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Alumni & FriendsCarmen Lomas Garza’s painting depicts a Latino family enjoying a background barbeque. There are colorful clothes hanging from a line, children playing with a piñataand meat cooking on a grill. Barbacoa para Cumpleanos, 1993, alkyd on canvas, 36x48 inches. collection of federal reserve bank of dallas, texas, #PA056


Culture on Campus

When Carmen Lomas Garza (M.A., ‘81) visited the Austin Children's Museum in Texas in 2003, she felt like she had come home. The museum had taken four of Garza's beloved paintings from her bilingual children's book, "In My Family," and adapted them into three-dimensional interactive exhibits. "There was my parents' kitchen and there were children sitting in it, making tamales," Garza says of the display based on her popular scene Tamalada (Tamale Making). "It was totally amazing and a lot of fun." The show travels to seven museums nationwide through 2007.

Garza's art is included in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and has won her numerous National Endowment for the Arts and California Arts Council awards. She is most widely known for her six children's books, which have sold more than 400,000 copies. San Francisco-based Children's Book Press twice asked Garza to illustrate another writer's story before Garza said, "I don't want to illustrate someone else's story. Why don't I tell the stories behind my paintings?"

Growing up in the small South Texas town of Kingsville, Garza discovered the movement for Mexican American civil rights during a United Farm Workers march in 1965. At a time when many Hispanic artists were making politically rebellious art, Garza decided to paint scenes affirming the richness of the Mexican American culture. Minutely detailed works such as Barbacoa para Cumpleaños (Birthday Barbecue), shown above, and Tamalada are vibrant depictions of family life.

Garza's style was well-established when she came to San Francisco to work at the nationally known Galeria de la Raza. SFSU's Art Department gave her the flexibility to work at the gallery while studying for her master's degree.

"Especially with the type of artwork I was doing, it was important to have the degree to block misconceptions," says Garza, who still lives in San Francisco. "People call my work naive, folk or primitive. It's not naive, because I've been trained professionally, and it's not folk art because I'm not working in a specific tradition, and it's not primitive because I don't live in a primitive society. But people need to reach for those labels."

Today, Garza's artwork is in demand with collectors. A 16-by-24-foot copper cutout based on one of her works, Baile, is permanently installed at the San Francisco International Airport. "I just want to get back to the studio," Garza says. "I've got lots of ideas for my next book."

For more information:

-- Rachel Howard


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