In 2010, Kerrie Gutierrez, one of our first community contributors, sat down with artist Yolanda Gonzalez, who spoke about coming from a lineage of Mexican artists and why she chose to take up residence in Alhambra. Gonzalez wrote to us recently to say that she’s been showcasing her work around the world. She'd participated in a Chicano art exhibition at the Museum of Aquitaine in Bordeaux, France in 2014. This April her art will be featured in the Los Angeles County Arboretum’s “The Nature of Sculpture Art in the Garden." Gutierrez has been busy as well. She received her BA in Liberal Studies in 2013 and is completing her education specialist credential and MA in Special Education. She is a mother of five—all of whom have attended AUSD schools—and grandmother of three. She told us she "enjoys reading, container gardening, nature photography, and playing online Scrabble."
As I approached Yolanda Gonzalez’s gallery and studio in an industrial complex on Palm Avenue, I wondered what I would see. Then 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.
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. Along the way she has become enmeshed with the local art scene—Dan Ryder of J6 Creative in Alhambra does her giclee prints, and she said, “I absolutely love Nucleus (art gallery)!”
At one point, she says, the mayor of a large, nearby metropolis offered her a studio space, but Gonzalez decided to commit 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.