Arts ad­vo­cate Ed­u­ca­tor and artist Ed­ward Gon­za­les

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Ed­ward Gon­za­les

The New Mex­ico Coali­tion for Lit­er­acy states that 20 per­cent of New Mex­i­cans age six­teen and older are at the low­est level of lit­er­acy on a scale of one to five, and 46 per­cent are at level two, in­di­cat­ing an in­suf­fi­cient de­gree of ed­u­ca­tion re­quired to hold many types of jobs. Artist Ed­ward Gon­za­les be­lieves that lit­er­acy be­gins in the home. “It’s a sim­ple mes­sage, but I be­lieve it’s a pow­er­ful one,” the painter told Pasatiempo. In the 1980s Gon­za­les started de­sign­ing posters that ad­vo­cate lit­er­acy. “I did a se­ries of ed­u­ca­tional lit­er­acy posters,” he said. “They’re bilin­gual posters that pro­mote lit­er­acy and fam­ily learn­ing. I still sell those posters to­day.”

Gon­za­les’ ad­vo­cacy was, in part, what in­spired Al­bu­querque Pub­lic Schools to name an ele­men­tary school af­ter him in 2004. “It was the new­est school that was in Al­bu­querque at the time,” he said. “They were search­ing for a name ... and the prin­ci­pal re­ally loved my art­work. The school board ac­cepted the name ... as a way of rec­og­niz­ing my con­tri­bu­tions to lit­er­acy and ed­u­ca­tion.”

Gon­za­les, a re­cip­i­ent of the Gov­er­nors Award for Ex­cel­lence in the Arts in 2013, has an ex­hi­bi­tion of his paint­ings open­ing Fri­day at Acosta-Strong Fine Art. “They’re all new works that were com­pleted in the last six months,” he said. “There are 14 pieces in the show. I have fig­u­ra­tive pieces in there and I also have land­scapes.”

Gon­za­les’ paint­ings are col­ored in rich, vi­brant hues and cap­ture the sim­ple, rus­tic vil­lage life of New Mex­ico. His­panic cul­ture in New Mex­ico is his pri­mary fo­cus, and his fig­ures are ren­dered in a painterly and nat­u­ral­is­tic fashion that em­pha­sizes color and form. “I tend to­ward do­ing more ex­pres­sive type of work where I feel the en­ergy and the light and tap into that en­ergy and vi­tal­ity,” he said. “I’m very much a col­orist.” These char­ac­ter­is­tics can be seen in his paint­ings Vil­lagers, Los Ve­ci­nos con su Cerdo

(La Matanza), and other do­mes­tic scenes, such as Los An­cianos, a por­trait of an older cou­ple and their dogs. These paint­ings cap­ture a sense of con­tin­u­ing tra­di­tion and of peo­ple who still live by old ways in the small, re­mote com­mu­ni­ties of North­ern New Mex­ico.

“I do have this Latino thrust in my art. My art is known for that. I’ve had a lot of Latin Amer­i­can stu­dents who are now pro­fes­sion­als in their fields. But I do land­scapes. I do still lifes. I have a cou­ple of still-life flower paint­ings in the show. But I also in­still them with what I feel is a Latino per­spec­tive.”

Gon­za­les was in­flu­enced by the Chi­cano move­ment in the 1960s, one of the ob­jec­tives of which was to im­prove ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties among New Mex­ico’s His­panic res­i­dents. “As stu­dents, we were ide­al­ists. Af­ter I was drafted and spent two years in the mil­i­tary, one in Viet­nam in a com­bat en­gi­neer unit, I came back with ideas of how to con­trib­ute to so­ci­ety through my art,” he told Pasatiempo in 2013, in ad­vance of re­ceiv­ing the gover­nor’s award.

In his re­cent con­ver­sa­tion with Pasatiempo ,he re­it­er­ated his po­si­tion. “My work is a cel­e­bra­tion of life,” he said. “I just saw too much of the op­po­site in Viet­nam. In or­der to main­tain my bal­ance when I got back, I wanted to cre­ate art that gave a pos­i­tive thrust to so­ci­ety.” For Gon­za­les, that meant cre­at­ing art­works that peo­ple could iden­tify with and that cast His­pan­ics in a fa­vor­able light. “I see His­panic

con­tin­ued from Page 42 cul­ture as a le­git­i­mate sub­ject for fine art,” he said. “When we were young stu­dents, protest­ing and such, the whole idea was to as­sert the Chi­cano or Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can per­spec­tive on so­ci­ety, but I re­jected the no­tion of do­ing it through vi­o­lence. Protest can have its place, but the im­por­tant thing was to im­prove so­ci­ety, not to tear it down.”

Gon­za­les’ com­mit­ments to art, ed­u­ca­tion, and His­panic cul­ture be­came guid­ing prin­ci­ples in­form­ing his own art­work and in­spir­ing him to pro­mote art and cul­ture in other ways. He once lob­bied for a His­panic arts build­ing at the New Mex­ico State Fair­grounds, and the struc­ture is now a per­ma­nent fix­ture. In the late 1980s, he was chair­man of the first Con­tem­po­rary His­panic Mar­ket in Santa Fe. “I grew up in Al­bu­querque and was there from first grade through col­lege. In 1988, I moved to Santa Fe and lived there un­til 1996. I was very ac­tive there with the Con­tem­po­rary His­panic Mar­ket. I spent 23 years help­ing that venue grow, but I had to move on. Liv­ing in Rio Rancho now, it’s harder to get out there and do all the vol­un­teer work that’s needed. I think it has reached its goal, to pro­vide a per­ma­nent venue for con­tem­po­rary His­pan­ics to show in one of the state’s largest art mar­kets.”

Gon­za­les has been a full-time pro­fes­sional artist for al­most 40 years, and his stance on his sub­ject mat­ter has not wa­vered. “I still feel the ex­cite­ment of cre­at­ing some­thing new and en­er­getic,” he said. “It’s al­most as though I’m paint­ing for the first time. That’s what I feel when I sit down to cre­ate art.”

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