Gennaro Garcia

Written by Dolores Tropiano Category: Arts Issue: November 2014
Group Mid-Level
Character count 2500

ARTIST OF THE MONTH: Celebrity chefs know a good dish when they see one.

That’s why folks like Food Network chef Marcela Valladolid and Silvana Salcido Esparza from Barrio Cafe collect Valley artist Gennaro Garcia’s handmade plates. The ceramicist paints thick black brushstrokes outlining his hands – cupped as if serving a meal – on beautiful, bare white dishes.

Photos by Mirelle Inglefield

Each limited-edition piece is personalized for the buyer. They start at $100 and are available at artegennaro.com and the Phoenix Public Market Cafe. “I came up with [the] idea of hands because when you serve food, you are serving from your hands,” Garcia says. “It is art for your table.”

Garcia, 42, grew up in various cities around Mexico. His family had an appetite for art and a rich tradition in the restaurant business. Creating art was as common as cooking. “If I saw something that I liked, my father would say, ‘Let’s build it,’” Garcia recalls.

He studied graphic design in Tijuana and more than 15 years ago, crossed the Mexican border (he is now a citizen) and lived on the streets in Yuma. “I finally found an empty room behind a friend’s house,” Garcia explains. “I painted all the walls and ceilings and then started painting murals in restaurants.”

Handmade plates

Garcia moved to Phoenix and started managing a restaurant. His artwork was discovered by an interior decorator who connected him with some high-end collectors in North Scottsdale. Ceramic plates are his latest artistic iteration after having his hands in abstract and religious-themed canvases and Talavera pottery. His work is in several galleries in Arizona (including Xico Gallery in Phoenix), Mexico and California.

“People love [my plates] because they love food,” Garcia says. “Everyone is so excited about new foods and that’s the idea behind my plates. To serve great food on beautiful plates.”