Artist discusses indigenous culture, artist self-worth

By: Teresa Acosta

The Los Angeles based artist River Garza discussed the life and cultural experiences that influence his art at art lecture on zoom. 

He stressed the importance of community, self-awareness and knowing the business side of being a working creator. 

Garza gave an in-depth overview of his work starting in 2016 and included projects he is currently working on. Stressing the importance of community, self-awareness and knowing the business side of being a working creator.

Associate Professor Christine Frerichs hosted “ The Visiting Artist Lecture Series,” the first lecture for the 2021/2022 academic year. 

Frerichs said when she first met Garza they talked about a workshop he was hosting about sign painting that left her wanting to know more about him and his work. This led to inviting him to do the lecture.

Garza admitted that the influences for his work were very eclectic, but most refer back to his indigenous community, Tongva heritage and the maritime traditions he participates in.

 His early work incorporates mixed-media collage techniques and images of his family members. Self-exploration and identity is a major theme in these early works.

 A traditional canoe used in ceremonial events, named Mo’omat Ahiko, is an item heavily featured in his works. He considers this inanimate object more like a living ancestor after it was built by his community in 1992.

Performance artist and photographer James Luna is the biggest influence for Garza. He pays homage to him in a painting titled, “Portrait of James Luna.”

“Be authentic and true to yourself, and just always focus on making things” Garza said to aspiring artists. 

During quarantine he created pieces with subjects he likes and people he thinks are cool, from Kobe Bryant to Kurt Cobain.

He gave a lot of useful advice about engaging with other artists and community members. This is how he has found mentors for his art. 

Garza even offered himself as an avenue for those seeking advice and guidance. He also said for artists to protect their artwork from people trying to take advantage. 

Artists should know your worth and establish it early. 

The idea of success for Garza is doing what he loves and having time to give back to the community through teaching. Another measure of success for him is being able to work only on projects that he is comfortable with and not being pressured into work he does not value.

When his schedule allows, he likes to offer free arts-based education and workshops. His work has just been accepted into the Whitney Museum of American Art.

He is currently working with the city of South Gate and another artist to design, create and implement an art installation on a water tower as part of a new park development.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *