Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Arte Para La Gente in Ventura

Collecting Arte, Catalogs, and Memories
Michael Sedano • Fotos ©michael v sedano
I watch Sunrise over the Pacific Ocean then enjoy a post-almuerzo walk through Ventura’s downtown promenade whose delights start with floating Monarch butterflies. I miss Sunset because I am partying with a crowd of travelers who, like me, are in town just for the Opening of Arte Para La Gente, a celebration of the Collected Works of Margaret Garcia at The Museum of Ventura County. 

Chief Curator Anna Bermudez pulls out all the stops to assemble this forty-year retrospective from collectors across the continent. The exhibition runs until May, a measure of those Collectors’ belief that great works like “my Garcia” deserve a place in a career-scope exhibition. And, as collectors of Chicanarte, they're happy to share her joy and growing prominence.

Putting finishing touches on a placard.

 The Museum itself offers a fabulous venue. Spacious and intimate, staffed by personable people who, the day before the Opening, interrupt important organizing tarea to help a visitor find his way into the heart of the building where Arte Para la Gente resides. 


Bermudez’ staff employs effective design, partitioning the space to display myriad smaller works as well as Garcia's magnificently proportioned large canvases. Purple walls accent neighboring walls of rich mocha. Color, along with ample but subdued illumination, perfectly complement Garcia’s kaleidoscopic palette for people places, fire, water, nature. Bermudez assembles an immense collection but it doesn’t feel crowded. Each painting pulls a viewer into its world, surroundings fail to distract until you pull away your eyes, only to be arrested by the next masterpiece.

When people, including art critics, ask "What makes something a work of art? What makes it Chicanarte?" Don't listen for answers; walk this gallery. You know it because you see it. What is 'it'? Get a plane ticket, buy a seat on the Coast Dayliner, get to these walls. There are no abstractions in the questions when you look at the thing on the wall.


As soon as I learned of this exhibition a couple months ago, I joined the Museum via the internet. I reasoned that an institution who shows this depth of commitment to my arte deserves my support. My budget had room for one each art museum membership: I quit LACMA over that rock and the Govan monument reaffirms my dudgeon. He couldn't find a local architect?


Join The Museum of Ventura County (link). Membership offers the most useful and demonstrable way for visitors to support a place that supports you, especially where admission is free through the end of the year. My membership garnered me a discount buying the exhibition catalog. Sabes que? Join the museum even if you live in Chicago where there's a big raza museo, or Riverside where The Cheech is gearing up. Join. Support your cultura.

Boyle Heights grafitti from the 70s 

The catalog, Arte Para la Gente. The Collected works of Margaret Garcia, is a gem with full color plates richly printed against complementary colors. Read detailed, interesting text. I asked Rhett Beavers, Margaret's husband, to sign the page he lovingly writes about his wife. "If a person's life could be diagrammed, Margaret Garcia's would be a classic Venn diagram--a common center core created by three overlapping circles representing three primary themes--her landscapes, her culture, and her communitiy."

People were buying catalogs for friends and personal souvenirs of this historic event. Garcia chatted and signed every book handed her, ignoring people posing for fotos behind her and coming over and abrazando and kissing her cheeks. The exultant artist goes past the “closing time” of the reception. I suspect that catalog will need a second printing.

Chicana artists don’t get many exhibitions much less a catalog. One-woman exhibitions happen even more rarely. This fact alone elevates Arte Para la Gente to one of 2021’s most important art events, to understate matters. Garcia's been painting 40 years. The Ventura Museum is a woman-led organization. With senior leaders  Elena Brokaw  and Anna Bermudez, Diversity comes to the Ventura Museum organically, it’s not a political wind catching some executive’s sails.
Chief Curator Anna Bermudez has long worked to develop the Museum’s leadership among bilingual audiences. Plaques and information, like the catalog, are printed in English and Spanish. Bermudez regrets she has not yet brought Tzotzil onto the Museum’s literature, to serve Ventura county’s growing non-Spanish speaking raza. 
Darn me. It's important we include the children, so she poses with Mario Trillo
and her great aunt, I don't write their names. They are important people.

Bermudez worked years to bring this exhibition to public eyes. She recalled her first visit to Garcia’s Los Angeles Highland Park studio. It was a whirlwind of activity, finished work hanging, work in progress sitting easels or laid on horizontal surfaces. Greeted by happy doggies and, of course, the gracious artist, Bermudez found herself compelled to begin planning an exhibition.


Margaret Garcia has always found herself compelled to express herself, and painting is her principal voice. Currently, exploring glass fusing, Garcia has begun finding glories in transparency and fire. The artist is creating portraits, like Selena, and abstracts like a 20” rectangle seen at the portal to the galleries. 

Mario Trillo, Angel Guerrero, Steve Beisner

Garcia's work in fused glass isn't effectively displayed at the front portal to the galleries. Many visitors miss engaging this developing genre of Garcia’s career. People who noted the work see there’s a rich glassy future, hot out of the fusing oven. Nothin' say lovin' like somethin' from the fusing oven, and Margaret Garcia will say it.


Portraiture may be Garcia’s most distinctive work. Currently on plague-time hiatus, Garcia hosts a weekly portrait workshop where artists paint friends and one another. Artists visiting the show made pilgrimages to visit their portrait in Ventura, taking selfies with their colorist rendering on the wall. Subjects won’t be disappointed not to be on the wall. Garcia created an 8-minute time capsule video of people not on the wall. Barbara and I sat for the workshop and our dual portrait made the video. Our small painting, “Tunas and Granadas” hangs in the show.

