Artist’s exhibit here celebrates Hispanic culture - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Artist’s exhibit here celebrates Hispanic culture

September 5th, 2019 development
Artist’s exhibit here celebrates Hispanic culture

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

Jose Andres Giron has been making artwork for nearly 50 years and he’s not planning to stop any time soon.

The 73-year-old Phoenix native has about 40 pieces of his artwork on display at the Chandler Center for the Arts in an exhibit that will run through Oct. 10.

Titled “Escenas de Mexico,” or “Scenes of Mexico,” the exhibit embraces various aspects of Hispanic culture — a common subject of Giron’s work.

He’s created paintings of mariachi bands, portraits of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and prints of Cesar Chavez, the civil rights activist.

Giron has recently been fascinated with exploring the heritage of Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday that pays tribute to the loved ones who have passed on to the afterlife.

The artist has painted large portraits of women sporting the famous skeleton makeup that’s often associated with the commemoration.

He’s got a pair of acrylic paintings called “Vida Y Muerte,” or “life and death,” that display two sides of the same woman. In one of them she’s alive, and a skeleton in the other.

Another painting depicts a group of women making tamales around a kitchen table. They appear happy, jovial and enjoying each other’s company; despite the fact Giron’s painted all of them as boney corpses.

Giron said his Day of the Dead works have gotten quite popular in recent years — possibly in part because of the Disney film “Coco,” which prominently features the holiday. He hopes his latest exhibition impresses spectators by showcasing the beauty of Hispanic culture.

“I hope they walk away with positive thoughts about Latino people and their culture,” Giron said.

Giron said he’s been interested in creating art for as long as he can remember.

“I’ve been around a long time,” he said. “I’ve been involved with art all my life.”

His family has deep roots in the American Southwest. Giron said his ancestors were some of the first settlers on the Rio Grande River, which stretches from Colorado to southern Texas.

Paying tribute to his ancestral history seems to be important to Giron, as his works often utilize traditional Latino styles and imagery from a bygone era.

Giron enlisted in the military at the age of 18 and was quickly shipped off to Vietnam.

The horrors of war were traumatizing for the young man and left a lasting impact on him.

“Sometimes you try to put that behind you, but you never can,” Giron said.

Giron tried passing time in the Vietnamese jungle by drawing in a sketch book. But he ended up getting caught in the enemy’s crossfire and sustained a gunshot wound. He said a quick prayer and didn’t expect to make it out alive.

“I really didn’t think I would,” Giron said. “I was so sure I was going to die.”

He persevered and was eventually sent back home with a Purple Heart medal. Giron used his military benefits to enroll in art school and embarked on a career as a professional artist.

He spent years producing commercial art, making good money by designing logos and graphics for companies. But Giron wasn’t satisfied creatively, so he took a risk by going rogue and making the type of art he wanted to make.

It’s not easy, he said, making a living as an independent artist. Yet he found a balance by producing work that both pleased his aesthetic and could be sellable to the masses.

And he’s given back to the local community by mentoring up-and-coming artists and helping to found the Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center in downtown Phoenix.

Giron presently divides his time between two studios: one in Arizona during the winter, and one in New Mexico during the summer. He’s in the midst of completing a book of his artwork that he hopes to have done by early 2020.

The Gallery at the Chandler Center for the Arts has free admission and is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.