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
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
"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: www.carmenlomasgarza.com