Arte Para la Gente celebrates the lifelong work of Echo Park artist Margaret Garcia

American Dream, by Margaret Garcia, oil wood canvas, 2019.

Echo Park — A retrospective exhibition featuring the work of Chicana artist and Echo Park resident Margaret Garcia will open next month at the Museum of Ventura County.

Arte Para la Gente: The Collected Works of Margaret Garcia will start a six-month run on November 11, featuring 70 pieces of art, including oil paintings, pastels, a fused glass piece and a 3-D sculptural piece done jointly by Garcia and artist/blacksmith Heather McClarty.

The exhibition is the first solo museum show for Garcia, who calls herself one of the “lucky ones” being able to live so long to see a cohesive display of her work through the decades.

“Few artists get to see their work on a museum wall,” says Garcia, 70. “It’s really nice to be able to present a body of work that has continuity, that pulls some of the best pieces together from the past.”

Margaret Garcia

“It’s really nice to be able to present a body of work that has continuity that pulls some of the best pieces together from the past,” says artist Margaret Garcia about an upcoming retrospective showcasing her work through the decades.

Garcia’s Highland Park studio overflows with canvases of all sizes that depict evocative portraits, vignettes of firefighters in dramatic blazes, quiet neighborhood scenes and still life studies; many are infused with Garcia’s intense color style.

Pandemic isolation pays off

Planning for the exhibition started about 18 months before the 2020 lock-down, which provided her an unexpected benefit. She had wanted a comprehensive catalogue of her work and the isolation of the  last year gave her that opportunity to write unapologetically about her work.

“It’s me in my own words,” she says. “I know a lot of artists who say, ‘Well, my work is on the wall and it speaks for itself.’ But I have the ability to articulate what I want to say. These are my words at 70-years-old about how I see my art.”

Raised in Boyle Heights, Garcia started at age 10 painting portraits of family members and her neighbors. Growing up she was exposed to many different communities in her immediate neighborhood. “It was Japanese, African American, Russian, Jewish; not just Latinos,” she says. This multicultural immersion formed her inclusive artistic attention on humanity’s common ground connections.

Eastside roots

Margaret Garcia Artwork Figueroa Street

Highland Park at Night, Figueroa Street, oil wood canvas. 2018

Over the years, Garcia, who persued graduate studies at USC, has done restoration work, curated local Day of the Dead exhibits, taught art to the incarcerated, and honed her creativity as painter, muralist and glass artist. She created the mural The Tree of Califas for the subway stop at Universal City, and her artwork can be found in permanent collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Laguna Art Museum among others.

Garcia still ventures deeper into her art; today she continues to create and learns from tutoring others.

More museum recognition 

On the day after her Ventura exhibition closes in May of next year, Cheech Marin’s Chicano art and culture center in Riverside will open and feature the work of preeminent artists like Patssi Valdez, Carlos Almaraz, Frank Romero – and Garcia.

Garcia reveals she just had cataract surgery which has given her “new eyes” and an added depth of appreciation when looking through her retrospective work.

“It’s really nice to be where I am right now,” she says. “I am at a place of gratitude. I don’t feel old. I feel young at heart and capable. I’m not bedridden or sick. I’m healthy and strong. I have more time in me and the ability to be productive. Yes, I have more things I want to say!”

Margaret Garcia Artwork

Through Her Mother’s Eyes, oil wood panel done is 2008 by Margaret Garcia will be on display at an upcoming exhibition featuring the work of the Echo Park artist

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Arte Para la Gente celebrates the lifelong work of Echo Park artist Margaret Garcia