Emigdio Vasquez - "Early Morning at OVC"

Emigdio Vasquez, (Arizona and California 1939 – Present), Early Morning  
at OVC (1980), 24-1/2″ x 30-1/2″, Oil on canvas.

I first became acquainted with Emigdio Vasquez some 20 years ago during one of my visits to Rita Chemer’s Gallery in Tustin, California. When entering the gallery that day I was confronted with an assortment of colorful and realistically rendered scenes of Chicano life and historical figures from the past and present. These reflective depictions of everyday, ordinary people struck a chord with me as I had always thought a missing study in modern art to be that of ordinary man.

Artists such as Rembrandt and Goya portrayed man as he really was—perhaps not glamorous but always human, and Emigdio’s work epitomizes those same people we see around us every day. In Rembrandt’s etching, “Two Male Models, One Standing,” the two figures look at us as they looked at Rembrandt while he so expertly and touchingly portrayed the quiet pride in their eyes and the aura of their humanity. Emigdio’s murals convey that same quality of pride and touch the heart of those who take the time to stop and reflect upon the message being sent by paint and mortar.

The variety of Emigdio’s interest and his skill in translating his sentiment onto canvas was made evident by the range of paintings that were present in the gallery that day. I saw poignant illustrations of day laborers lingering in places such as the Old Orange Deli south of the Circle (Orange, CA), and in stark alleys and dusty streets that were cautiously hidden from public view. I saw contemporary and historical figures from Cesar Chavez to Emiliano Zapata along with landscapes and still life compositions. I was particularly delighted with an incredibly realistic still life of a glass of beer surrounded by vegetables on a wood-grained tabletop. How true to contemporary times was this painting in comparison to the Victorian “Dead Pheasant on the Kitchen Board” still life that can still be found in most museums and hotel rooms but has little relevance to here and now.

I knew this artist would become a part of my collection but which painting among the dozen or so desirable works should I choose? I was looking for that rare kind of art that spoke to me–the kind of art that reminds us that we indeed have responsibilities to others beside ourselves. It was just as I nodded my head at the Orange Deli painting that another caught my eye. It was a common sight I’d seen a thousand times while driving through any town but paid little attention to it. The painting was titled, “Early Morning at OVC” and was completed in April of 1980. It consisted if three young men, friends, in a parking lot exchanging pleasantries. Or just chit-chatting…who knows? But Vasquez painted life into the scene by making it so believable through the way he played light against the many textures surrounding them and how the characters simply belong (the Golden Triangle is well represented here). Although the scene incorporates a great amount of detail such as the shading of the cement sidewalk, the weathered paint on a trash dumpster and graffiti on a wall that looks as if you can actually feel the coarseness of the stucco, nothing steals away from the main focus of the composition—the three young men. The painting conveys the feeling that regardless of family problems, job difficulties or social pressures, this is a time of tranquility to be savored in the crisp morning hours of a new day. Peace shared between brothers, void of pretense. A few precious moments appreciated simply for what they were—a chance to be free. These are rare personal moments that should always be cherished and art allows us to re-experience those feelings whenever we need to and even when we don’t. And as you can see it became the painting of choice.

Vasquez’s interest in art began in Kindergarten. He would copy the drawings in comic books and base them on stories his father told him about the Mexican Revolution. In the late ’50’s he took up oil painting. In the mid ’60’s, inspired by Diego Rivera, he painted his first mural in his parent’s patio. In 1979 he would go on to earn his Masters in Art. His works have appeared in the milestone exhibitions of Chicano art, including the 1975 Chicanarte exhibit at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, and in UCLA’s Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation in 1990.

Here’s his Curriculum Vitae:

1973 Santa Ana College, California – Associate of Arts
1978 California State University, Fullerton – Bachelor of Arts
1979 California State University, Fullerton – Master of Fine Art Awards

1989 Pier Painting Commission, City of Huntington Beach, CA
1988 Artist in Residence, Artist in Community Grant, California Arts Council
1987 Art in Motion, OCTD, Santa Ana, CA
1982 First Place: Realistic Painting, 21st La Mirada Festival of the Arts
1981 Irvine Company Award, Newport Art Festival

You can view his full bio, articles written about his work and several pages of his paintings on his website here.

Emigdio’s daughter, Rosemary, handles most of her father’s affairs concerning his work and I’ve had the pleasure of corresponding with her over the years. She even arranged an interview with him for me to satisfy a college class assignment, and recently has been acquiring her father’s vintage paintings, such as this one. It was about five years ago that she had asked me if I’d sell her back the painting. This work has garnered more comment, from the cable guy to my Aunt Genevieve, than any other piece I own. It’s always a pleasure to look at it if not for the finely detailed automobiles or that lifelike concrete sidewalk, and it has always been one of the cornerstones of my collection. I couldn’t think of parting with it. Then, after the passing of several relatives and friends and seeing their estates come and go in a most undesirable way, I knew I didn’t want this painting to end up in someone’s yard sale with a two-dollar price tag stuck on it. So last year I contacted Rosemary and transferred the painting back to her.

I still love this work and I’ll always recall the enjoyment it had given me over the years, but I am glad it is now in the possession of the artist’s family to do with it as they wish. I know it couldn’t be in more caring hands.



  1. Good piece of art. It's one of those morning I would hate to have. Vasquez has used the colors in a nice manner. The expression are quite properly displayed as well.

  2. It's a favorite, and a morning I wouldn't mind having. :)

    Thanks for dropping by.

  3. This painting is truly fabulous. It's not easy for me to digest it. Especially, how the artist has brought about the real feel of sunlight on the building walls is commendable. We do not see such piece of art regularly.