Richmond artist’s portraits challenge perceptions

Richmond resident Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez is the painter behind the popular exhibition, "Portraits of Puerto Rican Resilience." (All photos by Mike Kinney)

By Mike Kinney

Longtime Richmond resident and artist Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez can paint stunning portraits in just four hours — or less.

It’s a talent that is in part a courtesy to her subjects, but also a project with a purpose.

For one, Garcia-Gonzalez says she doesn’t want her subjects to have to sit for too long.

“It makes them nervous,” she said. “So I always reassure them by telling them when you sit for me it will be four hours or less [with breaks]… I have to live up to that promise.”

The other, even more important reason Garcia-Gonzalez returned to portraits, is to shine a light on people typically invisible to mainstream society, as well as those who may be misunderstood.

She’s been doing such portraits since the start of the Great Recession, and her latest project —  Portraits of Puerto Rican Resilience — is gaining attention while challenging perceptions.

The series, in part, aims to capture the essence of a wide variety of Puerto Ricans in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Maria of September 2017.

“As a visual artist I asked myself what could I do to bring attention to the plight of the Puerto Rican people having survived this disaster and having lost everything,” said Garcia-Gonzalez, who grew up in a working-class family in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art at the University of Puerto Rico.

“Since I have been painting portraits rather quickly, I conceived of the idea of doing a series of paintings of Puerto Ricans living on the Island,” she said.

Her idea was to challenge the perception of victimhood in the mainstream media.

“I started painting portraits as a way to increase the visibility of groups of people underrepresented in formal portraiture, but also to change the prevailing narrative on these groups,” Garcia-Gonzalez said. “In the case of Puerto Ricans post-Maria, I kept seeing images of helplessness and victimhood in the media, when I knew different.”

The painter went on a six-week post-Maria trip to Puerto Rico, where she drove to the homes of volunteer “sitters” in order to paint their portraits (in under four hours, of course). She also captured portraits of second and third generation Puerto Ricans living in the U.S.

She said she asked her portrait subjects, per usual, to pick their own clothes and poses, and “they took the opportunity to challenge old expectations and identities.”

The result is a brilliant series making the exhibition rounds. The exhibit is next set to be shown at the East Bay Municipal Utilities District Corporate office-375 11th St., Oakland, from Sept. 12 to Oct 16.

She hopes her work will spread the message of resilience that is apparent among Puerto Ricans.

“That was the most important message they wanted me to give here in the mainland,” Garcia-Gonzalez said.

Garcia-Gonzalez also paints oils and acrylics, is a muralist, draws and also does printmaking.

She moved to the U.S. in 1985 and earned two degrees in education. She served as a public school teacher for 10 years before art called her back.


  1. Thank you Mr. Kinney for the very informative article about a very important and accomplished contemporary artist. Congratulations!

  2. I am not sure where you’re getting your information,
    but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning more
    or understanding more. Thanks for magnificent
    info I was looking for this info for my mission.

  3. Do you have a spam problem on this blog; I also am a blogger,
    and I was wondering your situation; many of us have developed some nice methods and we are looking to exchange solutions
    with others, be sure to shoot me an e-mail if interested.

  4. Right here is the right web site for anyone who really wants to understand this topic.
    You understand so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I personally will need to…HaHa).
    You certainly put a fresh spin on a subject that’s been discussed for
    a long time. Excellent stuff, just wonderful!

  5. Somos el servicio técnico ideal para la reparación de su lavadora Rommer, de su lavavajillas Rommer, de su frigorífico Rommer, de su cocina Rommer, de su horno Rommer, de su secadora Rommer, con la eficacia y la calidad de una empresa que lleva más de 30 años ofreciendo el mejor servicio técnico de reparación de electrodomésticos Rommer en la Comunidad de Madrid.

  6. Llámenos a nuestra centralita de atención al cliente y nos desplazamos a su domicilio para efectuar la reparacion de su Lavadoras ya que trabajamos en Malaga. Servicio técnico Fagor aseguramos la máxima calidad en las reparacion de Lavadoras Fagor y los repuestos, así como en otros aspectos también importantes como la amabilidad, información honestidad y transparencia.

  7. Fabricamos piezas para todo tipo de mecanismos electromecánicos según los requisitos de nuestros clientes. La actividad llevada a cabo por nuestra empresa nos ha permitido posicionarnos en un destacado puesto de privilegio dentro del sector del decoletaje. Industrial landu sc es una empresa dedicada a la mecanización general de piezas.

  8. Nuestros servicios en los ámbitos de la gestión de contactos, líneas directas, asistencia técnica, campañas de venta y medios de comunicación social pueden aumentar el nivel de servicio que ofrece y reforzar sus relaciones con los clientes. Ofrecemos una amplia gama de servicios que le permiten centrar su atención en su negocio principal, entre los que se incluyen soporte a ventas y marketing, nóminas, organización de seminarios, asistencia al departamento de personal, servicios de trustcenter e eFile. Nuestras soluciones para la industria de las TI y las comunicaciones incluyen servicios de asistencia técnica y medios de comunicación social, así como líneas directas de información y gestión de comentarios y reclamaciones.

  9. Tu articulo me ha resultado util. Es muy informativo y obviamente estas
    realmente bien informado en este tema. Me has abierto los ojos a distintos
    puntos de vista sobre este tema con nuevo contenido interesante y solido.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here