Monday, May 02, 2005

Luz de Verano Cervantes's Original Obituary Submitted to the SF Chronicle


Luis M. Cervantes, a San Francisco fine arts painter, sculptor, and master craftsman passed away peacefully on Wednesday, April 27th, 2005, at his home in San Francisco, CA after a brief battle with cancer. He was age 81, having been born to Francis Reyes Martinez and Luis Gutierres Cervantes in Santa Barbara, CA on November 1, 1923. After his birth he moved to South San Francisco with his parents and lived there with his four younger siblings until his fathers death in 1936. Much of his youth was then spent in Santa Barbara, CA where he graduated from High School.

In 1942 he was drafted into the US Army Corp of Engineers and served honorably through 1945 in WWII. His tour of duty with company "E" 358th Engineer General Service Regiment included England; D-day and the Normandy Invasion; Antwerp, Belgium; and Paris, France. In 1945 he was given an official certificate of gratitude from the City of Antwerp for his service during one hundred and seventy five days of continuous air and V weapon attacks between October 7, 1944 and March 30, 1945. Luis was honorably discharged as a Technician Fifth Grade in December 1945 at Fort MacArthur, CA.

After his service in WWII he permanently moved to San Francisco. In July 1946 he found employment at McRroskey Airflex Mattress Company as a custom mattress maker. His employment earned him membership in the Upholsters Union of San Francisco where he learned to master all aspects of furniture making. He served as President of the San Francisco Furniture Workers Union for two years. He was a very respected and valuable employee of McRoskey Airflex for his mastery of hand tied box string mattresses. He had even made a mattress for Joe Montana the legendary San Francisco 49ers quarterback. He retired after 46 years of employment in 1992.

In the 1950’s he used his GI Bill to study sketching and sculpture at SF State. This led him to pursue the art of ceramic sculpture at the College of Marin. His work and shows earned him entry into the San Francisco Potters Association, and the San Francisco Art Association. He had several exhibits of his ceramic sculptures including ones in 1960 at the M.H. De Young Museum of Art and the SF Museum of Modern Art. At this time he stopped attending the College of Marin and started to attend the San Francisco Art Institute in the ceramics department. In1961 he met Susan Kelk, a painting student at the San Francisco Art Institute, who would become his wife and lifelong partner. In 1962-64 Luis and Susan founded and directed the New Mission Gallery, a storefront at 1083 Valencia and 22nd, one of the most important contemporary avant-garde galleries of the time. During this time he was influenced by the abstract expressionists, visionary artists and psychedelic art of the times. They resided there until 1970 when the rising rents forced them to move to a storefront at Precita and Harrison in front of Precita Park with their first son Luz De Verano. Luis abandoned his ceramic sculpture to pursue his painting and began to create optically vivid and geometric paintings with Politec acrylic paint, some of the first acrylic paintings exhibited in the San Francisco area at the time. These works were in shows at the Oakland Museum of Art, the Unicorn Galllery, and the Galeria de La Raza among others. During the 1970’s he started to teach painting, drawing and art at the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco State, the Galeria De La Raza,, the Mission Cultural Center and Precita Eyes Muralists. He loved to teach and spent many hours discussing art with his students and friends.

In 1977 he co-founded, with Susan, the Precita Eyes Muralists, a non-profit, San Francisco community-based mural arts organization and served on its Board of Directors until 1999. The Precita Eyes Muralists were so named because the artists all resided near Precita Park and would meet and paint together regularly. The mission of Precita Eyes Muralists has been to create murals in a collaborative process with artists to produce visionary urban public community art. The acrylic paint he had used for his award winning gallery art found its way onto the walls for the murals they were all painting. This type of painting is a standard for mural painting today. Luis directed many mural projects including "The Cross of Quetzalcoatl" , installed in the San Francisco State University Student Union. He worked on many monumental mural projects with his wife Susan throughout the years including the recently painted mural at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose, the "Precita Valley Vision" at the Precita Valley Community Center, "Millineum Mural" at the On Lok 30th Street Senior Center, "Si Se Puede" at the Cesar Chavez Elementary School, "Family Life and Spirit of Mankind" at the Leonard Flynn School.

In 1990 Luis and Susan were invited to participate in an Ecological Arts Collaboration. It was a cultural exchange between Russian and American artists. This exchange resulted in three visits to Russia and three murals there. "Garden of Friendship", St Petersburg, 2003, "All People, One Heart", Moscow (1997), and "Water is Life" St. Petersburg, 1990. His work on community murals in Russia were highlights of his artistic experience and continuous collaborations.

After retiring from Airflex he dedicated himself to his art and produced many sculptures, wood carvings and paintings until his cancer developed. He continued to attend Precita Eyes functions even having his hallmark 80th Birthday party in 2003 at the organization. Luis’s last exhibited work was shown at the Mission Cultural Center’s 30 year retrospective of Latino Arts in 2004. Luis and his wife, Susan, were given a mayoral proclamation by Gavin Newsom on April 6th, 2005, which he attended while declining radiation therapy, as "Luis and Susan Cervantes Day" at the reception for the exhibit of Precita Eyes’ monumental murals at San Francisco City Hall.

Outside of his avocations Luis often fraternized with friends weekly at Cafe La Boheme’ on 24th St. and Mission. At the Cafe, Precita Park or the Mural Arts Center he could often be heard describing his artwork, adventures, and philosophies. He truly captured the sprit and imagination of many of his friends who regarded him as an artist/ teacher, and modern shaman.

Luis is survived by his loving wife Susan Kelk Cervantes, Sons; Luz de Verano,; Suaro, and Monte Cervantes, of San Francisco; his grandsons Teo and Cielo , and Javier; granddaughters Sequioa, and Maricruz,. His brothers Angelo, Las Vegas, NV; Juan, Crawfordville, Fl, Frank, Lompoc, CA; and sister Aurora, Santa Barbara, CA. After the war and through the 50’s he had married and divorced Rosie Castro and has a surviving son, Stephen Cervantes, Corralitos, CA; and daughter Lorna Dee Cervantes, Boulder, CO.

Luis will be cremated at the Pacific Interment Service, Inc. In Luis’s honor and memory contributions and donations can be sent to Precita Eyes Muralists at 2981 24th St., San Francisco, CA, 94110. Acknowledgements, gifts, cards and flowers for Luis can be sent to the Cervantes residence at 398 Precita Ave., San Francisco, CA 94110.

This poem written on the mural "Family Life and Spirit of Mankind" that he worked on at the Leonard Flynn school is a fitting and eloquent tribute to his memory.




Anonymous Eric said...

My father was in the 358th Engineering General Services Regiment during WW2. I am trying to put together a web site for this outfit before all the information is lost. If there is anything about the 358th you would like to share It would be greatly appreciated. The contribution these men made to what we enjoy today should not be forgotten.
Eric Kutzli

23/10/05 21:39  
Blogger sleestack said...

Thank you for posting the tribute to your father, I see that poem on the wall sometimes when I am walking in the Mission and it always warms my heart.

4/12/08 18:54  

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