Review: playwright Carlo Lorenzo García paints his mother’s sacrifice – arts


Carlo Lorenzo Garcia (Photo by Arturo Mandalay)

How many of us really know our parents? After all, we show up as an afterthought, after they have had most of the formative experiences of their lives, and while we are being raised by them, we are too focused on our lives to find out more theirs. We think of them like almost all adults: they have never been as young as us. They have never experienced what we have. What could have happened to them in the past that could have been interesting?

Carlo Lorenzo Garcia knows it. He heard the stories of his mother’s youth – of deprivation and cruelty at the hands of an abusive foster family, of fleeing to a strange northern town where she knew no one, of struggling to find her way through low-end jobs, first alone, then with six children – and how those experiences affected her. He knows his mother – indeed, he made a study of her. A portrait of my mother is a personal exhibition in which this devoted son shares his story with all who will listen to him.

Its presentation is simple, even casual. In a room filled with artwork and memorabilia, Garcia speaks directly to the camera – Jarrott Productions filmed this performance for streaming in the Age of the Pandemic – as he works on a painting. Her low-key childbirth, however, stands in stark contrast to the conditions her mother faced when at 5, she was sent to live with her father’s sister’s family: cooking all the family meals, doing chores. housewives, sleeping on the kitchen floor with rags her only blankets. And whenever she didn’t perform these tasks to her aunt’s satisfaction, would pull out “the belt or the broomstick or the hanger or the electrical cord,” Garcia said, and the aunt would whip her mother “until which she curls into a ball. ” For a dozen years, the young María Guadalupe endured this orphan life of Dickens. No wonder, then, that she is desperate to flee this callous family – as far as possible. Since she lived in Laredo, Chicago was about as far north as she could go without entering another country. And she went, but even in her new life of freedom, Garcia informs us, her mother endured some of the same old trials: at first she still didn’t have a bed, spending weeks sleeping on benches in Greyhound Station, and she was still cooking other people’s meals, but this time they were for patrons of a fried chicken fast food restaurant.

The life Garcia describes is hard, but he doesn’t ask us to have mercy on his mother. He wants us to see what survivor it always has been. No matter how she was treated, no matter what difficulties she had to face, her mother is always pushed to the limit, always pushed forward. When she needed it, she made sacrifices, whether it was taking a roommate to cut expenses or taking additional jobs to pay for necessities. And Garcia continues the story until the moment she became a mother, sharing stories of similar things she’s done and actions she’s taken that he now understands have been informed by the trials she’s having. endured before. With each anecdote, it shows us more clearly not only how much of a fighter and survivor his mother is, but also how much he has come to know her, to really know her.

Garcia’s study of his mother turns out to be both that of a son and a painter, for when he concludes his account of his life, the work he completed – the complete work painted, remarkably, in real time – turns out to be of his mother. He knows her so well that he can paint her own portrait in less than an hour. The result might not be intended for a gallery or museum, but it could hang proudly in someone’s home.

A portrait of my mother
Until July 31

A version of this article appeared in print on July 9, 2021 with the title: A portrait of my mother by Carlo Lorenzo Garcia

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