Titled “Guernica to Home,” San Fernando’s native son, artist Stan Natchez, has returned to the town where he grew up to paint a significant “monster-sized” mural titled, “Guernica to Home.”
With a crew that includes his favorite artists — his two sons Viento and Gino Bear, along with his close friend Ken Estrada — Natchez plans on completing the mural in two weeks.
His canvas is a brick building located at 301 S. Maclay Avenue. It’s creviced with deeply set mortar that isn’t even with the brick which Natchez didn’t expect. But he is still going forward, with the goal to bring his best work while making the images appear seamless.
When asked if he can truly complete such an ambitious work of art — estimated to be 30 x 100 feet in such a short period of time — Natchez replies without hesitation, “I know I can. Once I start painting, I’m a mad man.”
The mural will be across the street from the city’s post office and within sight of St. Ferdinand’s Church. Among its images, will be a large postage stamp and La Virgin de Guadalupe.
“I was baptized at that church, My grandmother was very devout and a serious Catholic, and I can’t deny her faith and the strength she brought to me as a young man,” Natchez said.
“The mural represents the cross influence when the Spanish occupied this land. There is always a cross culture influence when one culture occupies another,” he said. “It conveys the old and new — it’s kind of my travel through time.”
This work, similar to Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica,” has already stirred some controversy.
The city is questioning the images that are currently going up on the mural, and whether all of the elements were submitted in the original rendering.
As this is being resolved, the City is allowing Natchez to continue painting.
“We’re working through this process; it’s new for everyone,” said San Fernando City Manager Nick Kimball. “We’re not gonna stop him from finishing that piece of the mural that was approved.”
Those who’ve gone by to watch Natchez at work were surprised, just by the mural’s size alone.
“It’s huge,” said Mission Hills artist Lalo Garcia. “This is great to see.”
Two years ago, right before COVID-19 hit, the City — after years of refusal — finally passed an ordinance allowing murals.
“This mural will definitely catch people’s attention and can open the door to encourage other artists to paint a mural in San Fernando,” Garcia said. Garcia was the first artist who, as a result of the new ordinance, created the first mural, “Children In Cages.” It has become a traveling art installation.
While San Fernando is now giving a green light to welcome murals, artists’ works in other areas of Los Angeles have been whitewashed and they are finding it difficult to locate buildings to create public art.
The uncertainty for a mural’s longevity, coupled with the convenience of new technology, has some artists opting instead for new methods, trading in paint and scaffolding to create digital art — “wraparounds” — that are adhered to outdoor walls.
“What’s that all about? No, we’re not doing that,” Natchez said emphatically. “I don’t want a big old bumper sticker on the wall.”
From Guernica to Home
Natchez, who grew up on Fox and Kewen streets near San Fernando High School, is a member of the local Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians which commissioned the mural that was approved by the City.
Natchez, a notable member of the tribe, is a homegrown success story.
Known for his innovation and use of mixed media, his work has been compared to pop artists Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns. However, Natchez’ work seems far more complex in that it brings out our nation’s history that others have attempted to bury, and with insight for diverse people and environments he highlights cultural awareness.
As a teenager growing up in the Northeast Valley, however, the road wasn’t easy and he found himself bumping into trouble. So with the help of his older brother, who helped to pay his first year of tuition, Natchez attended art school in Colorado. He bluntly says he got involved with the “wrong circle,” and believes if he stayed he would have wound up in prison or dead.
He now lives in New Mexico and has reached a pinnacle of success — controlling his destiny as an artist – with his own art gallery in Santa Fe with his wife, another talented artist.
Natchez has designed the mural in his hometown to replicate his painting “Guernia to Wounded Knee,” currently in the collection at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston.
Motivated by various historic events, concepts and what is here in the present day, this work will be the foundation and at the mural’s center.
Natchez is bringing the connection he relates to Picasso’s “Guernica,” which mourns the loss and horrors of the bombing of the Basque village.
“Guernica is the only political piece that Picasso did and I always wanted to do a rendition of it,” Natchez said. “Guernica was bombed by the Germans during WWII and the devastation that occurred in Guernica was similar to the genocide [of native people]. This mural will convey all the blends that we as native people are.”
“I’m bringing Guernica to San Fernando,” he said. “I have a strong belief that what happened with the execution and genocide of the people in Guernica is kind of what happened here at home.”
While Natchez’ artwork is in private collections and prestigious museums, he notes that what is best about this work in San Fernando is that it’s public art.
“I’m not just an easel painter and I like that,” he said. “With this mural, no one can own it — it belongs to the people. It’s not something my wealthy clients can go put in one of their five houses, and then it’s locked away where no one can see it.
“This mural belongs to the people and it doesn’t belong to anyone.”