Jepson Center Presents New Exhibit “Grounded”

Olympic Village is home to Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association groups. There are no multicultural chapters with houses in the area, a phenomenon that is common nationwide.Photo by: Drew Heimlich

By Danielle Kennedy, Staff Writer

Tarahumara, 2018
Portrait of Aldolfo Alvarado’s work “Terahumara.” Photo by Danielle Kennedy.

The Telfair Museums’ Jepson Center will be showcasing local artist Aldolfo Hernandez Alvarado’s work with the exhibition “Grounded” now through Aug. 19.

Alvarado’s exhibit is by nature autobiographical and showcase an abstraction of his childhood. He was born in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. His vibrant and colorful environment clashed with the graphic violence that plagued his hometown. He started drawing and painting because he was an active child and his mother would get him to draw to focus.

His family then moved to El Paso, Texas and as he got older he found himself getting into trouble at school for his drawings. For example, he once drew a war scene and his teacher thought that there might have been problems at home, so they called his mom and she grounded him; which is where the exhibit title came from. It became a pattern that continued into high school.

In high school, he started getting into graffiti, a practice which jumpstarted Hernandez’s cycle of delinquency and eventual artistry. A high school art teacher started a mural program at the school the same time he was getting involved with neighborhood gang activity. The program helped him push those activities aside for something he loved doing. This was also the first time that he had picked up a paintbrush.

They started painting murals for other schools and neighborhood businesses, which gave him a sense of community. The program started out with 15 people but by the end there were only three left.

The three of them became the Trez Toltekati crew. They stuck together and did commission pieces, which are pieces made at someone’s request, in El Paso. Their last work was for a Texas gallery. The curator encouraged them to gather a portfolio and apply for SCAD.  

In 2002, all three of them got accepted into SCAD. Alvarado said when he was there, El Paso had the second most murals with Los Angeles being the first. He had managed to put his creative stamp on El Paso but was shocked when he came to Savannah.

When he wanted to paint a mural in El Paso, he would usually just talk to the business owner and it was an agreement made between two to four people; however, here in Savannah, he would have to go through a committee and acquire permits. He explained this is one of the reasons that he started doing smaller works on canvas.

He would like to get a mural festival going where they would have local artists and muralists come together to do a mural on a building somewhere in town.

Alvarado gave some insight into one of his pieces, “Terahumara.” The Terahumara are an indigenous group of people that live in the area where he grew up. They are like monarch butterflies because they are transitioning to and from communities and are consequently known as “the running people.” They participate in marathons and are seen throughout the city. The butterfly represents the migration.

Monarch butterflies travel from, for example, Mexico and then make their way up the U.S. and to Canada. One generation starts this journey, the next generation picks it up, and carries it on until they make it back to the original place.

Alvarado stated, “people are the same way, we all migrated from somewhere. We all have an original place where we come from. To even learn about it is pretty awesome and one of the reasons you see wisdom painted in the woman’s eyes of the ‘Terahumara.’”

He uses his unique talents to combine calligraphy, Mesoamerican symbolism, and graffiti with a layering technique that is breathtaking.

To see some more of Alvarado’s works around town you can go to Treylor Park, Jason’s Deli, or The Flying Monk to catch a glimpse of art pieces from a man who takes violence and turns it into stimulating pieces that invoke meaningful conversations.