Xavier “Chico” Garza and Mehmet McMillan

Recorded August 9, 2009 Archived August 9, 2009 57:43 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: SFB000452


Mehmet McMillan, 44, interviews his life partner, Xavier “Chico” Garza, about his life journey to recover his Mexican artist father’s artwork and honor his legacy.

Subject Log / Time Code

Father was Xavier Garza Galindo, Mexican artist, one of the first to die of AIDS epidemic in SF in 80s
Father developed cobweb technique of painting which used women’s pantyhose in an innovative way
Father’s history--saw mother commit suicide with gun
in search for father’s artwork, randomly met young man on plane who knew the buyer of father’s artwork in West Virginia
Goal is to spread the work worldwide and have a museum and comprehensive collection of father’s artwork


  • Xavier “Chico” Garza
  • Mehmet McMillan

Recording Location

San Francisco StoryBooth


Partnership Type



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00:10 My name is my Matt McMillan. I'm 44 years old. And today is Sunday. I'm located in San Francisco and I am the significant other and life partner of Chico Garza.

00:27 And my name is Xavier Chico Garza. I am 48 years old. Today's date is August 9th.

00:37 2009 on Sunday the location is San Francisco.

00:43 And we are at the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

00:48 And my relationship to my meth is my partner and that's it.

00:56 Domestic partner. Yes. So we've talked often in our relationship about your story in about your experiences in recovering and learning about your father's art.

01:13 I think it's a very interesting fascinating story and I'd like to hear more.

01:18 Okay. Well, I'm to begin my story. I think we have to go back to the 80s when there was the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco. A lot of people were dying. And my father happened to be one of the first of felt that time. Of the diet of a eight. My father's name was Xavier Garza Galindo.

01:47 He was born in Mexico.

01:50 And he was an artist and he was an amazing artist who created a technique called cobweb technique and which he was stretch woman's pantyhose on a nylon stockings into the canvas.

02:06 Then he would a shellac them and do acrylics and oils into the paintings. He really create this incredible porches a woman and man and all the colors were very Vivid and the end result look like a match or a cobweb or mosaic stained glass. So I gave it a lot of texture and he just started this tape technique and run 1960 in Mexico. And so when my father died I was devastated and I didn't seem to have a sense of obligation or responsibility as to the legacy of my father's artwork.

02:57 And I was in a

03:02 Deep morning to the point where I had a

03:07 Decided to really challenge my Buddhist faith and I start to really search and pray as to what what what should I do? What is my purpose in life? What is my mission in life and through that one day and my Buddhist recitation. I came to the conclusion that something came to realization. I need to start collecting. My father's hard work. I need to really look for my father's and research my father's artwork and it was a great realization if it was so powerful was so it was like if I just ran into a wall and this is what I need to do, so, I began my journey

03:59 And 1991 I curated the first Latino art show in San Francisco, which hosted 26 Latino artist gay lesbian transgender bisexual in San Francisco. It was held in the mission cultural center and I got a grant and that enabled me to create this incredible artwork artist coming out of the closet and into the Latino community. And what was really powerful about this experience is that it was an honor to my father. So I've seen some of the sketch books and some of the original paintings that are in our house and they are very interesting to me to colors are

04:45 Deep rich purple and blue and red and images are striking symbols of of women and men sometimes and you describe the when I first met you and saw these things as the cobweb technique and and now I understand that it was simply pantyhose. So what's that about?

05:11 I still am in search for that answer. I can only find some that that the texture is incredible. I could only find some that he had a tremendous appreciation for the form of women's faces and I can only speculate that join the time a lot of men in the closet man who were bisexual man who practice bisexuality really embraced of feminine objects feminine things that

05:55 Where are worn by my females? And of course, you know, it's makes a woman's legs look beautiful. So I think there's an aesthetic part of the pantyhose that really March whether you know, how can I create something?

06:12 So profoundly beautiful pantyhose into portraits. So he used the the pantyhose is a medium. But yes Lee he also used woman's well lace lace mean all over the world. They said he had acquired from friends and acquaintances that give a given Blaze from Spain or French lace some he went and sometimes attached to this place into the pantyhose. So and then to the Kansas and then of course you did that.

