Supporter Artist Salute: The Eloquent Aesthetic of Michael Garcia
Portrait of visual artist Terrance Reimer by Bojh Parker

Portrait of Terrance Reimer by Bojh Parker

The popular Madera artist on his recent return to Japan, life’s ephemerality and the importance of taking opportunity when it comes.

Ask a Lund Scholar about life since study abroad and you’ll hear variations on a theme: the influence of international travel never ends. It’s an idea shared by many who make the Edward O. Lund scholarship possible.

One is artist and Madera native Michael Garcia, a fixture in the Fresno art scene who has donated work to the Foundation’s annual Scotch, Brew & Art Affair auction since 2016.

 

Combining rough-hewn and lustrous materials such as wood and oxidized metal, his minimalistic style plays with geometric forms, typography and pop art.

He starts by enrobing wood panels or pieces in thick coats of enamel, wax or liquid copper or iron. He then rubs, scrapes, burns and burnishes sections away until the piece is aesthetically and materially transformed.

He says many influences shaped this style, but nothing compares to the decade he spent in Japan as a young artist.

“It really does something, to get out of town and check out what’s on the other side of that hill,” he says, comparing the experience to kindling an inner fire, or falling in love.

“Then, you come back and tell the story.”

Photo of Mudbog art by Terrance Reimer

For his 2001 “Mudbog” show, Reimer teased definitions of fine art by mounting photos of subjects, such as this engine detail, onto used auto parts, sometimes with duct tape.

Garcia graduated from Cal Arts in 1979, then spent six years in Alaska. In 1986, he moved to Toyota City, Japan, to teach English. He took up Shodo, traditional calligraphy that combines Zen practice and high art.

Over the next 10 years, he practiced Japanese art techniques, met people and showed work, developing a style that combined his new vision with colors and textures of the San Juaquin Valley.

He returned home in 1996 but a bit of Japan came with him, and has influenced him ever since, he says.

Last October, he went back for a “rendezvous” with friends, many he hadn’t seen in 35 years.

“It was the best thing I’ve done for myself in decades,” he says.

The trip was inspired in part by events that had him re-thinking priorities, including caring for his ailing 93-year-old mother and 99-year-old aunt for most of 2023, then losing them both. This loss came on top of learning of his own serious heart condition.

As devastating as this was, it led to a prolific creative burst.

“After that report, ‘The heart is no good and good luck, Mr. Garcia’, I just said, ‘Bullsh•t!’” he says. “I’m Mighty Mouse. I’m just going to continue on, keep doing what’s necessary. Put my time into my art even more.”

In November, he shared new work at a Fresno Downtown Artist’s Gallery show called “Memento Mori” or “remember, you must die”, a classic motif about the inevitability of death.

“I didn’t want it overwhelmed with gloom,” he says. He made pieces memorializing his mother and aunt lighter and “more joyous.” Others, such as a piece incorporating a faded image of the Mighty Mouse cartoon character, were deliberately comical.

“It was more about, ‘Respect and honor what you have, and get to it.’”

“Coffee Inside 10¢”, Rio Puerco, New Mexico, 1995

Garcia says that he hopes study abroad inspires Lund Scholars to see and seize opportunity, too. When they return from London, they’re “all bright-eyed and jazzed… can’t stop talking about it,” he notes.

“Well, don’t. Put it into the work. Don’t stop now.”

It’s a great way to honor the unique mix of artistic sensibility, ingenuity and energy that defined Ed Lund, he says. Ed hung most of Garcia’s shows, kindling a friendship.

“He was just this amazing person,” he says. “He was a combination of this very loving and caring guy, and very cerebral. I was honored to be a friend of his.”

He supports the Foundation to keep this spirit alive, he says, but also to help emerging artists experience a little of what he did in Japan.

“I’ll maybe never know but I’m so excited to be part of something that is going to make someone a little bit more than what they were going to be,” he says. “It’s doing wonderful things.”

“Momento Mori” by Michael Garcia, 2023

Supporter Artist Salute: The Eloquent Aesthetic of Michael Garcia

by | Jun 9, 2024 | Supporter Stories

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