One to Watch

Francisco Palomares and the Soul of Los Angeles

Los Angeles native Francisco Palomares documents the evolving landscape of his hometown. Drawing attention to both the heritage and socioeconomic realities of its residents, Francisco juxtaposes piñatas with pastoral landscapes, and cleaning supplies with floral still lifes. His current endeavor takes on a conceptual dimension—Francisco has repurposed a street vendor’s fruit cart, a ubiquitous staple in L.A., into a mobile studio, where he paints en plein air, completing works for passersby in 30 minutes or less. Francisco has exhibited his work at the Mexican and Brazilian Consulates in Los Angeles, Human Resources L.A., and Site:Brooklyn Gallery in New York. Most recently, he was named a 2020 Saatchi Art Rising Star. 

Tell us about who you are and what you do. What’s your background?

I’m a native Angeleno and a first generation Mexican-American. From an early age I had an infatuation with art. I was particularly inspired by Renaissance Art. My goals were to learn the painting secrets of Master Artists like Goya, Rembrandt, and Velázquez.

I began my art career in high school  on  a scholarship based on technical skill to Ryman Arts, a nonprofit offering college art studio courses to high school students tuition free. After graduating from Ryman Arts and high school, I continued my studies at California State University, Long Beach. During my undergrad I was an art exchange student in Guangzhou, China, and Florence, Italy. In 2014 I graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Drawing and Painting. I returned to my childhood neighborhood of East L.A. and opened my first art studio called PalomaresBLVD. PalomaresBLVD aims to bring the experience of life on the streets of East L.A. to the outside world.

What does your work aim to say? What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

My artwork is a visual diary. My paintings reflect my heritage and my experiences, thus my art documents and reflects the black and brown experience in Los Angeles: We are the people who inhabit the spaces, and use the objects that comprise the soul of the City of L.A. My paintings are both reflections and symbolistic of our experiences. My work reflects the realities of living in L.A.—L.A. is a place where people from around the globe flock to pursue dreams. In the pursuit of success, happiness and our mental health suffers. Happy Green Balloon is a rendering of what we do to ourselves in the pursuit of happiness when it becomes merely a facade. I render a happy face helium balloon slightly deflated. It is creased and its happy grin has become a crooked smile. Reflecting our concern for facades while our insides deflate. 

In Homage to my Mothers, I honor my upbringing in a working class Latino community. My mother is the inspiration for this painting that embodies the American Spirit. She is an immigrant and entrepreneur with aspirations for a better life. Yet while she is an entrepreneur with big dreams, she earns her success by cleaning the homes of the types of people that have the financial means to buy my artwork. In Homage to my Mothers I merge blue collar work and fine arts into one.

Can you walk us through your process for creating a work from beginning to end?

It starts with a vision. They come suddenly and unexpectedly when I am walking or driving and something in front of me becomes a background for a painting. I use my friends, lovers, and my Los Angeles neighbors as muses. They become actors in a scene. I ask myself what is the mood? What feeling do I want to extract? Hope? Dread? Ambition? Happiness? 

I photograph both the model and backdrop only using my phone. I collage the images creating a new composition and a new image.

What series or artistic project are you working on next? 

Francisco’s Fresh Paintings is my current artistic pursuit. I repurposed a street fruit vendor’s cart into a mobile painting studio.  Cruising in  public spaces of Los Angeles I paint produce based still lifes and in 30 min or less a client can purchase an original oil painting where the paint may still be drying.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

My art  often invokes joy. Seeing the audience smiles because they see themselves in my artwork is meaningful to me. The places I paint have long histories with many different people having ties to these places and to be a part of that history is powerful. When I paint these neighborhood landmarks, especially those overlooked by the outside world, I connect with my audience via retelling our shared story of seeking identity, recognition, and beauty.

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About the Author

Bethany Fincher is a curator at Saatchi Art. Need help finding art? Contact her via our free Art Advisory service at saatchiart.com/artadvisory.