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
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
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.
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
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
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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