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Daniel DeSiga: Reviews


The Fresno Bee | May 1992

Artist followed, his dream to Santa Fe

By David Hale
Bee staff writer   

Daniel DeSiga is living proof that dreams can come true, especially if the dreamer has the enterprise and talent to see the vision through—and takes the advice of his father.  

About two years ago, DeSiga gave up a job as graphic artist and exhibition designer for the Fresno Metropolitan Museum and set out for Santa Fe, N.M., a mecca for Western artists.

"My dream had always been to go to Santa Fe and work with a great artist, " DeSiga said. "I knew that's where it was happening in Southwestern art."  

Today DeSiga is graphic artist and technical assistant to Amado Maurilio Pena of Austin, Texas, and Santa Fe, a major name among contemporary Western artists. DeSiga will be at Allard's Gallery in Fresno this weekend  to assist Pena at an exhibition of Pena's work.

"It's like living a dream," said DeSiga. "When I left Fresno, I told myself and friends I was going to Santa Fe and work for some great artist, and that's just what I'm doing. It's the most exciting time in my life.

"I'm learning so much every day from this man. He's so incredibly prolific and creative  

"I've been a graphic artist on my own for 20 years. I'm 43, and I'm still learning. I couldn't have picked a better teacher. Amado is probably the No. 1 artist in the Southwest."  

DeSiga likes to point out the simplicity of his approach, getting both thejobs with the  Met and Pena. He did it the old-fashioned way. He volunteered to show what he could do.

"My father once told me, ‘If you want to work for somebody, go there and ask. Sweep the floor if you have to.’ I walked into the Met and met John Brewer. He put me to work changing light bulbs. Then I got to be a preparator,  framing and matting, doing title panels and paste-ups for announcements that went out, crating and unpacking artwork—a lot of work that goes on in museums that people don't see.

"I went to Santa Fe with just enough money to make the trip. The first person. I met was Arman Lara, a friend from Washington [where DeSiga taught and worked as an artist before moving to Fresno]. I just threw my stuff in a corner of his warehouse and started preparing canvases. Then I met Amado Pena's printer, Richard Smith. I started hanging around his studio and helping out here and there. Amado saw that I had some talent at silk-screening."  

The rest, as they used to say, is history.

Pena finds ways, to encourage DeSiga in his creativity. Last summer they collaborated on the distinctively native American-inspired designs for the San Antonio Festival's production of Mozart's "The Magic Flute." Pena produced the sets, and DeSiga designed the costumes.

"We worked hand-in-hand," DeSiga said. "I am so lucky. I remember when I first started out with him [Pena], I worried about him thinking I was riding on his coattails. I was still making my own art, working late at night. It took me a year and a half to get to the point where I could bring it out and show it to him.

"We're going to be co-publishing some things. And next week, he'll be having his 12th anniversary exhibit in Austin and I'm going to be one of the featured artists in that."

DeSiga also has received a measure of critical attention from "Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation," the national exhibition which had an extended engagement last fall in the Fresno Art Museum.

He is represented by perhaps the show's most polished painting, "Campesino," depicting a farmworker bent over a short hoe in the field.

—Fresno Bee, May 1992



Yakima Valley Business Times | September 10, 2004 | page 6 

Well-known Hispanic Artist Opens Gallery In Toppenish

By George Finch

Artist and muralist Daniel DeSiga was the son of migrant workers who journeyed to the sugar beet and asparagus fields in Toppenish before they finally settled in Walla Walla.

Their new life allowed him to obtain a degree in fine arts from the University of Washington. But like his parents, he journeyed throughout the West to pursue his muse, a journey that almost retraced his parents' odyssey—to California, New Mexico, Texas and back to Walla Walla to care for his elderly parents.  

Along the way he became a nationally recognized artist whose works have appeared in numerous West Coast museums and in the Smithsonian National Museum of Modern Art.

Now his journey has reached Toppenish, where he recently opened up an art studio.  

"This is where it ends. I am tired of traveling, going back and forth," said the55-year-old DeSiga, reflecting on his adventures into the world of art. And his mission now is rooted in his experiences as a young child following his parents' journeys.

