The Rapidian

Local artist empowers women to find freedom

Reyna Garcia, a local painter, shares her story of self acceptance and purpose. She hopes to lead other women to find their own freedom by confronting their struggles.
Garcia with one of her pieces featured in ArtPrize.

Garcia with one of her pieces featured in ArtPrize. /Reyna Garcia

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Check out a few of Garcia's recent entries into ArtPrize!

"Voices of Hope"

"American Dream"

 

Garcia's "Voices of Hope".

Garcia's "Voices of Hope". /Reyna Garcia

"I want to show women how much they can do with their lives, no matter what their struggle or story is,” says Garcia, “That's why I paint about cancer survivors, self esteem and finding freedom.”

Garcia began her painting career when she was a middle school student living in Nezahualtcoyotl, Mexico. Her older brother saw Garcia's talent and introduced her to his high school art teacher, who began training her in the studio. This was after Garcia had dropped out of school  because of discrimination and bullying and started homeschooling. She was discriminated against due to a physical disability in her leg that was caused by having polio at age 6. 

"In Mexico, every Monday, the six top students in your grade do a march with flags in front of the school," says Garcia, "I remember they asked me to do that, because I was one of the brightest students in my school." 

Garcia says that she was thrilled by this honor and attended all of the practices to learn the marches. However, on the day of the first performance she was told that she had been replaced by another girl and was not allowed to participate. 

"They told me I was not able to do it because of my disability, even though I had been able to do everything in practice," she says.

"However once I saw the girl they replaced me with, I knew they were just discriminating against me,” says Garcia, “She was so beautiful, with long hair and green eyes, but everyone knew she had bad grades and she didn't belong there." 

This situation, and others like it, deeply affected Garcia, especially because she was lacking an encouraging support system in her life.

"I didn't have much support, I didn't have anyone telling me that I was a human being and that I deserved respect," she says. After finishing school, Garcia left her home in Mexico to come to the United States in search of a fresh start. 

Garcia came to America to continue her studies in art, but says she was also trying to leave behind the bad memories. 

"I just wanted somebody to accept me for myself, but then I realized the real issue was that I was not accepting myself," she says. 

"Once I realized that if I accept myself for who I am, then I will be okay no matter what anyone may say,” she says. 

That's a message she works to bring to her art.

"This is me, I love myself, and I want others to do this for themselves and accept themselves," Garcia says. 

Since living in Grand Rapids, she has taught painting classes to students at the Cook Arts Center. Her intent is to help them find hope through sharing their stories in their artwork. The students, says Garcia, not only produced beautiful artwork through her classes, but experienced powerful transformation in their own self-worth and expression. You can read more in-depth about that experience here

Garcia says that the more she learns, the more she realizes that moving to a new country was never going to solve any of her problems.

"It was an issue in myself and I needed to confront it, and when I did, I experienced freedom," says Garcia. 

That is the freedom Garcia portrays in her artwork. She wants viewers to see her work and relate to it in a way that inspires them to be brave and confront whatever struggles they may be facing in their life. 

"I want to make something that people connect right away with, a situation that they have already had,” Garcia says.

“I don't just want to paint something that is 'beautiful',” she says, “I want to paint true stories, true lives and experiences that will maybe make people change their minds." 

Typical subjects in Garcia's artwork include cancer survivors, people with physical disabilities, and the struggle of insecurity. The connection women share when they see these images is what Garcia hopes will compel them to believe that they too can overcome the barriers in their own lives and live out of a place of self-acceptance and freedom.  

You can check out Garcia's artwork on her webpage or on Facebook

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