Ma Art Gallery
As I approached Yolanda Gonzalez’s gallery and studio in an industrial complex on Palm Avenue, I wondered what I would see. I knew that her bold, colorful works are internationally renowned. Someone opened the curtains illuminating a large panel of nudes. I entered and a voice greeted me with a warm hello. Behind a huge table covered with canvas sat a striking woman with lively eyes and a bright smile.
Gonzalez comes from a long line of artists dating back to her great grandfather, Juan Nepomuceno Lopez, of Durango, Mexico. One of her most prized possessions is a drawing by her grandmother, Margarita “Mague” Lopez, called Cristo Medico. When Gonzalez was 7 years old, she received a paint set from Lopez. That sparked her life’s passion. Since then, she has made a name for herself in the art world, establishing a large base of patrons and collectors. The long-time Alhambra resident has a vision to now use her personal success to expand the local art scene into a thriving center for the area.
“I hope to use my art to help create a vibrant art community in Alhambra,” she said. “I’d love it to be like Bergamot Station, where people could come and do an art walk. That would be great!”
Gonzalez’s Ma Art Space is both a gallery and a studio. She showed me four recently commissioned paintings of different fruits and vegetables, some of which she had bought from Super A Foods supermarket on Main Street. Her favorite art medium is acrylic on canvas, although she works with a wide variety from ceramics to wood panels. Some of her current commissioned works include murals for Para Los Niños, White Memorial Medical Center, as well as a school in Los Angeles, in conjunction with Bounty paper towels. Dan Ryder of J6 Creative in Alhambra does her giclee prints and, she said, “I absolutely love Nucleus (art gallery)!”
Gonzalez has lived in Alhambra for 20-plus years and has had her studio in Alhambra for about 10 years. Initially, her studio was part of the Ratkovich Company’s The Alhambra, where she was artist in residence. After a brief stay in a space on Valley Boulevard, friend and fellow artist Howard “Howie” Swerdloff told her about the spot on Palm Avenue. Swerdloff, owner of Howeeduzzit Gallery, shares the same complex.
The mayor of a large, nearby metropolis offered her a studio space, but Gonzalez is committed to Alhambra. “The Alhambra community makes me feel at home and safe,” she said. “I like the culture and community of Alhambra. The people are considerate and there is a love for family. You know, when I see families walking together in the park and on the street, I love it!”
In addition to a “mom-and-pop feel,” she spoke of the abundance of parking and how she enjoys bringing people to Alhambra “who otherwise probably wouldn’t know of it.” Almost always, she said, they tell her they’re surprised how much they like it.
Gonzalez has traveled to many countries showing her art in various galleries and some of her works are included in Cheech Marin’s vast collection of Chicano art. Gonzalez has received numerous awards, the most recent being the Spirit Award for arts and culture by the Latino California Legislature, from Senator Gil Cedillo. In March, she was honored by La Opinión as one of 2010’s Mujeres Destacadas, an award given annually to women with outstanding contributions to the Los Angeles community. In February, HGTV featured her in an episode of “That’s Clever!,” some of which was filmed in Granada Park.