On September 18, 2015, Hannah Vandeventer (Caddo Nation of Oklahoma), sat down to talk with Gennaro Garcia, who, along with his father Luciano, are the signature artists for this year’s Mercado de Las Artes.
Interview edited by Debra Krol (Xolon Salinan Tribe)
Heard Museum: There seems to be this movement towards creating multi-cultural unity in the Phoenix art world. You represent an icon of cultural unification with your dual nationality as well as with your art/cooking…what do you feel is the key factor in being successful at creating community collectiveness?
Gennaro Garcia: To be open would be the first thing, be open to any other style or any other ethnicity. In Arizona we have a really bad reputation, but in the art world, you don’t see it. I can collaborate with Lalo Cota and people won’t be upset if I collaborate the next day with another artist from Scottsdale or Los Angeles. We [artists] love to collaborate; we love to learn from each other.
HM: So why Phoenix?
GG: Well, I came here looking for a girl at the time who is now my wife…so that explains most of it. I have many opportunities in California with my art and right now, I’m even doing more art in California than I am here. I’m doing restaurants and the plates with the hands, the Hecho a Mano collection. I could move back to Mexico right now and it would be so amazing. But Phoenix is Phoenix; Phoenix is my soul. I think Phoenix in the middle of everything…it’s so easy for me to drive or fly and I just love it here.
HM: Do you think Phoenix has had an influence on your work?
GG: Oh yes, big time! I always call myself a Mexican artist, but when I’m out of Phoenix I am an artist from Phoenix, Arizona, a Mexican artist from Phoenix.
HM: Do you have a favorite medium?
GG: I think its cliché to say my favorite is the one I haven’t done yet. I like all the mediums, I love murals, I love oils. But, if you ask me for one, I think it would be oils.
HM: Speaking of murals….the Calle 16 mural project…how did you get involved in that and why do you think it was so successful?
GG: I think it started because of SB1070, the anti-immigration law. [A group of us artists] got together with chef Silvanna Salcido and she had an idea for 16th Street, or Calle 16. The idea was to do just one mural but it became crazy. A lot of people got involved and they wanted to be a part of the mural. I say the one that I did but to tell you the truth it was more than 120 people that helped in that mural. We brought the kids who are on the streets to work with an artist who has art in the galleries and museums, and when they get involved with these murals, that mural is going to be in their neighborhood. Nobody is going to tag it, nobody is going to touch it because it’s part of the community.
HM: So what do you tell young artists that are trying to find their path into this competitive world of the arts?
GG: Just paint; just paint every day. Paint, and don’t give up. Don’t wait for the galleries to come look for you, or the collectors. You have to go and look for them. Nobody’s going to represent you better than yourself in art or anything in life.
HM: Describe the moment you decided that you were going to dedicate your life being an artist?
I think I see it in different times in my life. My parents gave us freedom to create whatever we wanted and they helped us to do that. For example, I saw that GI Joe truck that every kid had at the time, and my dad would be like “Let’s build one.”
HM: So do you try to do the same thing with [your daughter] Frida?
GG: Oh yeah. But I buy her everything that she wants. I’m not going to be building Barbies or anything like that, but Frida paints everyday with me or draws or something every day. Creativity is a key.
HM: When you visit a museum what do you look for? What attracts you?
GG: I think it would be color. I think it would be something different, and because I like so many different styles and techniques, I look for something unique.
HM: So why Frida…where does Frida come into your inspiration?
GG: I love Diego Rivera as a muralist, and I love everything about Frida. I had the opportunity to see one of her paintings when I was young. I like Frida because I grew up with the influence of my mother and sister, also because her passion, her pain and her dedication to create always mesmerized me.