I was born in East L.A. in 1949. When I was young, my parents moved us out of the barrio, to the eastern edge of L. A. County – Santa Fe Springs. After graduating from high school, I attended Cerritos Junior College, focusing on political science and philosophy with the intention of transferring to a four-year school and majoring in pre-law. My ambition was to go to law school, and, as a child of the 60’s (it was now 1968, and the country was full of cultural change and conflict), I envisioned a career as a lawyer, representing the forces for social justice and eventually entering the world of politics.
In 1969, however, I was drafted right out of school and spent the next two years in the United States Army. After thirteen months in combat as a radio operator in South Viet Nam, my dreams of a political life took a turn.
Having been born in a working poor neighborhood, riddled with gang violence, and later being raised in a blue-collar environment, I had very little exposure to art in any of its forms. Within my immediate family however, everyone possessed artistic and creative abilities. My father in particular painted in the garage every evening after coming home from his job in a foundry. This was the only example that I had of people (in particular men) making art. Even though his work was of the Sunday-painter variety – mainly seascapes, landscapes, and portraits – it was enough to give me a start in another direction.
Therefore when I came out of the military and went back to school, I changed my emphasis to fine art and took every class available in studio work and history. With the help of the G.I. Bill and a very inexpensive junior college system in California at the time, over the next few years I was able to accelerate my artistic education. Most of my classes were at Cerritos Junior College, augmented by various other classes at Cypress City College and Cabrillo Junior College.
I eventually transferred my credits to San Jose State University, attended there one year as an honor student, and finished up with a B.A. with honors at Sonoma State University with an emphasis in painting and drawing.
I then gained entry to the Pratt Institute in New York City as a graduate student in painting. During this era the California system of higher education was subsidized heavily by taxpayers, therefore tuition was very affordable, from the junior colleges on up to the big, world-class universities of California. With that reality and the help of the G.I. Bill, I had been able to work my way through to an undergraduate degree with no financial resources other than what I could provide for myself. Pratt was another story.
Since New York State did not have the same financial advantages California had for a student, since Pratt was a private, prestigious, & expensive school, and since New York City was one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, I financially lasted only a semester there. For the next six or seven years, I struggled to find a way to become a self-supporting artist, and my work showed this hardship in a lack of focus and direction.
During this time a trip through Iowa proved to be a pivotal moment in my artistic life. A series of pastel drawings I made of cornfields opened an artistic door for me, and I was on my way. A succession of competitions fueled my efforts, culminating in an important group show at the Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design.
To support myself during this period, after leaving Pratt and New York City, my partner and I fell into the craft business, selling our work at outdoor and indoor craft shows. Through this I learned about the outdoor art festivals. It was a matter of just a little bit of adjustment to the fine art work I had been doing for the art competitions to make them more salable to a larger audience. That was the start of making a living from my art work.
In the last twenty-seven years, I have participated in numerous art shows throughout the nation, doing as many as twenty-six and as few as five events a year. Over the span of this time, I have developed an audience and brought them along, enabling me to re-adjust my work and to re-align it more toward my own vision, increasingly paying more attention to my artistic roots rather than commercial concerns.
This has allowed me to continue to show in galleries as well. During a career that has spanned forty-three years, I have exhibited in museums, universities, galleries, international art shows, alternative spaces, outdoor art festivals, artists’ studio shows, and --when I was just starting out - a flea market.
I have received some recognition through reviews, magazine and newspaper articles, and television interviews. I have a following particularly in the American West, having exhibited in galleries in Santa Fe, Aspen, Vail, and Scottsdale. Now after four decades of exploration, my work is entering its mature stage, evolving from pastels to paint, my artistic vision is solidified and realized, and I am now approaching whatever the next step is with the work at hand.
Art, as life, is exploration, and I have no idea what is in store as I move forward.