I recently attended a party at Project One Gallery in San Francisco where René Garcia Jr.’s art is displayed. I found myself much more captured by his work than the party itself. His larger-than-life images, mostly made out of glitter, are immensely colorful and imaginative. Several of his works are retrospective images from the media: a Bond girl, a storm trooper, Marylin Monroe, Johnny Cash. But they are also nostalgic: family days at the beach, the park, a day at the races. His talents expand further from his popular glitter paintings, but to photography as well. See more of him here: www.renegarciajr.com. Or if you’re a San Francisco local, go see his new solo show, “Badass” at Project One in SF; runs through Feb 2nd.
Ashley Arabian: San Francisco is…
RENÉ GARCIA JR.: Mine. All of it. Mine.
AA: …therefore I am ______________.
RENÉ: Willing to share.
AA: Describe the place you are from…
RENÉ: I grew up in one of those typical Southern California housing tracts like the kind Steven Spielberg describes in “E.T.” and “Poltergeist.” Ours was the last development on the outskirts of town, past several miles of orange groves that no longer exist. Everyone in my neighborhood rode horses or dirt bikes, and you could leave suburbia by just crossing the street and riding into the desert. My dad raised birds until he died, and he built several walk in aviaries in our backyard that he populated with thousands of different birds. The local elementary school would take field trips to our house. There was the occasional tragedy there too, but I wont go into that.
AA: Inspirational sources?
RENÉ: I find inspiration everywhere. A lot of my works are fantasies built around positive memories, so I love looking at people’s old photographs, especially of trips to the beach, camping, Christmas morning, etc. I’m a huge art nerd and am always looking to see what other people are up to. I love working with kids and always find them inspiring. I also love a good story. Pour me a drink and tell me your tale and I might just turn it into art.
AA: Best place to view art?
RENÉ: To view my art? Anywhere you can see it in person. I have a solo show up right now at Project One in San Francisco.
Best place to view art in general? I’d have to say Miami during Basel week. Everything is there.
AA: Favorite gallery?
RENÉ: I very much love Project One in San Francisco, and not just because they’ve always supported me and let me do whatever I want. They’re really building a special community there that I am grateful to be a part of.
AA: Who are your heroes?
RENÉ: Jim Henson, Stanley Kubrick, and then its a tie between my wife and my mom because they work really hard to support whatever cockamamie plans I come up with. I love my kids’ teachers.
AA: Who are your villains?
RENÉ: Religious extremists and ultra-conservatives.
AA: Favorite American icon?
RENÉ: Evel Knievel
AA: Favorite cartoon character?
RENÉ: Devlin. He’s a little known Evel Knievel knockoff daredevil character that Hanna Barbera produced in the early 70’s. If there’s one thing I like more than Even Knievel, its a bad knock off Evel Knievel.
AA: Chocolate or vanilla?
RENÉ: Chocolate & vanilla swirled, then dipped in chocolate.
AA: Most memorable place you have traveled to?
RENÉ: I once spent 10 days in the Amazon by myself fishing Piranha and swimming with pink dolphins.
AA: Your best childhood memory?
RENÉ: I always loved the 1am drive home after long day at Disneyland. My sisters and I would make a bed in the back of our station wagon out of blankets, coats and a million stuffed animals, and then I’d fall asleep looking for stars and watching passing lights while my little brain tried to process all the amazing things I’d seen and done that day.
AA: Do you derive any inspiration from your childhood in your pieces?
RENÉ: Without a doubt, I’m a shameless nostalgic. I deliberately use craft materials like Elmer’s glue and glitter, because we all had some experience with them as children. I want people to know how I do things and hopefully think they can do it too. I often incorporate familiar themes and iconography from my generation as a way to date my work and connect with my people.
AA: Favorite blogs/websites?
RENÉ: I love The Bold Italic – www.thebolditalic.com
AA: Any words of wisdom?
RENÉ: My kids’ school teaches them that an artist isn’t something you have to grow up to be, it’s something you already are. I wish someone had instilled that knowledge in me at an earlier age. I grew up and tried to be many other things, but always wanted to be an artist. When I eventually decided that I needed to be an artist, it took a long time for me to figure out what that meant. What I failed to realize was that I was an artist all along, I just needed to make some work. I could have flipped that switch a lot earlier.
AA: And last but not least, are your dreams made of glitter?
RENÉ: My dreams are made of fireworks, wild animals and lazers, but those things are much harder to tie into my work.