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Alimentando America – Díptica

Alimentando America – Díptica

This is a diptych painting set I began in the fall of 2020 and finally finished in Q1 of 2022. The central characters of the pieces are focused on Latino workers that feed America from the fields to the restaurants.

In times when politics have polarized people and lives are calculated by the value they offer to a nation, my hope is to feature the beauty and dignity of the work of countless Latinos that work hard to feed us.

The farm-focused piece is especially meaningful to me because I come from a long line of farmers. It’s also because of the Bracero program that President Eisenhower did that gave my father the opportunity to come to the United States. The fields are the birth of so much of our food. They were the birth of my family’s American dream. They taught me the value of hard work, my own strength, and taught me how to dream.

I am proud to be Mexican-American and proud of the farms that raised my family. These characters aren’t my family but represent the many Latinos that were my family and my people. When I work towards big dreams and goals, I know I don’t just do it for myself, but in a special way, honor the hard work of the communities that raised me. I hope to show the dignity to these beautiful people.

 

I – Agricultores

II – Cocineros

Notable Symbols

Square Halos

The square halos are an ancient symbol of the living saints that cultures deemed worthy of respect and even reverence. The work that countless laborers do on a daily basis on everything from harvesting crops to serving plates is essential, but unfortunately is often overlooked and undervalued.

The Sun and Moon

These symbols are a common motif in Latino art that pairs and contrasts the masculine sun and feminine moon in complementary energies. The two are also used as a juxtaposition of settings from rural to urban environments.

 

2560 1396 Cristóbal Almanza
El Baile de Mis Papás, José y Carlota

El Baile de Mis Papás, José y Carlota

[La traducción en español es la segunda parte]

In January of this year, I came across 3 large frames on Marketplace. 2 fit some existing paintings. I didn’t have a painting ready for the smaller frame, but I did have a blank canvas in the exact size I had purchased the week before. I didn’t know what was going in this frame, but the frame itself was an inspiration. Handcarved in Mexico with a classic aesthetic.

I decided to make a painting in honor of my parents and their love that has been a force for good in their community. My parents have lived out their vocation in a beautiful way that represents what Catholics believe marriage is all about: a sacrament of service. 

Their marriage has been full of love and devotion along with many struggles and sufferings like anyone else in this life. The power of their bond is that they haven’t kept it to themselves. Their love has been a force that gives to the world around them, and to this day, they often think of every way they can continue to give to the community around them.

Symbols

This is a scene that does not exist as it is painted, but it is full of symbols and elements of scenes from real life. Their appearance is a mix of different pictures from 2009-2013 with a strong lean towards memories from their 50th wedding anniversary in 2013. 

My parents have always had good taste and like dressing nice. My dad definitely prefers western-style clothing because it the only life he’s only known. He was born and raised on the land and has lived his entire life dedicated to a life of hard work with land, crops, and animals. My mom has always loved wearing beautiful dresses and jewelry. Yes, she has fair skin and blue eyes.

The crowd isn’t my family, or at least not only my family. This group represents the many eyes that have watched my parents over the years of their marriage. The people in their towns, churches, and extended family that have witnessed the example of my parent’s relationship through the many different stages of life.

The lights in the background are hung at the pavilion on my parent’s ranch that has hosted many private and public celebrations. They give the metal frame a warm glow that feels more welcoming for the crowds that gather to celebrate.

The pattern on the edge of the dance floor is inspired by the background in one of my pictures of inspiration but also represents the mixing of cultures that my parents lived coming to a foreign country and culture to live their lives and raise a family.

The stars represent the unknowns of the culture filled with tiny guiding lights that show the way. This is a subtle illusion to the cloud of witnesses in heaven that intercede for our family.

The Dancing

I have countless memories as a kid going to community celebrations of weddings, quinceaneras, birthdays, baptisms, and any other reason our family and community decided to celebrate with food and dancing. It showed me the beauty of dancing and celebrating together. There is so much joy that unites people together physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

The primary reason I chose the posture of dancing is because of the poetic symbolism of how marriage is meant to be lived. Finding a rhythm together, adjusting to each other as you observe what the other is doing, synching together with the music that surrounds the couple, and enjoying the joy and flow of movement in unity. When life throws changes and struggles, marriage is about finding ways to work through them together but also in relation to the world around the couple.

My parents have put in the work to learn about each other, adjust to the changes, and found ways to stay optimistic through many unforeseen challenges. Sometimes in the middle of the messiness of life, it’s hard to know what will come. Now, looking back in retrospect, it’s easier to see the fluidity of the dance and how beautiful it has been.


 

En enero de este año, me encontré con 3 marcos grandes en Marketplace. Dos de los marcos le cabian a pinturas que ya tenia listas. No tenía una pintura lista para el marco más pequeño, pero tenía un lienzo de pintura del tamaño exacto que había comprado la semana anterior. No sabía lo que queria pintar en este marco, pero el marco mismo fue una inspiración. Hecho a mano en México con una estética clásica.

