Home Again:  Margaret Garcia’s Return

Home Again at the USC County Medical Center resonates very close to Garcia’s heart, for it is the place where her mother gave birth to Garcia and the hospital where her inspirational grandmother worked as a nurse for 30 years. In her earliest memories at the age of nine, Garcia painted her grandmother whom she called her “Nana.” It was at this moment that Garcia acquired the interest to capture people’s facial expressions. This exhibition brings Margaret Garcia’s most distinctive paintings, recent landscapes and her celebrated Mestizaje series. Expressive and dynamic, Garcia’s art accentuates her Chicana/Latina millennial heritage by extending traditional Latin American artisanal rich and vibrant colors into her expressive portraits; of friends, family, of common people and special places. Born in East Los Angeles, Garcia has exhibited across the country and has participated in international exhibitions for the past 35 years.  Undoubtedly, she is one of the most inspiring and socially committed women artist of our times.

Garcia’s recent water and fire landscape series stand on the threshold between abstract and figurative painting, capturing the intensity of fire and the spiraling exclamations of water. These paintings are emotionally engaged with thick strokes of paint, luminous and textured, dense, coarse and suave. She steals away the fire from Prometheus with her pulsing paint brush and transfers it onto canvas, reflecting back like a mirror. Her fires expose the abstract of a raging fire without losing sight of the dancing blaze. Water and fire, fire and water both instinctively nourish and inspire Garcia to draw from regenerating cosmic elements.

After The Nap, 25 3/4" x 38", Oil on canvas, 2013

Her extraordinary sensitivity unveils the ordinary in extraordinary ways. She exudes a confidence in her ability to express a sensibility without any hesitation. Her portraits reign with striking colors and excel with quick strokes of paint. Garcia poetically captures expressions like haikus; emphasizing intensity, simplicity and directness. Her Mestizaje portraits acknowledge the richness of an intercultural ethnicity by celebrating diversity in ways that renders a visual language that inspires confidence and pride.

After the Nap, is a rendition of an exceptional bond between a mother and a child. It is a horizontal image of her daughter and granddaughter, reclined in a most tranquil, nurturing moment. Resting on a lime green pillow, one cannot help but feel an aura of comfort and love, a color that for Garcia contains a healing and spiritual quality. It has become a special hue that shares a deep emotional reference for nature, growth, and natural beauty. The baptismal-like clothing of the child is emphasized with white translucent caressing strokes that makes her glow like an angel. 

Garcia’s paintings are particular, yet universal. Her most universal painting expressed in a very particular style is Shock and Awe. It is one of her most dramatic works on canvas.  It is a most discomforting tale of war and destruction with so much truth that it is hard to believe such an apocalyptic obliteration could be painted in color. Shock and Awe mirrors a historical conflict between the U.S and Iraq and the resolution to engage with Iraq with an all out air bombing campaign. The incinerating bombing went on for days without any cease, at all cost and with no concern for regular civilians: children, women and elders. It is a painful painting of a collective punishment of a people with no direct link nor proven evidence of its role in the 9/11 attacks. Shock and Awe is an imperial firework show of force. It glued millions of Americans to the TV, while hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis stood beneath its shower of death.

Shock and Awe, 72" x 60", Oil on canvas, 2005

Thick, dense, and elongated strokes of paint diagonally scar the canvas. Jittery wide brushstrokes of paint thick in pinks, oranges, reds, and blues surround a lime green burning mosque are Garcia’s protesting shouts. Planes hover vulture-like above a city lighting fields of fire and devastation inconceivable to those west of the Atlantic Ocean. Burning oil wells caught in the midst of a fire scattered throughout the painting can be interpreted as subtle clues to the factual motive for going to war, the desire to control Iraq’s oil rich resource. It was a human made inferno based on fabricated lies.

Pink diagonal exiting flares of paint convey an act of aggression. She emphasizes the death of sensibility in where the global south is punished with violence and military interventions. The lime green illuminating mosque is Garcia’s main focal point, the elimination of existence for a non-western community. It is through color that we experience the world, the joys and cultural authenticity. Shock and Awe brings us closer as to how Garcia communicates a dramatic moment. She breaks with traditional black and white ways of expressing human tragedy with pale and dark colors. Her protest is manifested in color.

We cannot speak of Chicano art without acknowledging one of the most prolific contemporary artists of the Southwest today. Margaret Garcia a collaborator, an independent historian, a mentor, a mother, a friend, a wife.  A Chicana who “defines Chicano art by producing it” has continued to engage in the art world since she first took a paintbrush out for a walk on canvas. Her fountain of motivation is and continues to be her very own community. It is Garcia’s special approach to “validate my community by painting it.” Her lifelong dedication to the arts contributes to bringing a better understanding of who we are as a people.



Jimmy Centeno

Author and Curator | latoecuador@yahoo.com | May 10, 2016