06:49 Oils and acrylics Chico's your father's has an amazing history from what you've told me and what I've seen in in the book says the journals that he kept.

07:05 Where is he from? What was his background? He's Mexican. We know and he is married to your mother and she lived in Monterey.

07:15 What else?

07:17 Well, my father was interesting enough. He had come from a family and and that was involved in politics. I believe from what I understood that his great-grandfather or something to that effect was the governor of Nuevo Leon Monterrey, which is northern part of Mexico. But what was more significant is that he came from his background was that he had depression and his grandmother had depression are my grandmother had depression and he

08:05 Soccer commits suicide she was kept in the back of the house in the shed and according to the journal Center Fred. I should call out to him and she would you know you be running for her son he be gunning for her, but he didn't have access to her because she was labeled as a crazy woman, but he knew that that was his mom and he saw her killed herself committed suicide with a gun and

08:34 Just that whole experience traumatize them. And so I know in my heart from the very beginning of our conversations he would talk.

08:45 And Desperation for Love from from his mom when my father died in 1986 May 6th. Nineteen of 86. He had told me.

08:57 Few days before his death that I'm finally going to get to be with my mother.

09:02 And he also said to me.

09:05 Don't worry.

09:07 We'll be together for the rest of our lives. Don't worry and he's told me I think you know what I mean.

09:14 And that was very powerful that was very powerful because it goes back to you know Monterey where we know he was raised. He was a timid boy and he had an incredible action for the RT not old not only did he create paintings, but he also owned the first Ballet company and and Monterey he was a teacher and so interesting thing about his ballet companies that let my mother had married him and she would create the costumes for the ale and the best apps send and he would do the all the choreography his stories. Tremendous is the story of your mom Cherokee Choctaw.

10:05 Woman now Medicine Woman is also very interesting and their their experiences together monthsary with the ballet companies always fascinated me.

10:17 Certainly there be maybe some opportunity to talk about that. But I'd like to go back again to your dad and your desire to to do what to honor him into to find this art. What does that mean for you to ask me that because I asked you were asking the question. I was like thinking how imperative it is to create a legacy for me when I had that moment of my boo this moment of realization.

10:51 I had realize the conclusion to that prayer being answered why I said I have to create a legacy that a lot of people, you know my parents they died. And before you know, I've ever longed things are scattered among the family and before you know, they're just collecting dust and before, you know, at the end of it could well or they end up at an estate sale and I when I made that realization I had realized there here's my motherhood make films my father of your head all this artwork that was lost and private collections.

11:28 I'm having a rich Cultural Family background that I can't let that go to waste. I can't be forgotten. I was determined at that moment that I was going.

11:44 To create a purpose in my life. And so that's where I really started to search. My father's artwork search for stories search for answers to this kind of void in my life are your practice and put as much our practice of Buddhism has taught us many things I think can and the mentor disciple relationship and honoring the elders and the 4 directions are significant part of all Faith really not just put us in but has we practice it certainly

12:19 You've gone through a number of interesting experiences in recovering this heart, and I know that you you have

12:28 Five six pieces when we match and now you have nine 10 11 pieces now and each the acquisition of each one of those his worth 40 minutes in the telling

12:40 Is there one that's jumps out that it's the most profound example of you doing the right thing of being on the path it that things unfolded in a way that demonstrated to you. Yes. This is what I need to be doing. Well first let's begin by saying the first question you asked me was about my Buddhist Faith Arboles fate and Buddhism teaches you or it celebrates.

13:12 Reference to your parents

13:15 Tremendous respect that you took to the parents with that principle. I wanted to pay my respects for some

13:27 Play my father because his artwork was lost lost and private collections lost and Scattered from you know, Mexico City to Canada to New York West Virginia everywhere. And so when I begin my my journey is there was one place that I could go to.

13:51 Some place that I can go to West West Virginia, that's one place and I knew that there was paintings floating around and private collections.

