Manny Santanta: Santa Cruz County Artist of the Year

2008 Santa Cruz County artist of the year

Exhibited from July 5 2008 -August 24 2008

2008 Santa Cruz County artist of the year. Painter / printmaker / sculptor Manuel Santana was born in Los Angeles in 1927. His father, Gregorio Ruiz Velasco, raised a large socially active family with mechanical/industrial business interests in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Santana was the sole family member that was raised in the USA where he studied education at East Los Angeles community College, Los Angeles State College (now California State University, Los Angeles) and art at Los Angeles County’s Otis Art Institute.

In 1989, Santana began actively painting and sculpting and phased out of the restaurant management. He later traveled many times to Oaxaca, Mexico, to develop his skills in lithography. As a result, in 2004 he was asked by the government of Mexico to develop an exhibit, “Impressiones – Arte de Manuel Santana,” for a thirteen- city tour.
In the publication, Manual Santana, Impressions, accompanying these exhibitions, Fernando Galvez de Aguinaga described the meaning in Santana’s work:

“Manuel Santana’s work seamlessly incorporates Mexican traditions, as well as the Judeo-Christian education that has helped shape his consciousness. These two very dissimilar worlds find a common expression on his canvases, which explode into a multitude of colors and forms”.
”In Santana’s paintings, the viewer can stare at seemingly haphazard compositions for hours and realize that with every viewing the images morph into something different. Strokes of paint come together unexpectedly to form the objects, animals and faces that inhabit these complex, emotional paintings. The artist describes the intense feelings overflowing from his canvases as expressions of the terrors that plague our modern world, with the overwhelming colors and the vivid expressions speaking to both global and personal crises.
”However, Santana’s ability to communicate his personal and political passions is not limited to talent for visual art. People acquainted with Santana know him as an articulate speaker and bright intellectual.”

To provide an exhibition space for contemporary women artists, Santana converted an early California adobe to serve as a gallery, Galería Tonantzin, in his San Juan Bautista gardens. He also donated space there to help facilitate the renowned Theatro Campesina’s move to their new base on the Central Coast.

Santana has been recognized by special commendation resolutions by the State Assembly of California. He has contributed his Art to the Reed College Journal in 2006. His art studio, the Santana Gallery, with his print shop and gallery is located in Santa Cruz, California

Meet the Artist

Santanta moved to Santa Cruz, California in 1961, where he worked in construction and eventually developed two successful restaurants, Manuel’s in Aptos and Jardines de San Juan in San Juan Bautista. Politically and socially active in his community, Manuel served the University of California, Santa Cruz as the Founder of the Martin Luther King Committee, participated on the UC Water Resources Advisory Board, was a UCSC Fellow for Merrill College working on behalf of Community Services, and was on the Board of Directors for the Bear Republic Theatre Company. Santana also served on the National Advisory Council for Rural Economic Development, as President of the Central Coast Counties Development Corporation (a community based non-profit), and on the Board of Directors for the Family Services Agency in Watsonville. He participated in organizing the first Housing Authority in Santa Cruz County, and was also instrumental in the establishment of the world-renowned Cabrillo Music Festival where he served six terms as President, which subsequently made him a Lifetime Board Member and inducted him into their “Hall of Fame.”



Manny Santanta

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