Eric J. Garcia, a visual artist well known to the School of the Art Institute community (of which he is a recent alumnus) for his political comics recently took his work his work on the road to Chiapias, Mexico to learn and to be inspired.
Garcia, whose work ranges from paintings, to prints, to political cartoons and even sculptural objects and installation pieces has won numerous awards for his artwork. His success has allowed him the opportunity to work with a variety of artists and cultural institutions. One consistent theme running through his work is the Chicano experience. “When I say Chicano,” Garcia is careful to clarify, “I mean the mezcla [mix] of Spanish and indigenous cultures but with the added complication of being born in the U.S. My art deals with these historical, cultural, and political complexities in a very critical way.”
Garcia’s work has been showcased at Chicago’s National Museum of Mexican Art located in the city’s predominately Mexican-American Pilsen neighborhood. Last summer Garcia worked with the museum on the popular Declaration of Immigration exhibition. The show dealt with the often heated topic of immigration in the United States. Due to the success of his work in the exhibition Garcia was then invited to interview for an artist exchange program in Chiapas, Mexico. The program, Millas y Kilometros, accepted Garcia as well as Chicago artists Georgina Valverde and Caleb Durate (a fellow MFA student from SAIC).
According to Garcia, the program allows Mexican and Mexican American artists to travel between the U.S. and Mexico in order to generate ideas and ultimately create work based on their experiences. Last October Garcia visited Chiapas for his two week artistic experience and in March artists from Chiapas came to Chicago for two weeks.
Regarding the experience Garcia said it was extremely positive and cleared any preconceptions he had about the area. “The city of Tuxtla is a modern city like any other, ” he said. “[There are] lots of artists working in the latest ideas of contemporary art. San Cristobol is a beautiful old Colonial town that has become a magnet for tourists, spiritualist, hippies, and different social movements. We got to visit the famous ruins of Palenque which were very impressive and other little towns along the way. The whole trip was great.”
Because of his work with the museum and the program, Garcia was granted artistic space to work on his projects in the Yollocalli Youth Arts Center in Pilsen. Currently, he is working on finishing his art piece for the Chiapas project. “The piece I am working on is an altar,” he explained. The piece, a three tier altar that is 6 feet wide and 9 feet tall, is being sculpted out of foam insulation and will then be painted. Garcia said that the final product will be a “a mezcla of the different aspects of Chicanos: indigenous hieroglyphs, Spanish baroque and U.S. pop art.”
Overall, Garcia says he is driven by sharing his work and his experiences: “I want to share my art with as many people as I can. I consider my art a tool to learn from and also a weapon that confronts injustice. I want my art not only to be appreciated for its craftsmanship and contemporary ideas of art, but also for the political messages that are embedded within it.”