The Las Palmas Library in San Antonio, TX, hosted StoryCorps for three recording days from August 15-17, 2010. My co-Facilitator Yazmín Peña and I facilitated several San Antonians’ interviews, including one between Jesse Treviño (L), nationally renowned local artist, and his friend, Gabriel Velasquez (R).
Jesse remembered car clubs from his childhood in the Westside. Their hand-painted posters and colorful jackets inspired him to pin stripe his friends’ cars. He was a serious young artist, and with his diploma, he moved to New York City in 1965. He painted portraits of Greenwich Village roamers and tourists, chasing his dream to succeed as a painter.
A Vietnam War draft notice came in 1966-his dream had to wait. He thought about art throughout his training and service, and took moments for himself to sketch his fellow soldiers on scraps of paper. In Vietnam, he got a care package from his mother and made a painting with its brown paper, brushing bits of color of a woman holding a baby. He avoids remembering the horrors of the war.
A mine destroyed Jesse’s strong hand and hospitalized him for weeks. I asked him how the war changed his art. “It made me more passionate,” he said. “It shook me and I started to look at things the way they really were.” Losing his hand did not stop him. “I’ve created more art this way, after losing my hand,” Jesse continued. Be it his foot, mouth, or prosthetic, he would paint with anything if he had to.