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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Gozalo Espinosa Makes Revolutionary, Evolutionary Art

Aug 01, 2014 03:37PM ● By Barbara Peters

Gonzalo Espinosa returned to Tucson in 2012 after spending two years working on a large public art commission in Mexico. He is known for numerous murals in Tucson and Oro Valley and vibrant depictions of the Mexico he knew as an teenager in urban Guadalajara. Originally from Acapulco, Espinosa moved to the United States in 1987 to join the muralist movement in Los Angeles. When Tucson offered him opportunities in public art and arts education, he made the desert his home. To celebrate his milestone of 40 years as an artist, he’s working on a book, 40 Years of Catastrophes in Color.

“Art and life are really one and the same,” says Espinosa, who notes that his creative process is always in play, from the first time he spots material that he’ll use in his work to the ideas that continuously percolate in his head and the moment that he’s actually sitting down and working on a piece. Espinosa has amassed quite a collection of repurposed and recycled material, but admits that his main goal isn’t to save the world from debris.

For him, it’s about the fascination with manmade industrial elements that populate our streets, recycled shops, antique stores and anywhere else that similar material is found. Because the source material is so critical to Espinosa’s creative process, he may find something by accident, but recognizes that the found treasure will one day become the perfect piece for one of his creations. He explains, “Material comes first! Idea comes later.”

Espinosa points out that he doesn’t believe in inspiration; he believes in work. He has a very organized approach to creating; he opens a drawer in his flat file marked “in progress” and begins. Quite often, he goes back to certain pieces, redoing them and adding color or texture with more materials. He acknowledges, “It’s so hard to say when a piece of work is done.” It’s a matter of feeling for him. “The piece is going to talk to you when done,” he adds, and sometimes that means working on two or three pieces at once. He says the work itself is what moves him. Summer is when Espinosa finds his peak levels of creative energy and is most productive. He’s currently working on several large projects, including a major work for a housing community in Seattle, Washington, where he’s one of five national artists competing for the honor. Another project that has captured his heart is the Tree of Life public art project that he and his colleague Alex Garza have proposed to the City of South Tucson.

The Tree of Life is universal in every culture and one of the most popular images in Mexican tradition. The two artists see the sculpture as an iconic gateway for Tucson. If approved, the production will involve approximately 10 high school students, beginning in August. The idea of employing kids at risk is not a new concept for Espinosa. In 1993, he co-founded Las Artes, an experiential arts program that uses community projects to reintroduce at-risk youth to educational and vocational opportunities. For 15 years, this Pima County-sponsored program has been creating jobs for kids, keeping them off the street and off drugs, even allowing them to obtain a high school GED. Espinosa is one of the first artists in our community to start working with kids in this unique manner. His only wish is that kids could start in a similar program much earlier than high school, because being a mentor is very important to him.

Also important to Espinosa is the ability to express himself through his art and to be what he calls “an honest artist,” producing Multiculturalism work to please his (Multiculturalismo) own eye first. He has an endless number of ideas running through his head, and feels that he’ll need another 60 years to accomplish all that he wants to do.

He’s a busy man, but between 7 and 7:45 p.m., Gonzalo can often be found hanging out with friends at the Hotel Congress, restaurants and shops along Fourth Avenue or the new and vibrant downtown establishments. He’s a city man first and foremost. The vibrations of the city run through his veins and pour out on his canvases and murals in a variety of captivating, thoughtful and culturally infused pieces. He sees his gift as a blessing; he’s compelled to teach and easily shares his experiences with other artists and his art with the world.

Gonzalo’s art is on display at Studio Sculpture Resource, 640 North Stone Ave., in Tucson. For more information, call 520-339-9831, email [email protected] or find him on Facebook.

Barbara Peters is the marketing director for Natural Awakenings magazine.

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