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Man who lived in Yuma alley opens art show downtown
See more of Garcia's art at www.ArtByGennaro.com
Before Gennaro Garcia's exhibit opened last Friday at the Yuma Art Center, he took a drive just a few miles away to the alley where he used to sleep.
He wanted to remind himself where his American Dream started.
Garcia is a globe-trotting Phoenix-based painter, sculptor, photographer and designer currently being represented in 13 galleries in the United States and his native Mexico. He just booked another three galleries for the summer, is working on a collection of ceramics for a well-known Mexican ceramics company and is planning to open a gallery of his own later this year.
Everything is a blessing — “insanely” a blessing, he says.
But before all of these shows and projects, Garcia was a homeless immigrant camping out in an alleyway near 16th Street and 4th Avenue and selling small paintings at the Southgate Mall for $25 a pop.
While his beginnings here were humble, they were also wrapped in a warmth that Garcia is proud to revisit.
“I was homeless but so many people gave me their hand. So many people helped me without knowing me. There was not even one person that turned his back to me.”
Garcia came to Yuma 15 years ago from San Luis Rio Colorado, Son., and for two weeks lived in that midtown alley. He grew up in his family's eateries, so when he landed in the U.S., he found work in restaurants, starting in Yuma and eventually winding up in Phoenix.
That was where master artist Mia Pratt saw his work and offered him a job as a muralist with her Old Pratt Studios. He is now a full-time artist.
His exhibit at the Yuma Art Center combines old and new. Reaching back, he has on display one of those pieces from the mall. The painting, of a madonna statue in the niche of a wall, is on loan from a collector who bought it for $3,500.
Very much in the present is his painting of an angel soaring through the sky on a white horse, trailing clouds that the gallery allowed him to extend past the confines of his canvas and directly onto the wall. No longer static, the painting is a living installation.
Garcia is known for his iconic imagery but says style and medium are less important than just creating art.
While spending time in San Luis, Son., in the days leading up to his Yuma opening, he got the urge to liven up the border wall. So he bought some spray paint and after about two hours of work (and staying out of sight of police), he had a mural that shows how people are “hungering” to express themselves.
The image is of a little girl with a heart-shaped hole in her chest, the organ sad and rumpled on the ground. The painting was to show that people have no inspiration — or “heart” — for the arts and to decry cuts to school arts programs, both in Sonora and Arizona.
“I got a 3-year-old girl that I don't want to grow up that way.”
Right now, he's inspired by the letter “V” and includes it in his pieces like a signature. To him, its lines represent persistence and optimism.
“That's a letter V if you think about it. You're up and then you go down but you know that you're going up again.”
On that upswing is the gallery he intends to open in downtown Scottsdale by the end of the year. He's looking forward to using it as a place where other artists can break through.
“I've been so blessed in my career as an artist, but it's not fair not to do the same to somebody else.”
Garcia's exhibit at the Yuma Art Center runs through March 30.
Hillary Davis can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6857. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSHillaryDavis or on Twitter at @YSHillaryDavis.