Rubén Sánchez grew up picking and pruning alongside his family in the rich fields of the San Joaquín Valley.
His mother was picking cotton near Firebaugh when he was delivered in Fresno through a C-section, so it is only natural for the 65-year-old retired produce vendor to incorporate that experience in his artwork.
“I have a habit of putting farmworker figures into my art,” said Sánchez at the Jan. 28 Arte Américas reception for ‘Kindred,’ an exhibit featuring nine artists, including Sánchez. The exhibit runs through March 11.
Sánchez always had an interest in art despite spending the 1960s and 1970s working alongside his family picking tomatoes or grapes in the Kerman area.
“I would always start school late,” he recalled. His bed was raisin bins flipped over. He would work from sunup to sundown.
The Merced resident nurtured his artistic side at the same time. In the 1980s, his artwork was one of 36 chosen for an exhibit by the San Francisco Chronicle. There were 660 applications.
His work has appeared at UC Davis and the Loya Gallery in Los Ángeles.
In 2008, he drew ‘Los Raíces de Jalisco’ (Jalisco’s Roots), an 15-foot-by-60-foot mural in the southwestern Mexican city of Guadalajara that reflected the history of the city that was founded in 1542. The work was displayed on the wall of a 16-room hotel, but succumbed to lack of maintenance.
Among Sánchez’s artwork in the Arte Américas exhibit are two acrylic on wood drawings titled ‘The Star Picker’ and ‘Los Niños’ (The Children).
“What I like to do is a reflection of my life in my art,” said Sánchez.
The ‘Star Picker,’ which was completed in 1999, shows a farmworker picking the stars. His son posed for the drawing, and Sánchez’s wife is drawn in the painting.
‘Los Niños’ illustrates his father pruning trees (something he did for more than 20 years in Planada) while the rain hits him. The work was done in 1998.
“It’s because of the sacrifice he did for the family,” said Sánchez about including his father in the art piece.
Arte Américas executive director/curator Frank Delgado said “there’s a whole story” that goes with the other artists in what he calls a “mini-showing.”
For example, Danny Greene became an artist after he was in a car hit by a drunken driver four years ago. Greene produced a 36-foot-long drawing of female figures that dominates the gallery space.
Other artists include Merced restaurant owner Óscar Torres, UC Merced professor Richard Gómez, and, Merced Multicultural Arts Center curator Charles Pérez.
Other artists are foothill artist Judy DeRosa, photographer Rebecca Caraveo, charcoal expert José Elias, and Christina Ramos.
The exhibit will be open for the Feb. 1 and March 1 Art Hop.
Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
An artists’ reception will be held March 3 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.