LatinTRENDS featured Adriana M. Garcia, the winner of The Jose Cuervo Traditional Mural Project for our Artist Spotlight page and now we sit with her for an interview.
LT: When did you realize you were an artist?
AG: I’ve always felt like I was an artist. I mean when people would ask me when I was a little girl what I wanted to be when I grew up I’d always answer, “I want to be an artist.” I remember seeing my uncle Diamond paint and I thought it was amazing and whenever he finished a painting the whole family went over to go see—it was an event. I thought that is what I want to do.
It wasn’t until the first time I sold a painting for $2000 dollars to University of San Antonio Texas did I feel “okay maybe people like what I do and perhaps I’m good at this.”
But above all the moment I felt like I could call myself an artist or more importantly a muralist was when the organization San Anto Cultural Arts asked me to lead a 2000 sq ft mural on the facade of a mental health clinic on the west-side of San Antonio, Texas, in the neighborhood I grew up in a block away from my grandfathers old house.
In 2006 I got involved with the organization, San Anto Cultural Arts Center. Here was an organization dedicated to creating murals for the beautification and betterment of the West Side of San Antonio. I was asked to participate in a mural that was lead by Valerie Aranda, to paint my Uncle Diamond who was one of the founding members of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, who had recently past away. My grandfather had recently passed as well and I took the opportunity to honor their memory. Sitting on the scaffold 15ft from the ground baking in the sun painting the likeness of my ancestry I found a peace a love a calling.
San Anto Cultural Arts then asked me to be lead artist on a mural that was to be on the 2000sq ft facade of a mental health clinic in the west side on Zarzamora St. a block away from the house we’d visit my grandfather when he was alive. I quit my job and spent the next 8 months interviewing mental health professional’s clients, friends and family anybody willing and wanting to express and talk about their experiences with mental health. I drew compositions, took pictures, redrew compositions, had community meetings, met artist willing to volunteer time to paint, and encouraged youth to participate in the mural’s creation. I worked closely to widely talented artistas like the mural coordinator of San Anto at the time, Geraldo Garcia and Cardee Garcia. In the end “Brighter Days” was erected and I was reborn a muralist. Thank you San Anto Cultural Arts.
LT: Where did you learn to paint?
AG: From my heart it’s what beats and incites me to act to make real these floating images in my head.
I could say that I learned how to paint when I was part of a mural program in high school that was lead by Jackie Von Honts. She taught us to think big and to use the grid system to enlarge images. She taught us about the golden mean the “secret geometry” of great artist. She introduced me to the los tres grandes muralist of Mexico Diego Rivera, Siqueros, Orozco. But how to paint? No. Composition is what I learned from her. That and black is not a color.
I could also say that I learned to paint while in college. While an art student at Carnegie Mellon University we were exposed to so many wonderful museums and artist and resources—oh the resources. The students were posed with so many questions. Why are you painting? What is its purpose? Why not use other materials or nothing at all? But how to paint? No. Concept is what I learned at school. And they gave us the space to conceptualize.
I can’t remember anyone telling me to “mix this paint with that one” or to “apply it like that” or “hold your brush like this.” I learned to paint cause I kept playing with anything that would make color until I liked the result.
What taught me to paint was opportunity and will. Once there was an opportunity to show my work somewhere or to paint a wall or help someone paint then there was no choice in the matter. If I wanted to create it I’d had to find a way of making it look like I wanted it to. It was part will and part experimentation.
But now that I think about it was probably Bob Ross’s “happy trees” and Bill Cosby magic marker.
LT: What materials do you use when creating art?
AG: Whatever is around. I mostly use acrylic paint with a lot of medium. And I will plaster that on anything that has a surface. But it really depends on the project. I create sets for theater and help build floats so you tend to use what ever is at hand.
I’ve painted on clothes, on bodies, on books, on floors, on sides of buildings, on doors on windows as well as on trash. I love to paint I feel its my go to thing but I will always be willing to explore other mediums like wood or clay or bronze. I’d like more opportunity to create sculpture. I like working with other artist to see what we collectively come up with.
LT: Where do you find inspiration to create art?
AG: I find inspiration from so many places. From the emotions I’m feeling to the wonderment I experience when investigating the shedding skin of a locus and from the faces of all the people I know.
I draw inspiration from my ancestry and history of my city. My heritage is rooted in activism and art and theater. I remember block walking with my mom to gather signatures to pave the street we lived on. My parents would come home telling stories of injustice and how they tried to help weather it was giving medical aid or directing gente to services. I also loved hearing the stories of “los carperos” from my grandfather, “el gran comico, el bato suave, un applauso para DON FITO de La Carpa Hermanos Garcia!” I sat in wonderment listening to how his whole family traveled along the border following the migrant workers erecting “la carpa” and performing acrobatics, skits, parodies, dance, and much more.
I draw inspiration from the streets of San Anto. There are these murals at the Cassiano courts in my neighborhood. They were created in the late 70’s and early 80’s and are amazing! The community came together to paint their history on the walls where they live to take pride from where we come from. I draw influences from the great Mexican muralist and of course from Frida Kahlo but also the muralist from California like Judy Baca.
But more importantly draw my inspiration from the thriving art and activist scene in San Antonio from the local artist in my community. I remember see artwork from Alex Rubio (a mentor), Agosto Cuellar, Terri Ibanez, Debra Vazquez, Agosto Cuellar, and Vincent Valdez. Theirs was an arte with a certain flavor and heart so sincere I haven’t seen anywhere else.
I also draw inspiration from Carl Sagan, and PBS and NOVA, Stephen Hawkins, from Copernicus, and teachings from Krishna consciousness.
But most of all I draw inspiration from the people I meet and their stories mainly from the incredibly strong fierce women whom I call friends and family. It amazes me how many stories we tell each other in secret ones that aren’t meant to be heard but instead felt. It is that which I try to honor and paint, that journey inward that leads outward to liberation.