.

It's fair to say that amidst all of the beauties that he's painted, Zapata has had a most intense love affair with Mona Lisa.  But all good things must come to an end, right?

"I think it's about time we break up," he joked about his "love affair" with Mona Lisa. "I have been painting too many 'Mona Lisas!'"

In September, Zapata was honored with the Vanidades Icons of Style Award for the Arts, which also included the iconic Rita Moreno, Thalia and Narcisco Rodriguez, among others.

"That was an amazing night," he said.

Zapata maintains studios in his Gramercy Park townhouse in New York City, the Design District in Miami, and Hollywood.  Collectors of his artwork include Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio, among many others.

"In my experience, my inspiration comes from every day, from what I love, what I see. There isn't one particular thing or situation," he said. "It's more like I go through life and I come from a very curious place. I try to make a body of work of what I feel or what I see going on in my lifetime, basically that's my inspirational process, but I don't like to be restricted. I want to be open to anything that speaks to my heart and I express that on canvas."