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About Goldie Glitter Art
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Story and photography by Don Toomey.
Reproduced with permission from the Winter 1998 issue of Tradición Revista, pp 84-88.

In the beginning it was your everyday bottlecaps with miniature saint's pictures embedded in plastic. Now it's elaborate shrines devoted to the santos or recognizeable personages of the twentieth century whose images are embedded in plastic and surrounded by marbles, pieces of cast-off jewelry and an amazing variety of the everyday detritus of our throw-away culture. Yet these works by Goldie Garcia are both unique and compelling pieces of contemporary Latino art.

Goldie Garcia was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her father came from Mexico, and she believes his birthplace was Cuernavaca but notes that the location seems to change each time her father tells of his origins. Her mother's family was the German-Jewish Jake Gold family that settled in Santa Fe. Her Hispanic roots on her father's side go back to the early 1900's whereas her mother's New Mexican Hispanic roots go back to the middle 1800s. Goldie was raised in a family of nine children and she is second to eldest. She notes that her parents were always on hand, but being the eldest girl in the family, she devoted much of her time to taking care of the younger children.

She was brought up in a Hispanic Catholic cultural setting, but one that emphasized the so-called "American Way." However, she did not grow up speaking Spanish and only learned it later on. She attended St. Francis Xavier parochial school on South Broadway from kindergarten to the ninth grade, and there the nuns discouraged any Spanish from being spoken in the classroom and reinforced the prohibition by cracking knuckles with a ruler. Goldie says, "When I was taking Spanish in college and was called upon, I would freeze because of this conditioned childhood experience." After sixth grade, her father bought some property in the North Valley where she attended Garfield Junior High and then went on to Valley High School.

After graduation she followed her father's admonition, "You first learn to type, and then you get a steady job!" She did so for a few years working as a secretary for reliable firms, but her superiors all kept telling her that she culd go only so far without more education. Reponding to this advice, she started taking night classes at TVI when she was twenty-three years old. later on, she took additional college preparatory courses at the University of New Mexico, then quit her job and went to school full-time.

During this time Goldie began to do standup comedy at some of the local night spots. During her last year at UNM she decided she wanted to broaden her life, moved to Boston, and enrolled in the liberal arts program at Harvard University. She says, "It was a wonderful experience for me to go to such a school and be accepted into this program." She remained in Boston for eight years and notes that the first three years were very difficult for her. The weather was terrible, and she found the people cold, abrasive, and very materialistic. Still, she realized that for her future this program was the chance of a lifetime. Between semesters she would return to New Mexico to reconnect with her roots. While working on her degree she did standup comedy in the Boston area, worked as a hostess at "To Catch a Rising Star," and as a secretary in a real estate firm.

During this interval she had also married but found that her husband did not share her dreams for the future. They divorced, she moved to Los Angeles and worked at a variety of jobs. However, Goldie did not find Los Angeles to her liking and returned to New Mexico in 191. Returning to Albuquerque with a degree from Harvard University, she found that she still could no get a job contrary to what she had been led to believe about the merits of additional education. She was told that she was overqualified. She jokes, "This was somewhat ironic since before I had an education I could get any job, and now with an education I was overqualified and regarded as a threat." Finally, she was able to get a part-time job as a waitress at an old Town French restaurant called La Crepe Michele in addition to pursuing her standup comedy routines.

When asked about her desire to become a standup comic she said, "I believe that coming from a large family where I was always joking around, entertaining, and trying to keep the younger siblings happy had a lot to do wit it." She added that her entire family seems to have a really good sense of humor. Goldie has performed as a comic throughout New Mexico and locally at "Laffs." As an established comedienne, she has also performed at clubs in Arizona, Colorado, Boston, San Francisco, and elsewhere. As an interesting insight into the various phases of comedy, she pointed out that you go through many different stages. First is the real corny stage, then you try to grow up and go through the angry stage, then into a profanity stage. Then it dawns on you that if you keep this up you are not going to get work, so you go back to the clean stage.

Some people insult easily, so a Hispanic woman comic has to be very careful of stereotyping. Goldie said, "I came from a stereotypical family. I was a litle señorita when I was growing up, and when you talk about this on stage you tend to trouble some Hispanics who deny their heritage. Now I concentrate on talking just about my life experiences." She added that she has more resistance from Hispanic males since they are not used to a woman with a strong mind and outgoing personality. She also noted that there were problems with some Anglos because they believed that she should stay in her place. Goldie says," I didn't understand what that was, but they seemed to have determined it for me by stereotyping me in their minds." Despite those prickly attitudes, Goldie is still an active standup comic and only recently did a one-week run at "Laffs" and a show for the New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities.

Goldie Garcia describes how she became involved with her unique and funky art form: When I would come back to New Mexico during semester breaks, I would see my sisters struggling to make ends meet, and here I was with my life going so well. Feeling that I should do something to help them, I advised them to become involved doing "Latino Art." I recalled to them that when we were kids growing up on South Broadway, there were altars to the Virgin of Guadalupe every December, and we had processions in the streets with mariachi bands playing the marches. The altars would be wrapped in colored foil along with fresh flowers and blinking Christmas lights and with a lot of colorful glitter on the shrines. This was an expression of my culture that was so prevalent, but my sisters kept saying that we don't have the time. So when i returned to New Mexico for good and found myself hungry, and with job opportunities closed to me, I decided I ought to take some of my own advice."

