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Daniela Garcia Hamilton: Ritual and Tradition

Activist Vicky Hamlin, a retired tradeswoman, shop steward, and painter, shines the light — in her art and this column — on the lives of working people and the world they live in.

Daniela Garcia Hamilton (b.1995) is a first generation Mexican-American painter. Her family is from Guanajuato and she grew up in the suburbs of LA. She received her BFA in Drawing and Painting and her teaching credential from CSULB in 2018. She works in oil paint with mixed media and currently works full time as a high school art teacher in Thousand Oaks. From the bio on her website — “Her work revisits the rituals and traditions she experienced as a child of immigrant parents.”

She continues to exhibit widely.

People are complicated. We can all agree, I think, yes? For me, painting is a way of unraveling these complexities. I have never quite understood people, so I look and try to get clarity with paint.


Daniela Garcia Hamilton seeks both clarity and complexity, and finds both. If you are painting something as complicated as people, either portraits of faces or group relationships, the painting should have levels of complexity too.

Abuelito Victor is a portrait of Garcia Hamilton’s grandfather. Here she is not so much laying out a story as inviting us into this warm, loving relationship. This is a head shot — the colors of Mexico and the cowboy hat and shirt collar set this man in a very clear time and place, but I was so taken with the slight smile and the direct gaze that I didn’t need more detail. The colors are warm, the textures in his face lend him gravitas, her touch is confident. She knows this man well, I think.

So what about complexity? In SE LES AVISA, the story is less clear. What? A laughing boy and a cow and a rooster? And wait, there are words on the cow and a beautiful purple/rose/gold pattern behind them all? What could this mean? It’s like a kid’s song or a fairy tale — it doesn’t have to quite add up, you get that the story is composed of many different pieces and feelings. 

Mi Casa Nueva is not a painting, here she uses ballpoint pen and paint marker on paper. This piece is all about the experience of a young child in a new place —- the mysteries behind the QR square, a poster of maybe unknown musicians, unseen and maybe unknown faces. So there is no color to guide us, no expressive paint to help us understand —  just mystery about the possibilities, good and bad, of a new home. 

And one more thing. She is such a good painter and draftsman — she is way more sophisticated than her years (born in 1995!) that she adds more than a story line with her technique. It’s not easy to paint very slight gestures (El coyote de Alejandro), glances (Marisol y sus Potrillos), expressions (SE LES AVISA), or the turn of a head (Green Card) that says so much.

There is everything to love in the work of Daniela Garcia Hamilton. She is observant, warm, friendly, funny, gentle. She loves her family and, I’m guessing, the world. She helps us see into the best, most complex, side of people. Mystery solved!