Why Francisco Palomares Created a Fictional Street in East Los Angeles

Why Francisco Palomares Created a Fictional Street in East Los Angeles

Francisco Javier Palomares is a painter and performance artist based in East Los Angeles. His studio, PalomaresBLVD, is a fictional street in his childhood neighborhood of Boyle Heights. Drawing upon his experiences as a first-generation Mexican-American, Palomares weaves historical narratives into present-day scenarios to pay homage to immigrant laborers. His project Fresh Paintings consists of a fruit cart on the sidewalk where he creates original works of art for passersby and invites them to sample his wares.

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As a child, Palomares gazed at work by Rembrandt, Goya, and De Velasquez in art books, and was amazed at how vividly they brought their subjects to life. After learning to draw and paint at the Ryman Art School in Los Angeles, he earned a BFA from California State University at Long Beach. Semesters abroad in Italy and China confirmed his decision to become a visual storyteller and honor the people in his community.

My main body of work reimagines metro workers as saints, and poses my neighbors as powerful leaders in their community, not by creating an imagined image of them, but by showing them as they are. In my landscapes, I document landmarks in East L.A that help shape my cultural identity. The Mexican nightclubs and the local convenience store that were there since I was born and have felt like they have always stood there are now in danger of disappearing because of gentrification. By documenting these iconic locations I record the history of my community.

In addition to creating portraits and street scenes, and a conceptual series of piñatas, Palomares depicts food items and objects typically found in Mexican-American households. In a recent project, he used deflating helium balloons to convey the pursuit of wealth and success. After experiencing discrimination during art school, such as a lack of input from white students during critiques, he hopes to expand the range of his mobile painting studio, so that children of color can see an artist who looks like them.

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Francisco Palomares — Artist Statement

Francisco Palomares. Headshot
Francisco Palomares

My work is a reflection of realities of life in East L.A. Although my work is not explicitly political, I believe sharing our memory, history and culture from our own perspective is an important political statement. In my approach to making art; public, performance, and curatorial, my intention is to invite viewers to be co-narrators in the shared spaces I create, physically and metaphorically.

I show my work everywhere, from the streets, to galleries, to community projects and in participatory action research. My work is a counter to the experience I had growing up in East Los Angeles —which is so often overlooked, unseen and unheard— I bring to life the community that is the heart and soul of Los Angeles. My work bridges worldviews and experiences, facilitating dialogue between the viewer and the subjects I paint.

“Francisco’s Fresh Paintings,” a project I first started in the early days of the pandemic, is an artistic twist on street vending. Part performance and part fine art exhibition, I combine my love for storytelling and plein air painting displaying ‘Fresh Paintings’ of what one would see at any other fruit cart. When I step into this act, I create experiences that are new, yet familiar to the viewer. “Francisco’s Fresh Paintings,” is a multilayered story about the gentrification of East L.A. that serves as a symbol of remembrance provoking participants to new, unexplored territories. This project emerged from a disillusionment with the art world, and seeking a path to a sustainable art career.

Through the medium of oil paint onto canvas, I borrow techniques from the Old Renaissance masters to provide a platform for stories unheard, people unseen, and places overlooked. The subject matter of my work consists of residents of East L.A., cleaning supplies, helium balloons, and piñatas. My work is a story of my observations of the spaces I navigate as a first-generation Mexican-American. I document stories of community, culture, and shared memories. My newest work, “El Cloro,” is a repurposed bottle of Clorox Bleach with an assortment of flowers against a marble countertop. It is inspired by my own mother's work ethic and the style of home decor common in Mexican households. Like many of my pieces, this piece also pays homage to immigrant laborers. My helium balloons are a portrait series of deflating balloons representing the pursuit to achieve wealth and success.