Dreams play an important part in Goldie's life, and along with dreams and her own intuition she began to develop some thoughts about glitzy, funky art. She started off by placing pictures of saints and litle crystals on slabs of metal, and people would actually buy them. Then it dawned on her that maybe there was something in this after all. Goldie doesn't claim to have a business mind, but she believes that necessity seems to help out in developing one. Her bottlecap art came to her one day while out walking and she picked up a Budweiser beercap. She said, "You know there are millions of discarded bottlecaps all around us." She gathered up a bunch, placed a small image of Our Lady of Guadalupe among them, and put a sprinkle of gliter and plastic over it.

At first she believed they were pretty sacrilegious, but then it seemed that a saint among bottlecaps culd also be regarded as a personal social commentary. Goldie developed a process and made earrings, pins, and keychains from her bottlecaps. Before long the line had taken off. Goldie refers to these as her "Latino Art" and notes that they do have a very contemporary kitsch quality to them. She definitely gets mixed reactions from them with some customers loving them while others think they are the tackiest things they have ever seen. Goldie believes all the beauty in these lies in their overall glitter. To some it represents a return to childhood and simpler times.

Now that Goldie had developed a product, she was therefore a businesswoman; but how does one get started in business? The answer proved close at hand when she heard about an organization called ACCION. This is a wonderful organization located in Albuquerque designed to help anyone get started in business primarily through business loands. you apply for a first loan of up to five hundred dollars, then yhour next step upward is a seven hundred dollar loand, then you pay off you debt and expand your loan potential up to a maximum of twenty-five thousand dollars. Anyone who can prove she is a responsible businessperson can qualify for an ACCION loan. Goldie took advantage of this program and over a period of time acquired and paid off loans for a company car, a computer setup, and a website.

For the last few years Goldie Garcia has been creating various types of shrines incorporating both the contemporary and religious aspects of her "Latino Art." the idea of the shrines developed quite suddenly one night. The night she was informed that here father had just been diagnosed with cancer. She said, "That night I made my first shrine; it just came out of the blue. I seem to have creative spurts when I suffer pain: the physical emotion seems to spur the creative urge. The shrines have been some of her best sellers, and they allow Goldie the opportunity to explore different aspects of her funky art. She has done shrines to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Jesus, Princess Diana, Fida Kahlo, and many other contemporary and religious figures.

Of the materials Goldie utilizes in her art, recycled bottle caps are a prime item. These she uses for her earrings, regrigerator magnets, key chains, pins, and other small items. Wholesalers supply the various plastics she uses and the safety equipment used in the process. She ahs taught herself the special techniques needed to produce her art and has even coopyrighted the fifteen-step process it requires.

Another sort of whimsical art that Goldie has deveoped is her "Car Crosses." These were designed to replace those "hula girls" one sees on car dashboards. The crosses are made of popsicle sticks glued together and wrapped with various colored ribbons, then graced with a bottlecap and sprinkled with liberal quantities of glitter. Attached to each cross is a written label that notes they are a protection from potholes and everyday trash. If it is hung from the rear mirror with the bottlecap facing outward, the driver is assured protection from drunk drivers; alternatively, if the central bottlecap is facing outwards, the driver is protected from bad country western music and backseat drivers.

Goldie Garcia applied to become a participant in Contemporary Hispanic Market in 1993. She submitted a variety of her bottlecap art to the judges (the shrine had not developed by then) and was immediately accepted into the Market. She finds joy in attending Market and considers the entire annual process as a rite of passage as really a ritual. Goldie believes that some of her art has a religious appeal for many people, and in fact she claims she has learned more about the santos from her customers than they have learned from her. Some tell her of their personal experiences in which the saints appeared to them or even did some favor for them, and Goldie regards this as a sign of trust to be privy to these personal stories. She hopes that when customers purchase her work that they willl take away a deeper respect for realizing that we are more than a stereotype and that we do have something to consider a culture.

As to recognition and awards for her art, Goldie noted that her work is part of the current exhibit Recycling that was at the Museum of International Folk Art and has since gone to Tacoma, Washington, and Palm Springs. The art is also in the traveling exhibition. Goldie's unique art can be found at Mariposa Galleries in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, at Karen Miphi Gallery in Santa Fe, and at other outlets, among them Montez Gallery, Bustamonte Gallery, and the Museum of International Folk Art Store in Santa Fe. Her work is also shown in museum gift shops in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and San Diego. Goldie says, however, "I hold my finer, large pieces for the Contemporary Hispanic Market."

When Goldie was asked what she would like to do in the future she replied," I do have a serious desire to learn how to carve bultos. I think my approach to bulto carving and painting would make for an interesting combination especially with my trademark glitter. I look at the traditional devotional art and I am mesmerized as to how they accomplish such beeautiful creations. The entire process seems to be fascinating."

Goldie Garcia creates a unique line of very contemporary art ranging from bottlecap earrings to religious and secular shrines, and her works of art convey great feeling and a profound sense of social commentary.

Don Toomey is a staff writer for Tradición Revista.

Goldie's work can be found in the collections of Al Pacino, Julia Roberts, Paul Rodriguez, Laura Dern, and Billy Bob Thornton.

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