I love it when stuff like this happens!
I don’t remember how I met Manuel Samaniego – probably he was working on an outdoor mural – but it was in 1977 or ’78, in Pomona, California. A couple of times I visited his studio, a huge space over an empty store in the ghost mall.
The art blew me away! So strong, vibrant, imaginative, intelligent and trippy! I thought, “If this guy doesn’t make it, there is no justice in the world.” And as we know, there is very little justice in the world – which is what we had been discussing. A friend of his had been killed by the police in front of thirty spectators. A close relative had been in serious trouble due to mistaken identity – a car’s identity, to be precise, because it was the same color as a car the cops were looking for. Other visitors stopped by the studio and told similar stories. I remember feeling a guilty unease, because it had been a long while since I’d been politically active in any meaningful way.
I moved away and years went by – almost 30 of them. “What ever happened to this guy?” was a question that crossed my mind more than once. From time to time I’d look at my photo album and there would be the pictures Samaniego had let me take with my little Instamatic, because I couldn’t afford to buy any art. If I’d been an heiress, I would have stripped those walls and left not a single painting on the premises.
Eventually, and later than everybody else, I joined the webiverse and gained the ability to look for people and information. But still, somehow, it wasn’t until today, when a piece of paper slid out of a file folder, that I actually got around to looking up Manuel Samaniego. And there he is, at Buddha Belly Studio – still painting, still showing his art, still keeping the faith. The discovery that this wonderful talent hasn’t been crushed by the years and the world, just made my day. In fact it feels like Christmas, such a gift it is to know Samaniego is still out there doing it. The picture on this page (with permission) is typical of the ones that blew me away.
Manuel Samaniego is still painting, and I’m still not an heiress. But if any heir or heiress reads this, I say to you: buy this man’s work.