Diego Garcia always had a knack for drawing, but it wasn’t until he was in his pre-teens before he started experimenting with graffiti.
Now, as a 26-year-old local artist, he has made a name for himself for his paint spraying abilities.
Growing up in Brentwood, Garcia knew he wanted to do something with art when he got older, but he didn’t think college was right for him. “I think it’s terrifying to tell a 17-year-old that they need to figure out what they want to do that young,” he said.
So he began working on his craft by himself. No formal training in fine art, just learning on his own and with the help of his friends and family. Garcia eventually began showcasing his work in amateur art galleries by the age of 18.
“I’m very fortunate that I always had a knack for it,” he added, “That natural guidance has never steered me wrong.”
But while he was at these events, he realized that he “was often the youngest and brownest person in the room.” That’s why he decided that he’d make his most recent exhibit at Muñeca Arthouse in Patchogue an inclusive and safe space for everyone and anyone who wanted to view and evaluate art.
“I wanted to show the communal value of it,” he said. “A lot of people just assume exhibits are a white room with white wine … this is welcomed to everyone.”
Garcia’s art show “Clarity” opened at Muñeca the first week in June and ended with a closing reception on Aug. 1.
For two months, viewers came from all over the country to see Garcia’s newest body of work, which included 23 pieces plus one piece from a prior show.
All the pieces in the gallery were for sale— including a limited release of certain prints. A handful of the paintings sold, ranging in prices from $500 to some over $1,000. A few are still for sale currently at the gallery until Aug. 6.
“It’s been a crazy two months,” Garcia said. “I’m tired but so grateful. It’s been worth it… this is what 17-year-old Diego signed up for.”
The paintings that hung on the white walls at Muñeca showed different emotions— sad, but hopeful.
“They have a nocturnal feel, but the pops of bright colors show spots of hope,” he said.
Created with acrylic paints and spray paint on canvas, his artwork feature mixes of colors, silhouettes of people, kids and faint phrases of optimism in a time of darkness.
Inspired by artists like Jackson Pollock and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Garcia wants to focus on his culture. He said that how he was raised—growing up on Long Island— helped him towards that path.
“Brentwood isn’t always portrayed the best in the media,” he said. “Cultural aspect is something I really want people to look back on.
“I want them to enjoy their culture.”
A full house last Thursday night, three local musicians came to support their friend and also showcase their local art. Sammy Nino, Sal Santiago (of the Fern Dells) and Dudley Music each performed their own individual sets of music, allowing the patrons of the night hear original music on a variety of instruments.
Nino and Dudley both knew Garcia from high school, with the latter working alongside him for a decade.
“I’ve been working alongside Diego for nearly 10 years and we’ve known each other since grade school,” Dudley said. “No matter how well I know him, he never ceases to surprise me. Diego has put so much thought and intention into this new body of work and all the various events that he’s hosted at the gallery this summer.“
He added that visiting the gallery during the exhibit first night gave him chills. “I can see how much he has pushed himself with this collection while sparking a conversation that is so important and relatable to the viewer,” he said.
Nino wanted to support Garcia because the artist’s message was similar to the music he also created. Performing on a guitar, his inspirational lyrics correlated with the meaning of the paintings around the room.
“I want them to feel hopeful when they listen to my music,” he said. “Some people spend their whole life trying to find their purpose. I’m blessed to be doing this now at 26.”
Santiago isn’t from Brentwood, he grew up in Lindenhurst and recently moved more east to Mastic Beach, but he added that when the artist approached him, he felt he needed to be a part of the shows closing night.
“After checking out Diego’s beautiful pieces, I was truly honored to be asked to perform,” Santiago said.
Overall, the exhibit hosted five events throughout its two-month residency at Muñeca. There’s still a bit of time to visit the gallery at 12 South Ocean Ave. to catch a glimpse of Garcia’s work before it is removed from the space.
“If you want to know me, expect paintings that are genuine and true – reflective and retrospective,” he said. “They teach you something about you and about other people.”
You can also check out each of the musicians who performed at the closing reception on Spotify and other streaming services.
Scroll down to see photos from the gallery.