In this series, I explore internal struggles of living in a culture where success is often a facade. Engaging with these feelings of disconnection, I present my Piñata in English Landscapes series. In this series, I set the piñata, a paper-mache container decorated and filled with small toys or candy, that is broken as part of a ceremony or celebration, in the position to take up space where people least expect it. Being the elephant in the room, its mere presence can be seen as an act of protest and celebration.The piñata may be out of place, but it stands comfortably embracing its new surroundings.

Francisco Palomares – Grant Submission Work

Francisco Palomares. Francisco's Fresh Paintings Mobile Art Studio
Francisco’s Fresh Paintings

Francisco’s Fresh Painting mobile art studio/ art gallery in the Los Angeles Arts District.

Francisco Palomares. Cantalope
Live Painting, slices of cantaloupe. Oil on wood panel
5 x 7 inches
Francisco Palomares. Romeo, 2019
Romeo, 2019
Oil on canvas
10 x 8 inches

Romeo worked at the local taco stand in my art studio in Boyle Heights. He was a common sight and I was drawn to his strong indigenous features. Under his hat, his long shiny braided hair stood out in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. He is a reminder of my privilege to be a U.S Citizen, to speak English, and to have received a college education. As a bridge between the immigrant and American worlds, I use my privilege so the Romeos of the world are remembered with dignity.

Francisco Palomares. Agarrate Papa
Agarrate Papa
Agarrate Papa is Puerto Rican slang for hold on, something is coming!
Oil on canvas
60 x 72 inches

This piece was created at the beginning of the quarantine in March 2020 when nobody knew what was to come.

Francisco Palomares. Rene
Oil on canvas
48 x 36 inches

Rene is part of the Brotherhood Series, which focuses on the everyday Latino man. The series admires and highlights Latinos who are often overlooked because of their skin color, cultural clothes, service jobs, or indigenous features. Rene, an extremely reserved metro driver, safely transports thousands of people to their destinations throughout Los Angeles. These are the people that I believe to make Los Angeles Unique.

Francisco Palomares – Artist Bio

Francisco Javier Palomares is an emerging, contemporary, artist based in East Los Angeles. Palomares discovered the magic of oil painting from skimming through books featuring the works of classic artists. Studying the works of Rembrandt, Francisco de Goya, and Diego De Velasquez, he was mesmerized by the way strokes of paint from a brush can bring to life people, places and things; it was magical in the young eyes of Palomares. Encouraged by educators in his youth, Palomares studied the fundamentals of drawing and painting at Ryman Arts School from 2005 to 2007. Pivotal to his artistic career, Ryman Arts granted Palomares access to resources and opportunities that would enrich his perspective and practice as a young artist. His commitment, dedication, and passion for art led him to California State University, Long Beach where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing and Painting in 2014 where he was awarded two scholarships to study abroad in Italy and China.

After his studies, he relocated to his childhood neighborhood of Boyle Heights setting up his studio —PalomaresBLVD. His studio is a fictional street where he shares his view of Los Angeles inviting viewers to take the stage with him in storytelling. Palomares draws upon his lived experiences combining elements of historical narratives and present-day social challenges. He does so by portraying his subjects as visual narratives emanating the challenges and beauty of their environment. Francisco's Fresh Paintings is an extension of PalomaresBLVD, it brings his imagined world to the public as an art installation piece. A client can go home with an original fine art painting, while the paint may still be drying. The work is fresh from the source and disrupts art mediated through a dealer.

Francisco Palomares on the Web And Social Media

Here is where to find out more about Francisco on the web and social media:

About the Artist of the Day Series

All artworks have been published with permission of the artist. Our "Artist of the Day" series is a regular feature highlighting artworks from the 100's of grant applications we receive. The "Not Real Art Grant" is an annual award designed to empower the careers of contemporary artists, and this is one way we honor all entries we receive. Find out more about the grant program here.

Kirsten Bengtson-Lykoudis

Kirsten Bengtson-Lykoudis is a writer, photographer, and former New York gallerist based in Richmond, Virginia. She has a masters in fine art, a BA in Russian literature, and is earning a masters in nonfiction writing at Johns Hopkins University, AAP.