14:01 So

14:03 My most significant I'll call it this over this moment because I had went to West Virginia for lead and I remember it was November Thanksgiving and it just started to snow in West Virginia downtown Charleston and I was walking the streets and trying to find out of one of his buyers by the name of the young at that point. I had it the wrong name. I thought his name was Dick Myers. So I went looking for this dick Myers all over the Downtown Charleston went to his hair salon couldn't find them. I asked if when people about him and so let you know where I was completely.

14:51 Leaving Charleston West Virginia with absolutely no clues. No type of success.

14:59 So the only thing you had is I remember was a CD of the pictures. I had a CD of the pictures that I had just actually went to the library Congress and had him copyright carried it to the library Congress and had them copyright. So I had a copy of it with me. So here it is. I left West Virginia empty-handed no clues. No, absolutely.

15:24 You know connection to finding my father's aren't working, It was kind of like how okay and I remember that night I went home and I was praying that was chanting mantra nam-myoho-renge-kyo and I am

15:40 I was just thinking to myself. Okay, I'm leaving with anything, but I'm not going to give up so he ain't going back to Washington DC and this story is still bring chills down my spine because I wasn't supposed to catch a plane back to Washington DC and I happen to be an opportunity for me to catch the next plane because it was an opening. So the woman said if you hurry up and catch the next plane, so I wasn't supposed to be on that plane. I was supposed to be at the 1 one. So what happens I I sent down an empty seat and was getting ready to go back to see with absolutely no clues about fathers Hopkin and this young man sits next to me and we start to have a conversation and he asked me why don't you join in West Virginia and I told him up on my father. I told them that I was there researching my father's heart work.

16:38 And I'm not really because yeah, I'm in so I said to him I would love to you don't give it give you an example of God's artwork, but you know, I don't have a laptop. I have a I have a disc of my father's artwork and he says what I have a laptop, he pulls out his laptop and we put in the desk and he starts crawling and he says, oh my gosh, I can't believe this I was at my friend's house in that painting was in my friends living room. I was just there last night and my hair stood up and and I begin to cross-examine him. I said, are you sure that it's this painting ago? She hasn't he looked at, you know the rest of the slideshow and I would ask questions. What was the person he said his name is Dick Young.

17:30 I have the wrong person last night and I said tell me about take young was he a hair stylist? Yes, was he gay? Yes, did he own a beauty salon Emporia Street? Yes. Everything was yes. Yes. Yes and my car started to jump because I have found the person who had the most pieces of my father's off work through that airplane incident in line at the Washington. DC didn't have a laptop. He sat next to me. He asked me questions and this incredible finding happens like so mystical.

18:10 You know and do eventually became friends with with Dick Young and created a relationship with him in the choir to three more pieces. So we're actually what happened was when we landed in Washington DC. He got on the phone and he called Nick Young a sister, you know, Chico Garza and he goes, yes, and he says he's right here. So I talked to him and sure enough was him a year later. I went through to West Virginia and Anna visited him and be begin rrr.

18:45 Relationship relationship. Yes, and you know and I didn't want to come across at one of those painting we know or one of those sculptures, but what happened West was really unique that he had the next following year. He had revealed to me that he had get the cat got cancer and you know

19:08 He also told me that the way he does about artwork if it is that artwork should be passed down so that gave me hope that perhaps one day I could have those painting make a long story short. He died and me and my daughter went to West Virginia to go to his service on the way there he passed away and I got there at the nick of time and I was able to salvage.

19:35 Two of my father's original paintings and two sculptures and it all came from that one airplane incident of being at the right place at the right time and having a laptop in this young man sitting next to me. I'm so indebted to him because he made that connection. So your perseverance has astounded me in this effort. And sometimes you say that you're not doing enough for you feel that you're not putting in the time or energy or you're not succeeding.

20:11 After hearing the story to me, it doesn't sound like you're failing at all. Actually, it's been remarkable. So, how do you feel right now about your search for?

20:23 Javier galindo's art Javier Garza Galena gas. Well, I had another golden opportunity last year.

20:35 And I am a very determined individual when it comes to a goal and specially archiving. My phone is not working especially creating a legacy for my father and my mother as well, but I

20:50 I decide to go to West Virginia to look for more leads.

20:54 Last year this year, so I went to the inaugural ball Obama.

