Sonoma County artists draw on their Latino heritage to create works of art that unite, educate and empower. Whether it’s designing classic cars like Gustavo Mendoza, who found his niche thanks to another Latino artist; helping troubled young people channel their energy into art like Dayana Leon, who draws inspiration from her powerful Latina mother; or building public artworks from twisted metal and fire like Martin Zúñiga, whose sculptures dot Central and Northern California, art is a force for change and reflection. Some of these artists are familiar Sonoma County names, while others are fresh faces just making their mark on the art world. Together, their works represent a sampling of the passion, strength and diversity that Latino artists bring to the art world across the North Coast.
Here’s a look Martín Zúñiga, at one of these notable artists:
How has your Latino heritage shaped your art?
I was raised in the San Joaquin Valley, between the freeways of 5 and the 99, in the rows of fields that cover the ground as far as the eye can see. The sun is high and hot, the fields are lush and they are filled with thousands of farm workers — like me, like my parents. Our faces, arms and legs were covered to protect them from the sun and the toxic pesticides used on the crops. Our work was backbreaking, and yet, we were almost invisible. That experience was my first introduction to the United States, and my art reflects the complex mix of pride in the work of my people and anger at the injustice we still face. My art is my way of honoring my family and my roots, and it imagines a new world where we are honored and celebrated.
Who is a role model for you?
Ernesto Palomino, who has always been a groundbreaking artist. He inspired me with his early found art, his “Anglo” period, and he continues to lift up artists around him. His art embodies that beautiful and powerful combination of resistance and affirmation.
Favorite quote: “The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?” — Pablo Picasso
Title: Owner, Studio Martín Zúñiga
Type of art: Sculpture