The Chicano art movement has lost two giants: commentary
Someone much wiser than I once said, “We’ve been burying too many good people lately. The late November and early December were devastating for the art world as we lost two of the giants of the Chicano art movement and I lost two close personal friends (as well as my beloved mother, Mary Isabelle Revello, known as Mary Sanchez).
Roberto C. Lucero died on November 10 and Stevon P. Lucero on November 28. I had the privilege of working with the two maestros and helping to build the Incorporated Artes Monumentales (IAM) studios in the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council – the name Stevon came with it.
I met Roberto in the early 1970s, when we were both starting our journey into the art world. He had done the mural at the Westside Action Center in 11th and Santa Fe, and I had done murals for Interstate Research Associates on 16th Street, the Denver Community Development Corporation, and the National Chicano Health Organization (NCHO). These murals were all included in the Neighborhood art exposure; this show has been seen everywhere!
One fateful day in 1976, Emanuel Martinez invited us to his studio to meet Andrew Manning and Richard Barrera, two artists who had studied with the brilliant Mexican muralist Jorge Gonzales Camanera. Robert Lucero, Roberto Reyes, and I answered the call, and we quickly saw slides of the most inspiring, amazing, and mind-numbing art! During this time Robert Lucero and I were commissioned by NCHO to create a series of medical themed paintings. His designs were based on indigenous themes and were a joy to see.
Roberto Reyes got a studio in Seventh and Santa Fe in 1978, and IAM Studios was born there along with Roberto Reyes, Freddy Sanchez, Roberto Lucero and Al Sanchez. We have inspired, helped and supported each other, creating exhibits for the US Postal Service, NCHO, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency in Boulder, the Pueblo Fine Arts Center and many more. Roberto Lucero went on to do a mural for the University of Colorado and the UMC Building, and we saw his work in the fall when he became a gardener at Mile High Stadium. He always painted big! The Broncos!
That year I heard about a new artist in town; his name was Stevon Lucero. Could it be the Stevon Lucero of Wyoming who got letters printed early (1964) Avengers and Strange tales comics that I was such a fan of? Yes it was, and I quickly hired Stevon to work on the IAM / City Walls project. City Walls was put together by Carlos Santistevan through the office of Congressman Pat Schroeder in conjunction with the Colorado Paint Company (Ken Walls), IAM Studios, and the Metro Denver Urban Coalition. Stevon has joined Jerry Jaramillo, Freddy Sanchez, Carlos Sandoval and Al Sanchez in the IAM / City Walls team.
Our first project was with the Leiter brigade from Chile. Orlando Leiter was the Chilean Ambassador to the United States who was assassinated in downtown Washington, DC, by a car bomb planted by Chilean secret police; his children painted murals across the United States in memory of their father. Freddy Sanchez acquired a wall at 13th and Santa Fe at Zick Market; it seemed like almost every artist in Denver showed up to throw paint with us. “Liberty” was viewed by thousands of people every day as a gateway to downtown Denver.
We followed up with “Earthrise” at North Lincoln Housing Projects; “Balance,” a three-story mural on a five-story building in the middle of downtown Denver at 16th and Wazee; and the three murals of the La Familia leisure center, “Athletics 1 and 2” and “La Familia Cosmica”. The Mexican Ambassador saw “Libra” and was very impressed. Soon my team – Jerry Jaramillo, Stevon Lucero and Carlos Sandoval, all accomplished artists – was in Mexico. They arrived in full force, with a spectacular fresco that adorns the library of Zijautanejo.
The National Endowment for the Arts took notice of what was going on in Denver and started funding us. We received money for City Walls II and IAM, we were joined by Chispa Productions of Juan and Danny Salazar (who had directed “Mestizo Majic”, a short film with City Walls in the background), the Dance Group by Enrique Montoya and other artists to create the Chicano Council for the Humanities and the Arts.
Stevon Lucero became the “face” of CHAC when he opened the CHAC studio in Seventh and Santa Fe, across from the former IAM Studios. He liked to talk to everyone.
In 1991, I was selected to do a mural for the new US Postal Service building at 53rd and Quebec. Stevon was commissioned to make the marketplace for “Aztec” at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in City Park. I immediately volunteered to witness and photograph this epic undertaking; I was surrounded by Aztec treasures and I was working with Stevon again! As the deadline for “Aztec” approached, Stevon pushed himself so hard he had his first heart attack, and his wife and I completed the temple for him. The great Mexican archaeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma expressed his admiration and blessed Stevon’s efforts. After “Aztec”, Stevon’s health began to fail him, but he never stopped painting.
Stevon was especially proud of his mural for his hometown of Laramie. In 2020 Stevon received his last major order and he was so happy when he showed off his brilliant designs for his Meow Wolf Denver project. I was impressed, as always. Stevon constructed his own exquisite canvases and then took us to another eternity as only a master can.
Stevon had three children – Tana, Paul and Josh – as well as a group of grandchildren and, of course, his favorite artist: Arlette, his lifelong wife. I was fortunate enough to spend so much time smoking, chatting about Infinity, and our favorite comic book artist, Jack Kirby, with Stevon.
It was an honor to share the career of Roberto and Stevon, two titans of the art world !! Thanks for the ride, and what a ride it was. “They were Chileans.” Con mucho amor and gratitude!
Con mucho carino, tu amigo.
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