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Pow Chats: A Conversation with Jaime 'Germs' Zacarias

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If you're unfamiliar with illustrator, painter and Cali native, Jaime Germs Zacarias, fear not; there's a lot to know about the rising artist, so you're not behind. We touched on need-to-know info regarding Germs and his first POW release earlier this week, but now, we take a more in-depth look at the artist and his colorfully surreal piece, "Straight Outta South LA."

Hey Jaime!  I understand you grew up watching wrestling a lot, and you often times use the imagery of the Luchador mask within your work now. Can you talk about the symbolism of the mask and why you utilize it?

Growing up, I was a fan of wrestling. At the time, I didn't have any ideas of using the mask as an icon, but as I began to get older and get more in touch with my roots as far as Mexican wrestling and Chicano culture, I began to use the mask as a symbol to [represent] the mystery behind a person. The mask represents strength, mystery and culture. A lot of my creations involve the mask and overtime, it's just transformed.

What do you remember about painting "Straight Outta South LA?" How was the piece born and what was the process like? 

A lot of my work is pretty spontaneous. I don't really plan my paintings; I just kind of go along with the piece. I make changes, I edit. I can work days and days on one section and then come in the next day and paint over it., so i don't really have a sketch prepared or anything. I usually just come in and listen to good music-- most likely jazz. I kind of just feel it and improvise.

Nice. Are there any other casual fixtures as far as your process goes that accompany the jazz music? Do you like to create in a certain space, or do you have any other quirks about your process?

I usually like working on multiple pieces at the same time. For this piece, "Straight Outta South LA," I was working on three panels that were pretty large in size-- 4 ft. x 5ft.

I like to work on multiple pieces because I like to bounce around instead of just focusing on one piece. Each piece has a flow to it. At the same time, I'm using the same color palette and the same themes. It's just easier for me to work on different pieces at the same time because I get bored of sticking to one image. I also find myself to be more productive when working on different paintings at one time.

Can you tell me about the other imagery showcased in "Straight Outta South LA" surrounding the Luchador mask. I see the text and some other symbolism as well, can you touch on other visual elements represented?

It's mostly just the color of growing up in Los Angeles. It's a melting of all these different colors, cultures and races. So I chose colors that I'm currently really into-- a lot of magenta and turquoise colors. The flame represents not so much riots, but maybe the destruction the city can cause. The halo represents a more religious background, representing some what of a religious icon. I really gravitate towards centerpieces; a lot of my paintings have centerpieces. I think I got that from collecting baseball cards and comic cards as a kid, and also growing up in a Catholic environment. I always gravitated towards the Virgin Mary and similar centerpieces.

You've been busy over the last couple of years working and displaying art. Can you tell me about some of your recent art shows?

I jut recently had a show in Arizona at the Museum of Art and it was curated by Cheech Marin. I'm apart of his collective, so I did a show there last summer. The summer before that, I did a show in Bordeaux, France with Cheech also. I would say those two were the last major shows I did.

Awesome. What do you have coming up now? Any shows or projects you can touch on?

I'm working on a piece right now for ThinkSpace Gallery. They're putting a show together in Hawaii called the Pow! Wow! and they asked me to submit a piece. It's a big group show, so I'm working on a 16 in. x 20 in. painting right now to go towards that.

I just recently did a big mural in Pacoima, and at the end of the month, they're going to do an unveiling of the wall. It was 30 ft. x 40 ft.  private commission and I spent about a month painting that. So I'm working on some more work for the unveiling coming up. I'm also going to have a one-man show in 2017 in Fullerton at the Fullerton Museum of Art.

Be sure to keep up with Germs over the next few months as he continues to lay down fantastic work. You can nab Germs' "Straight Outta South LA" now, until January 17th. To learn more about the print, and to make your purchase, click here.