Art is like a journal
Art is like a journal, Mark Andy Garcia once said. If it is a journal, the selected works in this exhibition script the startling, tumultuous past year Garcia has had. The unusual succession of events that have unfolded in Garcia’s life within close proximity to one other has placed the artist squarely in an overwhelming test of his disposition. Briefly, the story of this episode of Garcia’s life is this:
Rochelle and Raquel, Garcia’s two younger sisters at nineteen and seventeen years old (both single and still in school), wound up with overlapping unplanned pregnancies. His older brother, Rhyan, got married but, within a month, forlornly had to leave his pregnant wife behind to work in
Now, Garcia, the second of the four children, is amidst and in between all of this.
While seemingly aloof in manner should one meet him in person, Garcia’s composed exterior veil a tempest beneath. The furor and confusion that Garcia rightly feels for all these occurrences is directly seen and felt in these exhibition’s works. The works were each created quickly and unplanned in a torrential flood of feeling – in the need to suddenly discharge these hot flashes of intense emotion and moments of great duress. Grief, anger, despair, sympathy and bewilderment are bared in Garcia’s childlike brash slashing strokes and in the impetuous scribbled phrases found all over his paintings. His selection of damp browns, purples and greens further insinuate the artist’s brooding and foreboding mood.
Focusing on Garcia’s mother are the works Charity, Sorrow, My Mother and She’s Always There. They, in some sense, pay tribute to her vigor, her steadfastness and indeed her anguish as well, as Garcia perceives it. Depicting his brother and sister-in-law, Kuya Rhyan and Ate Raquel centers on Garcia’s brother’s distressed reaction to his sister’s pregnancy news which followed only a day after what had been his joyous wedding. The events of Rochelle and Racquel, the objects of Garcia’s mother’s charity, shadow and dominate most of the show, along with Garcia’s deep loathing towards the men who got his sisters pregnant. One of the men is obviously referred to in Raquel in the Shadow of an Imbecile; the other alluded to in The Brainless Murderer. The men loom in the corner of Under the Watchful Eyes while Garcia’s self-portrait sits on the opposite side holding a double-edged sword, a biblical reference to the word of God. The importance of faith in these events that have cast such a feeling of vulnerability to Garcia, understandably feeling prey to his emotions, is echoed in his Prayer Request of a Weak
The exhibition title ‘Under the Watchful Eyes’, taken from the title of the largest work in the exhibition, originally referred to a divine being overlooking these events and, simultaneously, the judgmental perceptions of others to what had happened. Yet, the title takes new meaning in the recent death of Garcia’s father, who passed away shortly after the works for the show were completed. It perhaps movingly bookends a conclusion in this particular chapter of troubling events in Garcia’s life.
Undeniably, the weight of such severe family circumstances Garcia finds himself in weighs heavily on the works. Who would want to own something filled with so much personal tragedy? Would it be so sadistic to purchase and display such a memento of events that are so obviously deeply painful to the artist?
Yet, if art is like a journal as Garcia says, there is something very precious then about owning what amounts to a page from the artist’s diary and one so specially invested in by the artist. It is rare to find works these days with such a fervent personal connection to actual events in the artist’s life. The impulsive painting process has certainly been a therapeutic one for Garcia, the transference of emotions done through the very physical sensation of daubing here, there, anywhere and everywhere. There is an evident amount of gratification in expelling the hurt, the demons, the confusion and the sadness.
Yet, there are still some few last stages of this progression of healing being completed. The works have entered the realm of the commercial world. They are now exhibited in a gallery – ready to be sold off and shipped to its new proprietors, who will own not only a part of the artist’s experience but, with such inundation of the artist’s inner self, also in a sense a part of his soul. As Garcia lets go of these works and they go into the homes of the appreciative and enlightened, perhaps he may find the cathartic release and the prayed-for strength that he has greatly longed for and that he so much deserves.