Glowing with Goodness

by madeleine peck wagner
I’ve known Yvonne Lozano since she was a student. I’ve had the pleasure of watching her work grow, change, and, I remember when she began her current suite of autobiographical work.
Lozano is perhaps best known for the mural painted on the side of the Reddi-Arts building, where she fused her technical knowledge of outdoor painting with her personal icons. Working on the mural through summer 2009, winter, and early spring, she was a fixture on Hendricks Avenue. People responded in an overwhelmingly positive manner to the piece, there were posts and pictures on Facebook, and everyone who talked about it lit up. The mural features two little girls balanced on super-sized paint tubes on either side of a huge, hopeful tree. Bright, simple, and optimistic, the mural completely energizes that part of San Marco, because it feels good to look at.
Based on her childhood memories, Lozano’s paintings are the visual counterpart to the stories she used to tell about growing up. Blue-collar but not poor, her parents are natives of Colombia, who immigrated to New Orleans before she was born. Though the family moved to Jacksonville when she was 9, in her heart, Lozano still considers herself a New Orleanian. And it’s these NOLA memories that most permeate the artist’s work. Well, that and the starring role her best friend from childhood, Snoopy–a black and white ‘mixed breed,’ plays in many of her paintings.
Chosen to illustrate this month’s cover, Will Henley (our publisher), says of the work, “In her work, I see the face of every dog I have ever loved.” It’s the perfect observation because it captures the love Lozano herself feels not just for Snoopy, but for all of her pets, and by extension, most pet owners feel for their own four-legged charges.
Classically trained in studio art at Jacksonville University, after getting her start at Douglas Anderson, Lozano says the real impetus for the childhood-based work that has now spanned about a decade, came from Professor David Lauderdale. “At the time I was doing work that was very grounded in realism: figures, studies of trees, and landscapes. He challenged me to work in a different way saying, ‘you don’t have to work on canvas.'” Though she continued to work on a flat picture plane (wood, canvas, paper) that idea, that she need not be constrained by art history, took hold, and she began mining her personal history for subject matter. “I know the most about myself,” she explains, “and I am more about feelings than analysis.”
Around the same time she was talking with Lauderdale about bucking tradition and finding a singular voice, an aunt in Colombia died. Though they weren’t close, the artist says she was flooded with memories of a simple woman who spent her day making tamales in her small mountain village. “She would spend hours stirring and stirring a big pot of masa, as a treat, she’d freeze coconut milk into ice cubes for us kids…and I thought she just glowed with goodness.”
That quest for simplicity pervades Lozano’s deceptively straightforward works. Her pieces, which often directly relate to specific memories, encompass universal truths…both the perfection and hardship of growing up; how those challenges can become some of the best times. In The Box, Lozano recalls that most memorable childhood toy: a discarded large appliance box. Featured in Box are the three most recurrent figures in her work, Lozano herself, her sister Alex, and Snoopy, they’re tumbling around the interior of the container lost in an adventure.
Adults are often absent from her work and it reinforces the elaborate, intricate, ongoing fantasies children construct when no one is looking. It also touches on an issue many kids deal with: divorced parents who work a lot. Though she credits her mother with really holding things down, and dealing with the day-to-day struggle of raising two daughters, she remembers her father’s visits as “time made special by simple humble actions, good cooking, and silly stories.”
It’s this joy that pervades Lozano’s work; the ability to distill simple moments, and to preserve those epic adventures that once seemed so important, with Snoopy by her side.
For 13 years, Snoopy was more than the family dog, he was Yvonne and Alex’s partner in crime, their third musketeer. Born on the kitchen floor when Lozano was 4, he died in her arms when she was 17, and the bond they shared pervades every piece he’s been featured in since. Outlined with thick black lines (like all of Lozano’s characters), Snoopy is featured wearing sunglasses, plopped into a bike basket, staring down an aggressive crab (for the whole story, visit and learn a lesson about Lake Pontchartrain), or just being with his people.
Happy only the way a dog can be, remembered the way a beloved pet always is. Snoopy: a talisman of hope, a lesson in unconditional, slightly sloppy love, a symbol of every good dog.