August 3, 2001

Art For Art's Sake

San Diego Repertory Theatre, long known as the downtown destination for new artists in theatre, is pleased to open its gallery space to welcome two compelling artists from the visual art world, George Al-phonso Walker and Ricardo V. Gomez. Stunning and thought provoking, these artists' works excite the senses with vibrant color and challenging yet sometimes perplexing images. Gomez's inspirational realism and Walker's sensuous landscapes and images cannot simply be glanced at; they demand attention and contemplation. Their art opening on August 9 will offer not only a chance for the public to see the newest and most inventive art in San Diego, but will help fresh and exciting theatre arts thrive in our community, since the artists are generously donating 25% of the profit from the sale of their paintings to San Diego Repertory Theatre.

The work of young Ricardo V. Gomez is jarring, jolting, and beautiful. The dualism represented in his work directly reflects his past, his heritage, and his bilingual existence in San Diego. Gomez was born in 1972 in Tijuana, becoming a permanent resident of the U.S. when he was two. This up-and-coming Hispanic painter is the only artist in his family tree. Though his family did not understand their son's drive to create, they did not discourage him.

Gomez's paintings frequently picture two women —one an angel, one a devil. People have asked him way he paints what he does; though he knows the "market" and is capable of painting typical imagery, he chooses to confront the dualist nature of his existence. Though young, Gomez's art has given him a greater understanding of his life. "Some of my paintings are about the feat of being alone; I don't want that. I believe that most artists paint from a lonely place; they feel the need to communicate. If you can communicate through art, then you are not alone."

Gomez explains the roots of his dualist existence. "My parents are from ranches deep in Mexico; poverty is ever-present. Religion is essential there because if you have nothing to look at around you, you can at least look up. I was raised under two different Christian religions which are filled with absolutes of heaven and hell; this is reflected in my painting." Gomez's father worked tireless, saying, "I'll rest when I die." His father's work ethic has strongly influenced his painting; he never stops. Gomez's religious upbringing and strong families valued contribute to his sense of duty to his community, evidenced by his generous donation of 25% of the proceeds from the sale of his paintings to the REP.

Part of George Alphonso Walker's exhibit will only be with the RFP for a short time; the painting "Our family" has been donated to the downtown YMCA for display there. The image is theirs to use; 100% of the proceeds from prints of the painting will go to the YMCA. The completion of this picture and the donation itself are the realization of a lifelong dream for Walker. "I'm at the point of my life when I can use the different aspects of my talents that I have developed over the years to give back to organizations," Walker says. Walker's long-time association with YMCAs all over the country led to an inspired idea to create a painting tailored to the YMCA's mission.

The YMCA's painting was conceptualized during a conversation with downtown Y's director Ron Erickson while Walker was exercising. In chatting with Walker, Erickson explained the Y's mission. "And there it was; in full color," Walker explains. "The final piece to the trilogy of paintings I had worked on for years — `Heaven and Earthy Watch', `Our Savior is Born,' and now `Our Family.' I had a burst of inspiration —each piece would have been developed two years apart from each other! I know this is the last one of the series. In my opinion, `Our Family' is the one that took the most work; perfect dots, 360 degree turn on the paintbrush— I was absolutely insane. But I was complete." All three paintings will be on display for the opening.

In addition to the donated painting, one of its sister paintings, "Mother and Child," will be on sale at the REP with Y members receiving a 25% discount on this painting. The reason for Walker's love of the YMCA and its members is simple: "The YMCA offers so much more than some people realize; I hope, through this donation, to bring more awareness to the programs and the mission of the YMCA." Walker's generosity extends beyond the REP and the YMCA. In the past, Walker has donated paintings to the Make-A-Wish Foundation (2000) and to the Africa-America Institute Silent Auction (1999, 2000). Amongst Walker's many awards are the Arts Trends Critic Choice Award of Excellence (2000) and the Encyclopedia of Living Artists Cover Competition (2nd Place, 1999).

The art opening will feature live jazz trio The Pulaski Skyway, delicious appetizers and drinks, and locally based Arbonne Cosmetics will be on-hand to distribute samples. San Diego Museum Art Guild members will be in attendance. (Both Walker and Gomez are members.) Entrance to the Lyceum gallery is free and open to the public.

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