Decidí hacer una pintura en honor a mis padres y su amor que ha sido una fuerza para el bien en su comunidad. Mis padres han vivido su vocación de una manera hermosa que representa lo que los católicos creen que es el matrimonio: un sacramento de servicio.

Su matrimonio ha estado lleno de amor y devoción junto con muchas dificultades y sufrimientos como cualquier otra persona en esta vida. El poder de su unión es que no se lo han guardado del mundo. Su amor ha sido una fuerza que da al mundo que los rodea, y hasta el día de hoy, siempre piensan en todas las formas en que pueden continuar dando a la comunidad que los rodea. 

 

Los símbolos

Esta es una escena que no existe tal como está pintada, pero está llena de símbolos y elementos de escenas de la vida real. Su apariencia es una mezcla de diferentes imágenes de los años 2009-2013 pero más a los recuerdos de su 50 aniversario de boda en 2013.

Mis padres siempre han tenido buen gustos y les gusta vestirse bien. Mi papá definitivamente prefiere la ropa de estilo vaquero porque es la única vida que conoce. Nació y creció en la tierra y ha vivido toda su vida dedicada a una vida de trabajo duro con la tierra. A mi mamá siempre le ha encantado usar hermosos vestidos y joyas. Ella tiene piel clara y ojos azules.

El grupo en el fondo no es mi familia, o al menos no solo mi familia. Este grupo representa el pubelo que han observado a mis padres durante los años de su matrimonio. Las personas en sus pueblos, iglesias y familiares que han sido testigos del ejemplo de la relación de mis padres a través de las diferentes etapas de la vida.

Las luces en el fondo están colgadas en el pabellón en el rancho de mis padres que ha sido la escena de muchas celebraciones públicas y privadas. Le dan al marco de metal un brillo cálido que se siente más acogedor para las multitudes que se reúnen para celebrar.

El diseño en el borde de la pista de baile está inspirado en el fondo de una de mis imágenes de inspiración, pero también representa la mezcla de culturas que vivieron mis padres en vinir a un país y cultura extranjera para vivir y tener una familia.

Las estrellas representan las incógnitas de la cultura llenas de pequeñas luces guía que muestran el camino. Esta es una sutil ilusión a la nube de testigos en el cielo que intercede por nuestra familia.

 

El baile

Tengo un muchisimos recuerdos en mi vida desde cuando era niño yendo a celebraciones comunitarias de bodas, quinceañeras, cumpleaños, bautizos y cualquier otra razón por la que nuestra familia y comunidad decidieron celebrar con comida y baile. Me mostró la belleza de bailar y celebrar juntos. Hay tanta alegría que une a las personas física, emocional y espiritualmente.

La razón principal por la que elegí la postura de bailar es por el simbolismo poético de cómo se debe vivir el matrimonio. Encontrar un ritmo juntos, adaptarse el uno al otro mientras observan lo que el otro está haciendo, sincronizarse junto con la música que rodea a la pareja y disfrutar de la alegría y el gozo del movimiento en la unidad. Cuando llegan cambios y dificultades en la vida, el matrimonio se trata de encontrar formas de trabajar juntos, pero también en relación con el mundo que rodea a la pareja.

Mis padres se han esforzado por aprender de cada uno, adaptarse a los cambios y han encontrado formas de mantenerse optimistas a través de muchos desafíos imprevistos. A veces, en medio del desorden de la vida, es difícil saber lo que vendrá. Ahora, mirando en retrospectiva, es más fácil ver la fluidez del baile y lo hermoso que ha sido.

2560 1707 Cristóbal Almanza
Saint William [Painting]

Saint William [Painting]

My parish has an obscure saint as its patron – Saint William of Montevirgine (or Vercelli). He is often confused for other saints like St. Francis because of some of their common symbols and simple garments. He is also distinctly depicted across global regions. This is common with older saints that lived in a time where we have little knowledge of the details of their lives. Artists often depict these saints with symbols that communicate best to the target audience instead of worrying about authenticity.

St. William Catholic Church – © Patrick Y. Wong/Atelier Wong Photography

Reading the history of St William parish, I found that one of the main reasons he was chosen was to honor Archbishop William O’Brien, head of the Catholic Church Extension Society in 1939. He approved the land purchase and helped pay to build a parish church for the Mexican community of Round Rock and McNiel.

In the many years since its founding, the parish has become incredibly diverse and is made of parishioners from all over the world. Still, there is a very large presence of Latinos from al throughout Latin America. I chose to use my Latino-flavored style of art to honor the culture of a parish originally established for Spanish speakers. I also tried to balance this look with a saint native of Italy.

Each of the elements holds a meaning about the message of the saint and the mission of our parish.

