Overcoming Obstacles

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Local artist Jesse Treviño discusses some of his artwork at his studio.  Photo by Derik Villanueva

Local artist Jesse Treviño discusses some of his artwork at his studio. Photo by Derik Villanueva

Local artist Jesse Treviño stands before a portrait of Cesar Chavez similar to the one he donated to this college.  Photo by Derik Villanueva

Local artist Jesse Treviño stands before a portrait of Cesar Chavez similar to the one he donated to this college. Photo by Derik Villanueva

Love of art keeps former student motivated

By Sonya Harvey

Overcoming obstacles in life are a day-to-day challenge for some people, but for Jesse Treviño, failing to fulfill his dreams was not an option.

Treviño knew early on that he would be an artist.

When he was just 6 years old, Treviño was awarded a plaque and $40 for a wildlife contest at the Witte Museum for a pencil drawing of two doves.

Treviño loved the recognition so much that from that day forward, he knew he was going to seriously pursue trying to become a famous artist.

He studied hard and eventually received a scholarship to the Art Students League in New York and was about to go to Paris when he received his draft notice for Vietnam in 1966.

During his tour, tragedy struck when a booby trap went off injuring Treviño’s legs and causing him to lose his right hand.

For two years, Treviño struggled with the loss of his right hand, which had been replaced by a prosthetic hook, leaving him with the burden of not being able to pursue his one true passion.

“Everyday when I woke up, I thought about art,” Treviño said. “It just kept creeping into my head and I knew I really wanted to draw and paint.”

A promising artist before he lost his hand, Treviño’s victorious struggle to adapt to such a loss has been a battle he was not willing to lose.

Treviño slowly began the recovery process by turning to his love of art and learning to sketch with his left hand.

It wasn’t easy at first, but he was determined to let nothing stand in the way of achieving his dream.

Treviño enrolled in a drawing course at this college in 1968 and gradually learned to paint and draw with his left hand, better, he said, than he ever could with his right hand.

“I couldn’t even write my name with my left hand, but I just kept at it and little by little, I took drawing classes and had such persistence that I got better,” Treviño said.

He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Our Lady of the Lake University and a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

In 1991, Treviño received recognition for his accomplishments and was chosen as an outstanding student at this college.

On Oct. 10, to commemorate the time he spent at this college and to express his thanks for the encouragement he always received from his art professors, Treviño donated a painting of Cesear Chavez to the college.

“Treviño credits his experience here with helping him through his rehabilitation, and we are happy to receive such a wonderful painting,” Zeigler said.

Influenced by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and pop artist Andy Warhol, Treviño has mastered painting in the photorealistic tradition, earning him international recognition.

In 1983, two of Treviño’s paintings were selected for the collection of the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, and in 1994, Treviño was the first Mexican-American to have an exhibit at the Smithsonian.

In recent years, Treviño has become known for his building-size murals and mosaics.

His “Spirit of Healing,” a nine-story high by 40 foot wide mural on Christus Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital, has become a San Antonio landmark.

The mural consists of more than 50,000 pieces of hand-cut ceramic tile and stands more than 90 feet tall, making it one of the largest murals in North America.

Treviño, who moved here when he was 4 years old, has earned a revered reputation by painting the people, landmarks and culture of the West Side of San Antonio, where he grew up with his 11 brothers and sisters.

Although he was born in Monterrey, Mexico, San Antonians embrace him as their native son.

Today, Treviño is widely recognized for his colorful realist paintings, an honest depiction of the Hispanic culture and his larger than life work.

He is living proof that no matter what life has in store for us, hardships can be overcome and dreams can come true.

“When you love to do something, no matter what stage you are at in your life, you’ll find a way,” Treviño said.

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