KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOR: Tomás N. Garcia

Local man known as 'jack of all arts'

By Kathy Córdova
For The Taos News
Posted 10/3/19

Many people know the phrase jack-of-all-trades. In our local art community, the variation phrase is "jack of all arts." Artist Tomás Garcia epitomizes this idea. …

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KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOR: Tomás N. Garcia

Local man known as 'jack of all arts'

Posted

Many people know the phrase jack-of-all-trades. In our local art community, the variation phrase is "jack of all arts." Artist Tomás Garcia epitomizes this idea. The artist recently sat down for an interview in El Prado.

Early artistic years

When Garcia attended Taos High School, he never enrolled in woodworking class, but he did complete a course in Arthur Anaya's art class. The young student already knew much about woodworking and adobe from his late father Tomás E. Garcia and his uncles. He decided to study a different field - auto mechanics - under the direction of the late Frank Cruz.

Following graduation, Garcia joined the Army where his military occupational specialty included auto mechanics. As a young soldier Garcia completed his training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Other assignments included Fort Stewart in Savannah, Georgia, and Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as well as Korea.

When Garcia returned home, he sought a job in auto mechanics, but no jobs in the field were available. He turned to earning a livelihood through construction and woodworking.

Construction

Garcia worked on many building and remodeling projects. His employment occurred through various companies and on an individual basis.

For seven years, Garcia worked full time at the Taos Historic Museums. Back then, the enterprise consisted of several properties: the archives (now known as the Morada); the collections buildings; Kit Carson Museum; the Blumenschein Museum; Martinez Hacienda; and a property located at Turley Mill.

"I built the forge, completed plaster work and improvement on floors and fireplaces. My duties included general maintenance and woodwork. When I replaced the doors, they had to be aged in keeping with the period of the building," said Garcia.

He credits a gentleman also named Tomás Garcia of Cordillera (not a relative) with lessons on construction at the Martinez Hacienda. At the Martinez Hacienda, Jim Parker, Tom Irvin and Fred Turley taught him about blacksmithing.

Woodworking

Garcia possesses the ability to see an object and visualize a final product carved of wood. He observes, sees completed items and feels confidence that he can create a piece of work. "This method works better for me than reading about it," Garcia shared.

Oftentimes, he makes items he invents in his mind.

Garcia creates a large range of items that he completes in his shop. Some of his objects include custom cremains boxes, wedding or hope chests, canisters, jewelry boxes and furniture, among other functional wood products. "I'll create whatever people order, including pine, cedar and other wood," said Garcia. He added, "My imagination sometimes runs wild. I see things in the wood."

Artwork

Garcia uses the medium of oils on canvas. He prefers to paint landscapes, and Northern New Mexico remains rich with subjects.

Etchings create a means for Garcia to illustrate images of his culture and local occasions. He completed a printmaking course at University of New Mexico-Taos taught by instructors Gary Cook and Amy Rankin. Garcia creates the subjects that surround him - the Penitentes, acequias, pilgrimages, Matanzas, feasts, the Martinez Hacienda and customs such as making tortillas.

"I have so much in my head, and I need to get it out. In order for this to happen, I need to get a printing press," Garcia explained.

All work combined

Tomás Garcia always gives thanks to his father, Tomás E. Garcia Sr., a 37-year mailman and an employee at the State Printing Office in Santa Fe, for sharing his knowledge. The elder Garcia worked on woodwork and adobes both out of necessity and for enjoyment.

The younger Garcia prefers to work individually as opposed to sharing tasks with a partner. He uses his own private workshop for items on order. Garcia also works off-site when necessary.

The artist won many awards for both woodworking and artwork. At the Taos County Fair, he has placed first, third and honorable mention. He's won several awards at the New Mexico State Fair and found success selling his work there as well. He has also exhibited at U.S. Bank and the Harwood Museum Trunk show.

Family

Tomás is the son of the late Garcia Sr. and Dorothy (Johnny) Pacheco. His siblings consist of one brother and six sisters. Tomás' four children include: Alma (Robert) Trujillo; Veronica (J.D.) Wilson; Nichole Garcia; and Tomás Garcia. All of the children live in Albuquerque. Six grandchildren provide much enjoyment for Grandpa: Leandra Chacon; Amalia Wilson; Jade Dominguez; Carlos Martinez; Michael Martinez; and Mateo Trujillo. Their ages range from 21 to four years. Garcia's large family includes many aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and cousins.

Spare time favorites

Garcia enjoys hunting and fishing when he isn't making art. He likes to visit family and watch sports. Above all, Grandpa Tomás loves his grandchildren. He also enjoys dances of all kinds, New Mexico food and reading. "I used to read the encyclopedia, but now I read history books such as local issues and ancient Greeks and Romans," he said.

Still, most days are spent thinking about or doing art.

"When I'm not busy I think about artwork. I love people and I love doing my artwork for them," Garcia said. "I love working the way I grew up and observing my traditions in my work. My attitude toward what I do is the fact that people outside our culture tell our stories visually. I'd like to create cultural subjects from my own point of view. Many of the stories are about us and how we live, so why shouldn't I present these subjects myself?"

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