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Backwards Southern Hospitality meets Social Media Persona: A Poppy Garcia Art Show

By Dakota Parks for Downtown Crowd

Over the last year, local Pensacola artist Poppy Garcia has been working day and night, often falling asleep most nights with a canvas in his lap to prepare for his upcoming art show, “Bless Your Heart: Bless This Mess,” at the Pensacola Museum of Art. Part sculpture, part painting, part illustration and part performance art, the exhibition opens March 13 and runs until April 26. Inspired by the contradictory nature of Southern hospitality, the vast variances in human nature and the identity crisis of social media and art, Garcia’s body of work shines light on the very interaction of art, artist and art lover.


The bulk of Garcia’s show is what he calls “contemporary iconography,” or roughly 100 free-form character studies. Created without any preliminary sketching and done entirely on the spot, the paintings illustrate the wide variety of humans, which Garcia hopes attendants will relate to when observing them.


“They’re kind of based on interconnectivity and this idea of like automatic painting—the same way people do automatic writing. I just kind of let them create themselves in a way and let whatever happens, happen,” explained Garcia. “I just really want people to identify with these pieces in a way that is kind of outside of the normal artistic dialogue. I’ve been a part of artistic academic programs and a lot of structured artistic endeavors, and in a lot of ways, the art almost gets lost in this over-specificity and need to explain— need to understand everything. So, I wanted to create a body of work that could speak for itself and kind of give people the room to find themselves in the work as opposed to putting the work into their own box.”


The other large portion of the show includes Garcia’s work, “Thoughts and Prayers,” which inverts the concept of Southern hospitality and flips it on its head.


“It’s kind of funny growing up here. I was born and raised in Pensacola, and I still went by most of my life thinking ‘bless your heart’ was a term of endearment,” said Garcia. “Only to later realize that was only the case maybe a quarter of the time. I feel like the piece represents the current social climate that we all exist in. I think that people really want the best for ourselves and each other, but the best is different depending on who you are.”


In addition to the paintings, illustrations and sculptures, Garcia is placing an important message on sustainability. Many art pieces include found objects as well as recycled and donated art supplies.


“If there is any group of people that doesn’t really think about their footprint, in some ways, it’s painters and artists. A lot of the things I usually use aren’t the best for the environment. Upon creating this body of work, I’ve tried being more environmentally conscious,” said Garcia. “After this, I will be more sustainably focused. A lot of the canvas, the paint, even the paper in the illustrations is antique paper that belonged to my grandfather— almost everything I've used in this show is recycled or donated.”


The “mess” in the show title can also be seen as a representation of Garcia’s artistic process. He explained that he produces some of his best work under the pressure of a deadline and the chaos of getting everything ready in time. He is hosting a painting party and a workshop for the general public to try and show others just how his process works. He also explained that he wants to be physically in the exhibit to interact and talk with observers about his art.


“I’ve gotten a lot of questions from just posting the unfinished pieces on social media. People asking about my process and how they’re created. I’m not the kind of person to hide my process,” said Garcia. “If people have questions, I'm happy to answer them. I figured it would be a really cool opportunity to show people how things are made and to help them make their own.”


Social media has played an important role in the creation of this body of work. Garcia explained that he is an isolated artist that thrives off being alone in his creative process, but modern artists don’t have the luxury of complete radio silence because they must market themselves and create a social media persona. On April 3, Garcia is putting on an art performance that symbolizes the juxtaposition of art and social media.


“The better part of last year and this year, I took a step back from my social media presence because I was so focused on this body of work. Before then, I was on there almost daily putting my face out there and giving this weird performance to this character that I've created as an artist. It's such a strange time for the performative arts because as an artist, 20 or 30 years ago, people were not having to promote themselves the way that we do now,” Garcia explained.


“Now, you’re your own art dealer and running the whole show. So, I kind of relish in the opportunity to avert people’s focus and play with this strange identity that we’re able to create online. We have become so focused on these imaginary characters that we create of each other; you don’t know anyone just because you see them through this lens of social media. It doesn’t give any window to reality.”


Garcia’s multidisciplinary art exhibit is breaking those windows of reality by placing commentary on a large facet of human nature. He wants to expand the artistic dialogue and bridge the gap between artist and art lover. Stay tuned for days Garcia will be in the exhibit to interact with fans. You can check out his work on Instagram @thepoppygarcia

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