Life of an Upstanding Citizen

Vincent Pacheco is a visionary. Pure experimentation with mediums as light as tissue paper, he has developed his own niche. Moving into multimedia altered his relationship with art and with his family heritage. Pacheco, now, as an assistant professor for Applied Art and Design at Sierra College, is able to share his experiences from his art career. Previously, he worked in the corporate world as a graphic designer for Yahoo! and then transitioned to work as a freelance artist in Seattle. While in Seattle, he developed his own design studio with clientele including Disney, Elle Magazine, Yahoo! and Samsung. In an interview with Pacheco, he discussed his personal connection to his work, and his recent art exhibit at the Ridley Art Gallery on the Rocklin, Sierra College campus. 

Interview with Pacheco

JQ: Could you tell me about your family and how it correlates to your art?

Sure, well my family’s from the Mission District in San Francisco. When I was a kid we moved out of the Mission District. I come from a family who is embedded in crime so, my grandfather who was one of the largest drug dealers in the Mission District. He eventually got caught and sentenced for 17-years at Folsom State Prison. 

Me and my mom and my dad and my brothers, my immediate family, cut ties with everybody else, my grandma, my uncles, everybody. I think it was a great choice because we were allowed to be kids, we didn’t have to fight for our lives, we didn’t have to hustle on the streets, you know? We evolved, we flourished. 

My family back in the Mission District just kept moving forward and has been in and out of jail. There’s been a lot of murders and things like that… lost a lot of family members. Yeah, that’s really my tie with San Francisco. It’s difficult looking back at that city because, you know, I love San Francisco but it represents a lot of trauma for my family. We had to cut ties to save ourselves. And there’s always been a rift, you know, and a disconnect.

Now I’m in my 40’s and that stuff’s still going on. I have to find a way to process it, you know, the difference on where I’m at, what I had to leave behind to get here to save myself and my family, versus what they’re going through out there and the struggle. And you know, I’ve never seen a therapist. But the next best thing out there is an art practice. I can start processing the lived experience through these gestures, through these pinatas, through these paint strokes. It happened out of necessity. 

Claiming Art

I didn’t have the type of family that would go to art museums or galleries, like that wasn’t in our awareness, art. But as more and more things started happening while I was on the job, you know, stuff back in the Mission that I would hear about, I just had a distinct awareness about what was real and what wasn’t real.

And I was doing all this work for the rich and the powerful. Meanwhile my family was, you know, in the gutter.

I would go home and just use that energy to do something that was my own and I would start collaging a lot. I learned Photoshop, you know, and that’s really all I knew for graphic design. 

I started collaging because you cut things out in Photoshop. I was like, what if I do it by hand, you know, try that out?

And so for the first 10 years of my art career, If you want to call it an art career, I was just collaging, so I primarily collaged assemblage. I did some street art. And then I think that was the foundation of my practice. 

It’s only been recently that I’ve started doing installation art like that at the [Ridley Art] Gallery. And really, I haven’t done anything related to my heritage or my life as a Mexican-American. 

JQ: Could you tell me about the meaning of the Nike shoe? 

[The Nike shoe sculpture] is a centerpiece of the show. It’s a portrait of my cousin. And he just went up for parole. It’s interesting. Like, so I’m up for my tenure review. I’m in the room with my committee and they give me the thumbs up or the thumbs down. If I get the thumbs up, I get to stay here at Sierra College. If I get the thumbs down, I gotta go get a new job. 

And so, like, they’re talking about my plan, what I’ve done over the course of these four years, and I get the thumbs up. I’m now a permanent employee at Sierra College. I get to keep my job until I retire, you know, and I think that’s what a lot of professors are striving for is tenure. Two weeks prior, my cousin, who’s locked up, is serving like a double life sentence for murder, he’s in front of his parole board– his committee. You know, I just passed my committee. Now he’s up for his review, and he fails. They say, we deny you parole. 

That’s a portrait of him and his story and there’s this kind of funny slogan, ‘the higher the socks, the downer foo,’ which is like, are you down? I don’t know, I heard about that on this Instagram page. But he was down like, he was down for the life, he was down for his gang.

He was Norteño, you know. They wore red and those were the shoes he wore. So just a portrait of him. 

JQ: Prior to your exhibition, were you nervous to see how others would react to your artwork?

I was not nervous at all because I was being honest. But it was interesting that people identified with it. I’m like, wait a minute, these are my stories. And they’re like, but let me tell you about my stories. And so it became an open dialogue, even though I was basically showing them my diary entry, you know? 

Teaching Truthfulness 

Today, Pacheco is redirecting some of the purpose of his art to his students. Ultimately, he hopes they can channel their own personality into their work, even if they’re trying to meet the demands of an audience. From his perspective working in the corporate world, Pacheco’s goal is to challenge his students with their art. Pacheco also highlights the significance of being absent from the work, versus being active in it. 

“That’s what I really challenge my students to consider, like, can you still make it your own? Can you make it truthful to who you are? Can you inject the work with your own personality?” Pacheco said. 

From the eyes of Pacheco, authenticity and personality are what he values the most. His ability to face his childhood trauma through art expresses resilience. Pacheco’s story teaches us all how to become upstanding citizens. More of Vincent Pacheco’s artwork can be found on his website.


Written, Photographed, and Reported by Jeralynn Querubin

Jeralynn Querubin is a journalism major at Sierra College completing her AAT degree. She plans on transferring to a four-year university in fall 2024 to pursue a career in journalism.

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