“I appreciate the warmth of my students during this very isolating time.”
Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez is a painter and a muralist living in Richmond whose creative practice focuses on social justice issues. She is Puerto Rican and often paints traditional subjects seen from the lens of her Latina perspective.
Rebeca chatted with Ilene Conde, Studio Education Manager at RAC, on January 28, 2021.
Can you please start by telling us about your current mixed media series?
For a long time I have been pondering how to convey the tremendous loss in the Latino community covid has caused. I first started thinking about this while working on a mural about the essential workers of the Pullman neighborhood, located at Pulman Portal Park, on the corner of Carlson Boulevard and Ohio Avenue. We had enough funding to make it large enough that people riding by on Bart could see it. The mural shows neighbors leaving for work while it’s still dark. There is a progression from dark to light, with people in uniforms, people with children and Richmond businesses and neighborhood homes in the background. The topic came out of meetings with the Richmond youth, who also painted most of the mural. They really wanted to show reality – so not everyone in the mural is wearing a mask. Some of the neighbors posed.
As the mural was being finished people in the neighborhood stopped to ask questions. They liked how the mural showed resolute people. People who looked strong, not sad. Yet it showed the reality of who is bearing the brunt of this battle against COVID. Towards the end of the mural, in late September 2020, one woman said it was hard for her to look at because it reminded her of all the lives lost.
How did it feel to hear this about your work?
It stayed with me. I started thinking how do you help people reflect on what has been lost. That was a challenge that I posed to myself. And also a way for me to process my own feelings about the pandemic.
Every winter I do printmaking. This winter I’ve been working with a very large gel plate because I don’t have a proper press. The prints from this plate will be used for a series on the subject of the loss of Latinx lives. I want to paint portraits of Latinos who have been lost to COVID over the prints. Certain elements of the prints are independent of each other, and will be incorporated into the portraits as a way for the series to have a common thread.
I’m still working it out. But I think that’s what it’s going to be.
What has it been like for you as an artist during COVID?
I have a studio in north Richmond and I have converted a part of it it into a classroom. I have also spent more time than usual launching a new website, developing a larger social media presence and selling art online.
What has your experience been like teaching online?
Very positive! I am doing more demos and have made changes to my curriculum to make sure my students get quality feedback. My students can access all of my class materials online and they say this helps.
I appreciate the warmth of my students during this very isolating time. I have noticed that my students are now much more interested in each others’ work. I have also appreciated getting invited to see and give suggestions on their home painting setups. I have also given them “tours” of my studio!
What are you teaching this quarter?
Normally I teach The Fundamental Drawing class, parts I and II. That one is very popular. In March, I will most likely teach a beginning painting class as well. I would check the RAC catalog online to see the starting dates of these two classes.
Thank you Rebeca!
Visit Rebeca’s website to see her work: www.rebecasart.com
Follow her on Instagram for updates: www.instagram.com/rebecathepainter
Or Facebook: www.facebook.com/rebecagarciagonzalez
Top image: Rebecca (left) works on the 23rd Street Mural Honoring Black Lives Matter at Richmond Art Center in 2020.