San Jose Museum of Art

photo: John Hazeltine

San Jose, CA



Carmen Lomas Garza: A Retrospective


On January 21, 2001, Carmen Lomas Garza: A Retrospective will premiere at the San Jose Museum of Art prior to embarking on a two-year national tour. The first retrospective of this San Francisco-based artist will feature work from the mid-1970s to the present. populated with people and highlighting events from her childhood in a rural South Texas barrio --- birthday festivities, faith healings, community dances, and making banderitas (special occasion tissue paper cut-cuts) --- Garza's nostalgic works honor universal commonalities of family and community while remaining dedicated to her Mexican-American heritage. In addition to more than 30 paintings, the exhibition will include a large-scale Day of the Dead altar installation --- the centerpiece of the retrospective ---, 12 papel picados (paper cutouts), and an artist book. Carmen Lomas Garza: A Retrospective will run through April 15, 2001.

Awakened to the Chicano movement in 1965 when a group of the United Farm Workers, an agricultural labor union, marched through her hometown of Kingsville, CA, Garza is committed to the realization of the movement's goals through positive images of their culture. Coming from a position of affirmation rather than resistance, Garza chose to focus her efforts on enhancing a sense of pride in the Mexican-American community by emphasizing the importance of everyday life. In a 1991 interview with The Kansas City Star, she explained, "1 really wanted to be able to communicate. I felt that I could not afford to lose my Mexican-American audience, because at that time there were a lot of Chicano artists that were doing very strong politically inspired artwork, and sometimes the same Mexican-American population felt it too painful to see that artwork. Nobody else was doing anything that dealt with just the ordinary everyday life, and that's what I wanted to concentrate on.." (left: Hammerhead Shark on Padre Island, 1987, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches)

Often compared to the work of Anna Robertson (Grandma) Moses and Frida Kahlo, Garza's oil, gouache, and acrylic paintings are intentionally rendered in a naive, folk-art style to convey her message. Her intricately detailed, tiny figures have a magical, storybook quality evoking a favorite childhood picture book. In fact, Garza has published four bilingual children's books. Clothing and backgrounds are filled with bright colors and joyous patterns --- polka dots, flowers, leaves, and geometric shapes. Many of the paintings incorporate large groups of figures (Garza's family and neighbors) engaged in family and community activities. For example, in "Cakewalk," neighbors hobnob over a long table filled with lovingly detailed cakes, talk in small groups, or walk around the chalked circle. This game, part of a community event to raise money to send Mexican-Americans to university, exemplifies the supportive spirit of this close-knit community. (left: Cakewalk, 1987, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 inches)

Garza's paper cutouts are intricate compositions of positive vs. negative space. Garza has been creating papel picado for more than 30 years, first learning the craft from her grandmother, who used them to design embroidery patterns. Over the years, Garza has refined and expanded the art beyond simple childhood patterns created with scissors to dramatic and complex scenes magically sliced from a single sheet of paper. The culmination of Garza's papel picado work is realized in a 5-x-8 foot metal cutout titled "'Ofrenda para Antonio Lomas" (1995-96), which for this exhibition is incorporated into a vibrant ofrenda, a Mexican ritual home altar that welcomes visiting souls. Traditionally installed on November 2, the Day of the Dead, the artist allowed its inclusion because it is a major component of her oeuvre. The centerpiece of the exhibition, this poignant image of her grandfather watering his victory garden beautifully illustrates Garza's primary focus --- the simple acts of life that nourish the spirit. (left: Making Paper Cut-outs, 1998, black paper, 22 x 30 inches; right: Flowery Words / Stories, Poems History and Wisdom, 1993, white paper, 36 x 26 inches)

A long-time resident of San Francisco, Garza was born in Kingsville, Texas in 1948. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Texas Arts and Industry University in Kingsville, Texas in 1972; a Master of Education from Juarez-Lincoln/Antioch Graduate School in Austin, Texas in 1973; and a Master of Art from San Francisco State University in 1981. Her work has been exhibited widely in such venues as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., the Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris in New York, and the Honolulu Academy of Art in Hawaii. (left: Barbacoa para Cumpleañerios, 1993, Alkyds on canvas, 36 x 48 inches)

Carmen Lomas Garza: A Retrospective is curated by Patricia Hickson, SJMA associate curator. After its premiere at the San Jose Museum of Art, the exhibition will embark on a two-year national tour to the following institutions: San Antonio Museum of Art in Texas; South Texas Institute for the Arts in Corpus Christi; Ellen Noel Art Museum of the Permian Basin in Odessa, Texas; National Hispanic Cultural Center of New Mexico in Albuquerque; and the Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland, Florida. Carmen Lomas Garza: A Retrospective is generously sponsored by AT&T.

Read more about San Jose Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine.

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For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 5/23/11

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