Life imitates art, and according to Urban Dictionary, the phrase echoes “what is found in life and nature is not what is really there, but is that which artists have taught people to find there, through art.”
Local artist Eduardo Gardea has echoed this amongst his transformative angel painting series that was inspired by the death of his sister, Alexandrina, also known as Alex, one year ago. The series started as a personal challenge to commit to a theme that transformed into a personal journey through grief and artist development.
“I was going through my personal journey of healing and grief, but I was also growing as an artist because within that journey through this personal challenge, it turned into an entire art series,” Gardea said. “It was two transformative journeys in one.”
Gardea said transformation is a natural part of life, and if people are not transforming and growing, they become stagnant in art, passions and life.
“A stagnant life is not reflective of your failures and triumphs and it looks differently for everyone,” Gardea said. “At the end of the day, we are all transforming and learning from our personal journeys.”
At the start of his personal journey was also the start of the pandemic. After advising artists to start projects and continue to have passions in his last feature, Gardea took his own advice less than a year later through completing his angel series, moving into his own art studio space and joining Landlock Gallery’s artist co-opt. The new studio allowed Gardea to create the physical space to start larger tapestry projects as well as the mental space to step further into his creative process.
Gardea said: “The new space has transformed me mentally in this season of COVID and adaptability. Being able to savor any opportunity outside of our home space is something we all had taken for granted and now cherish any opportunity like that. So, being able to step outside of my home and into a separate space dedicated to creativity and my art really makes it feels more purposeful and intentional. I think any time your heart is aligned with passion and purpose, the outcome is going to be that much more beautiful.”
Separating his creative space from his home has helped Gardea’s motivation, inspiration and judgement in the creative process.
Gardea said: “Being able to create that space has been vital for me and my art. Despite how much I love creating and painting, I didn’t realize how much I truly needed to step away, and really take the mental effort and connection to create space from that. When I do that and step back into the studio, I can feel the creative energy and am motivated to get it done and enjoy it. I’m a lot more comfortable with flaws, time away and imperfections. I’ve seen and leaned into the beauty of those things.”
The angel series consisted of over 10 paintings of angels to serve as a metaphor for the person Alex was and to represent her watching over him. However, Gardea felt something was missing before concluding the series.
Within less than a year after Alex’s passing, Gardea realized conversations with others about the death of his sister became easier, of which led him to be inspired for his final piece: A portrait of Alex.
“I never intended for her [Alex] to be a part of any of the projects or to paint her at all,” Gardea said. “So, reaching the very end of it and feeling like something was missing and that I hadn’t honored her to then transform into this phase where I felt my heart could handle it and finishing the angel series with a portrait of her was just incredibly heartwarming and special.”
The completion of the final piece of the series further served as a metaphor for the phases of grief, pain and healing through the art of putting his paintbrush to a canvas.
Gardea said: “Loss is hard, and grief is hard. I don’t think I would have been able to make it through the last year without painting, making this angel series and portrait of Alex and being able to paint her through talking about her more, and in a way, provoking more conversation about her because people are going to ask who it is in my painting. Only now I am ready to immerse into those conversations.”