21:01 And went back to West Virginia and look for more leads and one of my friend who is a district attorney in West Virginia contacted the Charleston Gazette, which is a Statewide newspaper Alamo. My story revealed that my father had an art show in the state capitol.

21:21 And in the 1970s and when he had this art show and the state capitol his paintings became missing missing stolen. They became missing.

21:33 So when the newspaper find out about it, they wanted to publish it. They were fascinated that in the Rotunda of the Charleston Capitol, you know that these paintings were gone. So they got a hold of me and asked if they wanted to do an interview and it was the day before I had to leave. So here I was at say yes, I'll go there and we have about an hour interview and I was able to show an example of my father's artwork and you know, they did an incredible story was so well-written and it was published about a month later and stay with Mike and I can't tell you how incredible it is when people come forward and they're so generous a woman came forward and said that she had acquired one of my father's painting 30 years ago.

22:33 And she would give it back to me if I wanted it back.

22:37 And I was so excited that from this newspaper article. Somebody came forward and said I have your father's heart work and I was able to acquire this painting back in my possession interesting enough. This piece of artwork was not documenting and has written 1975 in the painting and it was a lot of damage but and it was one of the pieces that he did with faces of play the clip pack Paris the clay, you know, plaster Paris jacket exactly and had beautiful eyes and I believe that that painting was the one of the paintings that was stolen from the state capitol because his consistent with the date with my father has the art show and yeah, I was I was a little boy can accompany him to this Archer. I helped install the pieces in a state capital.

23:33 And it became missing and it came was given back to me and my hands so I have this painting and another woman came forward and she had an original piece of my father's artwork. She was his therapist and she also sent that to me in the mail. So this year I was able to acquire two of my father's original paintings along with a young woman who had called me long-distance from South Carolina who was at the Goodwill store.

24:06 And found two small reproduction to my father's artwork.

24:11 And in the back of these reproductions there was an address and the address was that of Mexico when we lived in Mexico City and she had bought these two tiny Productions may be to buy 3 for $0.25 each and she have asked me would you like to have these paintings by the square Productions back? And I said, yes, please so I'm still with excitement. I feel with Incredible Hulk I feel with like this incredible sense of purpose and to continue. So in a sense. Has not died.

24:51 But I mean that I must continue to search and my goal is that I want to write a book and still must tell my stories as many people and I hope that my story can and steel.

25:07 The incredible responsibility that we aren't in debt to our parents if I can Inspire anything the store. Yes, it is about finding my father's heart work, but the undercurrent says have an appreciation.

25:25 For parents

25:28 Amazing the pieces that you have collected are from different places. And since I've known you you've

25:39 Promoted their existence in Far Away places like Japan.

25:45 Why would you take a replica to Japan?

25:49 I think that.

25:56 Aesthetically

25:58 My father deserves that my father was incredible passion about artwork. That's all he did. He worked with his hands. He continued to create pieces of artwork and all medium sculpture glass mirrors all kinds of different things. He was doing for the cop of technique, but one thing he was not able to accomplish was with Savon him and knowing that sadness in his life. I said I can pick up the ball. I can pick up the torch and I can do what he couldn't do.

26:36 So my goal is to be able to spread worldwide. My gold is one day to have a museum.

26:45 My goal is that one day I would have a comprehensive collection of my father's artwork and then I would travel the world and to show.

26:56 This incredible artist Javier Garza Galindo Mexican artist copper technique and expose it to the world. And if I can do that in this life time, I feel that I have served my purpose as a human being and this short existence of myself being here in this planet.

27:21 Wow.

27:23 What else is there anything else you'd like to add? Well, the the feeling I I have in in the bottom line, which is the honoring of parents is profound.

27:41 Yes. Well, the only thing that I can add is that for you and I to be true to ourselves to have a cough to have a sense of purpose and fulfill that sensor purpose whatever it is. Whatever that calling is. It is mine is different than yours. Yours is different than mine. But if I could get a point across to the the audience particularly young people

28:13 Yes, if they are able to stand up and say to themselves to find something significant in their life.

28:25 Parents a movement whatever it is to take that ball and run with it and we and United States have so much diverse culture. We have so much stories to tell so that would be my message to the young people is to you know, find a Cause.