Mario Trillo, Michael Sedano, Mario Guerrero. We are 3 Veterans; 2 Soldiers, 1 Marine.

Roberto Vargas, Margaret Garcia, Mario Guerrero, Manuel Urrutia


Watching the 8-minute video is one of two places, inside the gallery, to sit, unless someone so overwhelmed sits on the floor to gaze. That would be OK on a day when hundreds of visitors aren’t enjoying the show. Places to sit are really important to public spaces like this, and I was in dire need at one moment. The chairs were constantly occupied. 

Barbara and I are happy "Our Garcia" hangs in the show. My favorite fruits. When I saw
a foto of the painting I knew I had to buy it.

Food safety is something no one attends to. This wonderful museum is not alone in misserving food allergies. Those with food allergies must have their own back.


The Museum brings out the “A” list snacks. Wonderful cheese in generous wedges, olives, fruit, and bread. I am usually first to the food, but I am chatting up a storm and slow to the food Saturday afternoon. And I'm hungry. 

I reach around a man to grab a piece of cheese. I watch aghast as the man serves fruit to his plate with plastic tongs, then as I reflexively whisper, “NO!”, he grabs some bread with the tongs then places those tongs atop the heretofore gluten-free food. 

I don't eat for the rest of the celebration, knowing the man isn’t the only person depositing little bread crumbs on the food. Peanut allergy people would have been fine with that food, but we Celiacs go hungry at a lot of these events because of people like that thoughtless bread-eater, and lack of caution by the hosts. It’s not their fault that cross-contamination poses major risks. 
Sustaining myself on a quality red wine at $7.00 a glass, I am happy as can be. Not because of the wine. It is all these wonderful people. 
The first people I see upon entering the gift shop are David Botello and Wayne Healy, Los Angeles' famed Streetscapers muralists.
Muralist Fernando Barragan, who has a show running at Casa0101, takes my foto with Vanessa Acosta
, who resides in Santa Paula, allowing her to serve with the museo’s Santa Paula sucursal. 
Vanessa recently lost Big X, Xavier Montes, to cancer.
Xavier Montes?
Actors Josefina López and Roberta H. Martínez. Writers, Professionals, Mujeres.

Sras. Healey and Botello and Mr. Mario G.

Sculptor/Cartoonist Stu Rapeport, whose partner Amy Inouye, produced the catalog, says hello. I make an unintentional pass at a pair of sparkling eyes I think I recognize. I don't know her at all, and now I've forgotten her name. 
I should make an 8-minute video of all the gente who shared the event and whose name I don't say. Leave a Comment, that's how to join this paragraph. 

The Opening in Ventura of Arte Para la Gente is a Who’s Who of Chicana Chicano artists, most of whom I’m not naming or didn't get to saludar. Nor their wives nor husbands. But they were in attendance and joyously so.

Dr. Roberto Vargas salutes the Four Directions while gente accept cleansing smudge.


A large number of celebrants head to a near-by restaurant to continue the social life we all so desperately have needed. The Plague appears to be held at bay, and mascarillas are the uniform of the day, not just at the museo, in segunda row, Main Street adjacent to the museum. I got a lot of good shopping, no bargains.

La Bloga’s Melinda Palacio joins us from Santa Barbara, with husband Steve Beisner, an occasional La Bloga contributor. From San Diego, quondam La Bloga columnist Nicki de Necochea and prima, Aide, dine with us. Noted LA Collectors Angel and Mario Guerrero carpool with artist Mario Trillo. Our dinner crowd (automatic tip) includes Manuel Urrutia, retired physicist and kapellmeister of CasaSedano's Mexican songs sing-a-long. Manuel knows all the words. 

Margaret and Rhett Beavers join the table for a few minutes, making the rounds. That restaurant was packed with artists having dinner and such a grand time no one wants the evening to close. That exhibition, for one, won't close until next Spring. 

There's a new Destination in California, gente. Coming to the Rose Bowl? Think Ventura. Need a respite from caregiver life? Think Ventura. Do it.

Margaret Garcia shares feelings about the event and arte.

Margaret Garcia is a Chicana artist. This is a show of Chicanarte. But sabes que? That’s not an important detail. This arte is these people, is these people’s culture. Culture is what we all share in common, even when we don't know it yet. Each Garcia portrait depicts an individual. This work of arte is not that person. That painting is all of us and any of us, eyes noses mouths, features and colors we share in common. And, owing to Garcia’s use of color, no one cannot see themselves in the mirror of a Margaret Garcia canvas, and only the subject sees herself. Himself. The rest of us see nuestra cultura. 

If you want to see the Sunrise over the Pacific Ocean, Ventura's the city to see it. It's a short walk from the Museo to the shore, and the entire area is designed for walking and puro enjoyment. Attending Arte Para la Gente at the Museum is a wondrous way to celebrate yourself and your arte, plus give yourself a vacation among people who wear masks, even at the beach when the sun comes up. Unless it rains.

Links to the Artist & to the Museum

Sponsors deserve mention. Click links for details.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Michael, Thank you for joining us in Ventura and thank you for this wonderful story about your visit - part remembrance, part travelogue. Gracias mi germany.