ARTIST OF THE MONTH: His story reads like a rags-to-riches film script. One minute Nelson Garcia-Miranda was a dishwasher for well-to-do diners at deseo in the Westin Kierland Resort, and the next, he was the resident artist for the Scottsdale Latin restaurant.
Now, the walls of deseo are covered with the Cuban artist’s richly colored canvases. And Garcia-Miranda is nearby. He paints there nightly, entertaining diners and enjoying his elevated status. “All I ever wanted was to paint,” he says. “Now I do it full-time instead of after a shift.”
Garcia-Miranda, 68, was born in Holguín, Cuba, where his grandfather filled his head with the folklore that later inspired his work. He studied all aspects of art, but it was engraving that helped him carve out a productive career in the isolated island nation. He gained fame but still wanted out of communist Cuba. “I had to leave Cuba if my career was going to soar,” he says.
In 1999, Garcia-Miranda defected, taking his family first to Florida and then Arizona. The first five years were tough. “I did things immigrants do to survive,” he says. “But never stopped painting. I knew someday someone would recognize my talent.”
That’s exactly what happened. When resort managers discovered one of their dishwashers was also a celebrated and accomplished artist, they promoted Garcia-Miranda to the dining room, deeming his signature style a nice fit for the restaurant’s forward-thinking Latin cuisine. The paintings, which often feature colorful, curvy, abstract landscapes, start with spontaneous black ink sketches inspired by folklore and ordinary events. Those images are filled in with acrylic paint and later redefined with ink. The finished products often resemble vibrant watercolors on canvas.
The artist-restaurant partnership was a recipe for success. In addition to his residency at the Westin Kierland Resort, Garcia-Miranda is showing his work at Francesca’s Art Gallery, 4745 N. Central Ave. in Phoenix (francescasartgallery.com) through the end of the year.
And speaking of water, Garcia-Miranda hasn’t put dishwashing behind him. “I still have to wash dishes at home,” he says.