A Conversation with Daniel Camacho—Treasure Trove of Art and Advocacy

by Pat Patterson

Daniel Camacho and his new work, Sońando A Través de la Ventana (Dreaming Through the Window). Photo by Pat Patterson.

I had a delightful interview with Daniel Camacho recently to learn more about his murals, his outlook, and his life. His story is a rich, colorful tapestry, as reflected equally in his work. He is a renowned international muralist and long time Maxwell Park resident. His paintings and murals cause the viewer to look deep, reach down, and ask why.'

His early years as a young boy in Mexico laid the groundwork for who he is today— an advocate for the everyday and underserved communities. His single mother, a seamstress, created beautiful garments for her clientele. Daniel watched how she designed patterns and clothing from scratch, and that process inspired him to draw and paint. His mother gave him a small paint set, which he treasured as an affirmation that he was indeed an artist. In school, one teacher in second or third grade recognized his talent, and in 1986 he graduated from the National Institute of Fine Arts, San Carlos, in Mexico City.

It was customary for all graduates to give back to the community for six months before moving on to their occupations. Doctors and teachers did this, but how could he and fellow art graduates contribute? The big earthquake in Mexico City in 1985 provided that answer and became an important juncture in Camacho's life. Mass destruction leveled the buildings that housed garment workers, a community that had suffered political and social inequities for decades. Although his mother was a private seamstress, he still felt the need to advocate and communicate for the rights of the greater population through his paintings and messages.'

In the earthquake's aftermath, Daniel and two classmates formed Ojos de Lucha (Eyes of the Struggle), created art, and gave it to the people affected. They created huge banners depicting the garment workers, to be used in marches. The group's depictions of women with tools of the trade—large sewing needles and threads—helped the movement as women marched with these canvas banners, carrying the message of changing times.'

Today, Daniel continues his craft and spreads his messages. He shared several past articles about his work, including a book written in German and photographs of numerous installments throughout Oakland.'

'I was fortunate to visit his studio and see his almost complete commissioned piece, "Sońando A Través de la Ventana" (Dreaming Through the Window), which will be installed at the César Chávez Library on December 4. In this contemplative piece (pictured), Camacho emphasizes the importance of humanity preserving our world, respecting the elements. "We must protect our world, for the youth and those to come," states Camacho. The painting pulls you in with its muted colors, energy, and beckoning messages.

Camacho, a gracious artist, also teaches art. His current exhibits: collection of masks at the César Chávez Library in Oakland; five banners at Sun Gallery, Hayward; and Days of the Dead piece at Chicago's National Museum of Mexican Art. His warm, inspirational home and studio are shared with two children and his wife Robin Lovell, a teacher at ACORN Woodland Elementary School in Oakland, where his art is displayed.'

Contact info: daniel.camacho.pintor.googlepages.com/home.'

Upcoming event:

César Chávez Library Inauguration, December 4 , 3301 E. 12th Street, Suite 271, Oakland, 94601. (Masks also on exhibit).

Note cards available at World Ground Café, 3726 MacArthur Blvd., and Laurel Book Store, 4100 MacArthur Blvd.'

Pat Patterson can be reached at pmacp\@aol.com.