MONTEREY PARK, Calif. – When Juan Nepomuceno López sat for a family portrait in 1927, he never imagined it would be showcased in a museum or book. Artist Yolanda González never met her great grandfather, but remembers her grandmother well.
Margarita López Ibarra inspired her to be an artist and this piano once belonged to her 50 years ago.
“Mage sat me down to paint when I was 8 years old,” said artist Yolanda González. “I was really excited to work with her and to paint with her. I remember her buying the paints from Sav-On and the smell from the oil paint. It never left me. It never left my memory.”
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González never really learned to play the piano like her grandmother, but she did pick up her family’s tendency towards art.
“After she sat me down to paint, my soul belonged to art,” said González.
It all started with González’s great grandfather over 150 years ago in Mexico. At the age of 17, he started drawing finely detailed portraits and often threw away his works if they didn’t meet his expectations. Today, González was able to archive a dozen of his drawings .
“The classic line that he created these portraits with are so inspiring to me,” said González. “His work is absolutely beautiful. It’s pencil on paper.”
Thanks to this creative lineage, five of González’s family members are represented at Sueño de Familia exhibit at the Vincent Price Art Museum.
“We have created portraits in our family,” said González. “My grandmother created portraits. My niece creates portraits. I create portraits. And in this show, you’ll see the line of his blood that continues through us creatively.”
And blood is thicker than borders.
“We want to project further back in time and to think about the connections that we have to the transnational context of exchange and migration between Mexico and the U.S.,” said Pilar Tompkins Rivas, museum director of the Vincent Price Art Museum.
González’s parents came to the U.S. and settled in the San Gabriel Valley where she was born and art has been constant throughout their lives, but not everyone started young. González’s mother started working with clay at the age of 83.
“I wanted to get her into art when my dad passed away 10 years ago,” said González. “They had been married for 58 years and I thought ‘What is she going to do without my father?' We need to entertain her with something. She fell in love with creating ceramics.”
González’s mother passed away earlier this year, but not before she got to see her work exhibited.
“Her life lives on and her memory lives on and her soul lives on in these ceramics,” said González.
And in González’s book, “Dream of Family” because family trees live forever.