Bay Area Glitter Artist René Garcia Jr. Dies at 41 (1973–2015)

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René Garcia Jr. in 2012. (Photo by Michael Cuffe)

René Garcia Jr., local artist known for his dazzling glitter paintings of pop culture iconography, died of natural causes on May 8 while vacationing in Orlando, Fla. He was 41.

René Garcia Jr., <i>Beach Picnic</i>, 2011. (Courtesy of the artist's website)
René Garcia Jr., Beach Picnic, 2011. (Courtesy of the artist's website)

A talented artist who worked across media -- including painting, photography, illustration and installation -- Garcia's work was included in exhibitions across the U.S. He received regular commissions from individuals and organizations, most often for his large-scale glitter paintings, featuring everything from motorcycle-riding babes to big cats on beaches.

These paintings, constructed with simple "kindergarten" tools of Elmer's glue and glitter shakers, are both decadent and optimistic.

In a 2007 interview for KQED’s Spark, Garcia admitted cheerfully, “I’ve been saying I’ll be done with glitter almost since I started, but the thing is people like it and I like it.”

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According to those who knew him, Garcia's high spirits were contagious. Artist Ryan de la Hoz, who worked at Project One, where Garcia showed on multiple occasions, says, "The joy felt by all on opening nights was palpable. His work exuded an energy that is increasingly rare in today's creative sphere. You didn't just glance at his work, you were captivated by it."

René Garcia Jr. Dragster, 2012. (Courtesy of the artist's website)
René Garcia Jr. Dragster, 2012. (Courtesy of the artist's website)

In addition to his studio practice, Garcia volunteered at the San Francisco Friends School and Pacific Primary and as an art teacher at San Quentin State Prison as part of the Prison Arts Project. He grew up outside of Riverside, Calif., where he practiced his drawing skills on his bedroom walls and began a lifelong infatuation with the pop culture that would fill his artwork: Star Wars, science fiction, pop music, Amazonian ladies, demolition derbies and racing of all kinds. He studied film and literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz before moving to San Francisco in the mid-1990s, where his art career began in animation at the children's video company Wild Brain.

Garcia is survived by his wife, Holly Rhodes, his children, Renecito and Della, his mother, Julie Garcia, and his sisters, Kristina Draper and Catalina Patton. The family is accepting donations the René Garcia Jr. Memorial Fund at youcaring.com. A retrospective exhibition of his works is planned for late summer in San Francisco.