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Artist Spotlight: Francisco Palomares

Meet Francisco Palomares

Associate Artist, Expo Center & USC Mental Wellness Banner Project

Francisco Javier Palomares is an emerging contemporary artist based in East Los Angeles. Palomares discovered the magic of oil painting from skimming through books featuring the works of classic artists. Studying the works of Rembrandt, Francisco de Goya, and Diego De Velasquez, he was mesmerized by the way strokes of paint from a brush can bring to life people, places and things; it was magical in the young eyes of Palomares. His commitment, dedication, and passion for art led him to California State University, Long Beach where he earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Drawing and Painting in 2014 where he was awarded two scholarships to study abroad in Italy and China. After his studies he relocated to his childhood neighborhood of Boyle Heights setting up his studio -- PalomaresBLVD. His studio is a fictional street where he re-envisions Los Angeles inviting viewers to take the stage with him in storytelling. Palomares draws upon his lived experiences combining elements of historical narratives and present-day social challenges. He does so by portraying his subjects as visual narratives emanating the challenges and beauty of their environment.

Where are you from? Tell us a bit about your neighborhood.

I am from East Los Angeles . I grew up primarily in a community where the majority of the population are working Latinos . Like many lower income communities the Arts was something seen as a hobby and not a serious career. It was up to me to find opportunity outside of my immediate surroundings and discover what was possible .

What's your background as an artist?

I attended Montebello High School. It was the high school art teacher that noticed my eagerness for art. She encouraged me to apply to Ryman Arts. A scholarship for high school students to take college level art courses at USC. My acceptance to this program solidified my decision to pursue art as a career . The experience and resources I received led me to studio drawing and painting at California State University Long Beach. I received a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Drawing and Painting. While at CSULB I completed two student exchange programs in Italy and China . Since graduating I’ve continued to exhibit across the US and create public art.

How did roots and your neighborhood shape you and your work?

I grew up in a predominantly Latino neighborhood. Where I fit in and didn’t feel like an outsider because everyone was very similar. For me, wanting to travel was a way to get out of that bubble and see what was out there. Some of my work sort of symbolizes me and my experience, like my pinata series. I use the pinata as a symbol and put it into these odd places.

Why did you choose the pinata as your symbol?

It represents my culture. Particularly, being Mexican American and I think that’s something I had to seek after. The techniques and styles I use are very European and so is my schooling and formal training, but my background is Mexican, so my subjects and interests are of and from my community. My community is never documented in fine art. When I go to galleries and exhibits I don’t really see the people that I see in my neighborhood. You see these other narratives about what's happening or the architecture or the landmarks. So, I’ve used this formal education that’s Western and European and mixed it up to include myself, my culture, and my identity. That I’m still discovering since I’m a cross between Mexican and American. It's a cross. That’s what I talk about in my work.

So far you’ve spoken a lot about identity. What else does your work aim to say?

I talk a lot about the everyday challenges. The struggle. I talk about them more in the series I create. Like the one I’ve been working on with these helium balloons. There is one in particular that has a happy face that’s a helium balloon that is crumbling. It sort of comes from the struggles as a visual artist, as an artist, and struggles from the overall pursuit of success. Especially an urban area and a city like Los Angeles where a lot of people move to LA because of their big aspirations. We’re so close to Hollywood, media, and celebrity, so I feel like there is a heightened awareness of your facade, the way that you appear, the way that you dress, the way that you look, appearing successful, appearing good, but you might not be addressing the inside because you’re so concentrated on the success and being promoted. That’s where the helium balloon becomes a portrait of that direction. Where the exterior says I’m happy. I’m giving you this happy face, but inside you’re dealing with the challenges. Whether it be your mental health state, financial problems, or survival.

Why does public art matter?

Public art matters to give the community a sense of pride , identity , and inspiration . It was the murals down Cesar Chavez St. that initially inspired me as a child to want to draw. Not only does it give the community a sense of pride but it validates what artists and people generally are doing for the community and it’s value and importance .Public art allows art to transcend the white walls of the art galleries and get into the everyday lives of viewers who otherwise would not visit or see art in their lives. This allows for conversation and ideas to be sparked and shared.

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