"I want to record the experience of farm workers. These are the sights, sounds and smells that are in me, from getting up early in the morning to the sounds of the making of tortillas for breakfast and meals in the field to the work infields.”  

Many second- and third-generation Latinos here do not have these experiences, he said. But through art they will live.

"These memories are with me. My job is to record these images. Farm work could just be a memory with automation coming into agriculture."

There are other memories that DeSiga wants the new generation of Latinos to understand. "Our parents had a strong work ethic and worked very hard for us to get where we are. Our parents were good role models."

Tributes To The Past  
His art depicting the farm-worker experience is now in broad view of all people in the city of Toppenish. It is reflected in a 100-by-15-foot mural—"EI Sarape"—on a store next to the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic.  

The mural pays tribute to the first Mexican workers who came to Toppenish in 1942 through the bracero program, which started the migration of workers to the Valley, he said. "This is how the word got out that there was plenty of work up here," he said.  

When you walk into his Toppenish studio, you will see a multitude of styles and artwork, ranging from prints, posters and sculpture to paintings that reflect southwest Native American styles, as well as Mexican styles and motifs and realistic paintings of wildlife.  

Most of DeSiga's I work is paintings, silk screens, and murals, but he has designed costumes such as the Native American-inspired costumes for San Antonio's festival production of Mozart's "Magic Flute."  

He also has a large sculpture of dancing skeletons for the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead, which showcased for Seattle pre- sentations. He is now talking to different groups about doing a showin Yakima.  

As one would guess from looking at his work, his art and personal experiences are diverse:
DeSiga, whose mother was half Native American, worked for Amado Pena, a Yaqui Indian who developed the famous Southwest Native American style. He worked three years with Pena, going back and forth from Sante Fe to Austin, Texas. And he learned more than a different art style from Pena.  

"He (Pena) was a marketing genius. Everything was mass production to him."  

DeSiga wants to purchase a press and also mass-produce a certain style, he said, pointing to prints of fish with Native American and Northwest motifs.

Art's Popularity Growing
While working with Pena, DeSiga became acquainted with the actor Lou Diamond Phillips, who bought his work. Phillips and other Latino celebrities are now collecting Latino art, starting a trend that DeSiga believes will bring it more into the public spotlight.  

He also has two works in the Smithsonian Chicano poster collection. One of his works was also used for the cover of a book, "'Culture and Cultura."  

It has been a long, successful odyssey for DeSiga, but he almost did not get on the bus to take the journey.  

"We were go on a bus to take the college test, but a counselor came on and told me that I could not take the test. My grades were too low, and I would not do well in college. They basically told me I was too dumb for college."  

DeSiga was starting to accept his plight until two Chicano recruiters from the University of Washington came to Walla Walla. They were referred to DeSiga by a worker from a social agency, and encouraged him to apply to the school.  

"Here I was this student who they said was too dumb for college receiving the Governors Award for Academic Excellence—a scholarship for academic achievement—and Governor Dan Evans presented it to me."  

DeSiga attended the university during the late 1960s and early 1970s, which was also the start of the Chicano movement in the state of Washington, and many of his classmates went on to lead the movement in Seattle and the Yakima Valley.  

When he returned to Walla Walla, he often visited the Toppenish area and rekindled his friendship with his college mates.  

Through these encounters he became drawn to the area of his youth, and when his parents passed away, he moved to the Valley, settling in Yakima and opening up the studio in Toppenish.  

As he sees it, the Yakima Valley offers a new beginning, for the Hispanic community is relatively young in the Valley when compared to communities in California and the Southwest. It is just starting to develop and merge into the mainstream community.  

"The children of the farm workers are now becoming teachers, lawyers and doctors," said DeSiga. "The community is transitioning. It is just starting to grow. The seeds have been planted and will be nourished. It will continue to develop.”  

And DeSiga hopes to help the new generations remember their roots, and the people who labor so hard to plant the seeds for this emerging community.


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