Saint William 60×40 inches oil on canvas

The Saint

St. William became an abbot and founder of a religious community on Monte Virgine. In the painting, he uses the traditional symbols of a pectoral cross and crozier that are traditionally used by bishops and abbots. He was alive so long ago that there is little known about the details of the color of his habit or look of his face. In the United States, he is often depicted in brown, in Latin America is often wearing black, but he is commonly shown wearing white in Italy. This is most notable in the images of the church at Montevirgine.

Painting in Montevergine Church

Symbols of the Parish (Left Side and Borders)

The border is inspired by the pattern seen on the white dividers of the ceiling inside of the main church. The saint is also framed within a Spanish rose cross that is used in the logo and throughout the parish architecture. The background of the cross is a setting of golden stars on a blue background as seen on the ceiling of the main church building and an ancient symbol of a sacred space. The colors of the painting are also vibrant selections of colors used in the parish marketing and buildings around the campus.

Logo designed by Rebecca Martinez

The Principality of the parish, or the angel assigned to protect the community, is shown releasing the Holy Spirit as a dove from the logo over the parish.

St. William Catholic Church – © Patrick Y. Wong/Atelier Wong Photography

The bottom left shows the cupola (dome), the most notable architectural mark of the parish that can be seen from the nearby interstate highway. The Roman style cross that the saint is wearing is also the same one seen in the logo and at the top of the dome.

The pierced heart in the middle left side displays the devotion of the parish to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that has been an important element of the spirituality of the community since the beginning. The chapel on the campus is dedicated in honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and it was the first choice for naming the parish before selecting St. William.

Painting Saint William Winter 2017

Symbols of the Life of St William Center and Right Side)

St. William among the founder saint statues in St. Peter’s Basilica

Passion Flower

The top right side shows a floral symbol known as a passion flower behind his crozier. This is one of his common symbols and represents the saint’s connection with the passion of Jesus. Under his left arm is a bouquet of lilies that is a common symbol of saints known for the heroic virtue of purity.

In the bottom left of the painting, a wolf is held back by St. William’s crozier, symbolic of the patron’s spiritual protection through intercession. It is also a classic symbol of the saint because of the legend that he tamed a wolf after it killed his donkey. This is one of the common symbols that St. William shares with St. Francis of Assisi, but he tamed and rode the wolf instead of just befriending it like Brother Francis.

The middle right depicts a heart pierced by a sword representing the Immaculate Heart of Mary. St William had a deep devotion to Holy Mother Mary and establish his monastery upon the mountain named in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The open Bible in St. William’s right hand shows the most important mission of the saint and the parish, to point the world to the Truth of Jesus Christ as our Lord. He smiles and keeps it open to point to the name of Jesus while holding it close.

I created this painting as a gift for the parish’s new Evangelization Center, but details of when and where it will go up are still pending.

Saint William 60×40 inches oil on canvas

1000 667 Cristóbal Almanza
Sanctus Mural Panels [Painting and Explanation]
Sanctus Mural

Sanctus Mural Panels [Painting and Explanation]

In January 2016, I debuted a large 48×48 painting that was enlarged to 16×16′ for the Mass setting of the Austin DCYC (Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference) held in Waco, Texas with almost 3,000 people in attendance.

Official Image from Austin DCYC

This December, I also spent time finishing the 12×48″ side panels to be enlarged for the side panels of the stage. This process was much less intensive in nature because much of the theme and characters were already set. This extension was part of the original plan, but my schedule didn’t allow me to finish it in time for the 2016 Conference. This panel was entirely focused on expanding the city visuals, the flowing fountain of blood and water with the choirs of angels.

Sanctus Mural

Sanctus 3 Panel Mural

The collective visual can be somewhat overwhelming at first, and this is intentional. My hope is that it shows the grandeur of the spiritual realities occurring in the Holy Mass. I hope that it inspires feelings of wonder at the sanctity of the Sacraments.

The panels have more symmetry than the central piece with a mirrored approach to the top and bottom. This helps direct more of the attention to the center at the sacrifice of Christ. You can see the original layout sketches repeat various angels. One of the other elements borrowed from the Beuronese style is the priestly vestments used by the angels.

This key helps explain the various characters and elements happening in the 3 panels of the mural. For more background on the planning of the mural, see my posts from last year about the Sanctus Mural.

SANCTUS Mural and panels detail key

The following images are from the official DCYC event January 27-29 in Waco, TX.

1200 800 Cristóbal Almanza
Angels and the Glorious Assumption [Painting]

Angels and the Glorious Assumption [Painting]

Last year I decided to take a new direction with my favorite theme of angels and incorporate them more into scenes of a narrative instead of just portraits. read more

1000 1300 Cristóbal Almanza
Saint Anthony of Padua [Painting]
San Antonio de Padua

Saint Anthony of Padua [Painting]

Sometimes patron saints get typecasted. They are the Patron Saint of one area and suddenly everyone forgets all the other great things they did. read more

500 580 Cristóbal Almanza

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