By Mekayla Phan
Ignacio Garcia always heard he was going to be an artist. While cultivating his talent in drawing Spiderman during his preschool years, he started to believe that he was going to be an artist as well.
“I wasn’t a show-off. It was a natural curiosity,” Garcia said. “I just loved it. Whenever I saw something, I wanted to paint it. I remember seeing the Mona Lisa or something iconic, and saying, ‘I want to paint that.’ That’s how I started—by seeing something I liked and wanting it for myself.”
Now, having been a Tucson street muralist for 17 years, the Benson native is proud to have created some of the most interesting paintings throughout Arizona, such as his mural of basketball announcer Bill Walton riding a jackalope adorning the east wall of the Rialto Theatre.
The piece is undoubtedly one of his favorites, but there are still so many ideas that he hopes to paint.
If he can get his hands on the City Court building walls, he would love to create a desert scene depicting all things Tucson. A few years ago, Garcia contacted former Mayor Jonathan Rothschild with his proposal, and though backed with support, the plan fell through in the midst of the planning stages.
“I do really want that building, because it’s right in the middle of downtown and that would be a great destination [for tourists] to take pictures if they are visiting Tucson. It could be a landmark,” Garcia said.
Recently, Garcia was hired by the Biden campaign to paint a mural for Latino voters.
“To have D.C. calling me and know that they trust my work, I was very honored,” Garcia said. “I think that’s one of my highest points. Now that people finally know about it, the impact I want to and can provide … I’m also just honored to know, after all these years, it actually finally showed through.”
His ongoing series Iggi Pop, displayed in the windows of CATALYST Arts & Maker Space at Tucson Mall, is a fun collection he also fancies. Riddled with pop culture references and graffiti-style art, the series is influenced by his experiences in living in Los Angeles.
“There’s a story behind each one of them,” Garcia said. “It’s an illusion to think that, ‘Oh, it’s just a fun piece,’ but they all are actually serious pieces, well put together.”
Like a rabbit hole full of mysteries, Garcia likes to add depth to each and every single piece he does. Currently, he is challenging himself on his new Sonoran Street collection that showcases border culture. Mixing paint, denim, rust, and Mexican candies on the canvas — it is an adventure for him to portray traditional Sonoran art more abstractly.
“My next [project] that I'm most looking forward to is to try getting an exhibition going,” Garcia said. “I already am receiving calls about it. It’s a lot of pressure, but ...I don’t want to force it, the work has to really speak for itself.”
There is still a long way to go for an exhibition to take place due to the current state of the pandemic. However, Garcia remains hopeful and continues to drop in to CATALYST to paint when he’s not commissioned for murals.
“Art is a part of our lives. When you take it away from born or built-to-be artists, we will be imprisoned,” Garcia said. “But once I’m locked in, it’s like ‘boom, boom, boom, boom.’ And that’s when the excitement and the creativity will come in.”
In addition to seeing Garcia’s art at the CATALYST Arts & Maker Space or on Tucson street art tours, fans can follow his work on Instagram, @ignacio_garcia_art.
To learn more about another celebrated muralist in Tucson, read about Joe Pagac.