In 1906, Gene Jimenez’s great-grandparents immigrated to Santa Ana, California, from Durango, Mexico. More than a century later, Jimenez, who is a fine art painter, is inspired by his forbearers’ courage. Recently, he showcased what he calls their “human spirit,” one of eight works by Jimenez printed on street-pole banners and hung in downtown Santa Ana’s Artists Village.
“Martin and Maria Morales both were teens with a newborn in their arms when they arrived,” says Jimenez, who grew up in Santa Ana. “My great-grandfather was a green grocer serving immigrants in the barrios, and he delivered fruits and vegetables. They had nothing and eventually helped establish a major family neighborhood, raised eight children, and today, they have several hundred descendants throughout Southern California.”
One of the banners featuring Martin and Maria hangs on a light pole near N. Broadway and N. 2nd St. in downtown Santa Ana outside Jimenez’s work and creative space called GENE, artist studio/gallery.
The other banner paintings include a mariachi guitarist, floral dancer, traditional Mexican cooking, a monarch butterfly, and Day of the Dead figures. “These bring the historic culture of the community to a new generation,” he says. “Culture is something that we all should cherish—you can’t buy culture, and holding it sacred is important.”
The first in his immediate family to graduate from college, Jimenez earned a bachelor’s in studio art from the University of Redlands in 1993. He later met his wife, fellow Bulldog Lynne E. Sheridan ’88, who is a transformational trainer and licensed marriage and family therapist.
Before establishing his gallery, Jimenez worked as a creative director, graphic designer, fashion designer, and television creative producer, with a client roster that included musical artists Kiss, Eminem, Puff Daddy, Janet Jackson, NSYNC, and others. Jimenez completed a Master of Fine Arts at Florida’s Full Sail University in 2012, and he was an art instructor at the U of R for 10 years.
Now a full-time artist, Jimenez’s work may generally be described as abstract-expressionism, he says, “or the energetic expression of emotions. … I let the brush, paint, and canvas collaborate with the energy in the room.”
In addition to his often exuberant and colorful paintings, Jimenez directs his attention toward other diverse and compelling projects: He is curating two additional series of street-pole banners featuring fellow artists; taking a deep dive into research on Native, indigenous, and ancient cultures for a series of works centered on ancient hieroglyphs and etchings; designing a comic book series; and publishing a coffee-table book of his fine art nude photography, including conversations with each model about their own creative processes.
One other project brings his U of R experience full circle: He’s writing a screenplay about his track and cross-country experience at Redlands with Coach Clay Brooks and Jimenez’s teammates. The young men “went through everything”—from the death of a parent, first inebriations, fights among themselves “like brothers,” and cancer, according to Jimenez. And, the team made it to the 1992 national championships for the first time in 30 years.
Jimenez’s love of his work is palpable in his art and clear in his conversation: “I don’t think I have arrived at anything in my art career other than acknowledging that I am on a journey. And the journey of an artist is endless. It involves creating daily from nothing, waking up to work at ones’ craft—and yet, I tell people I haven’t ‘worked’ in 20 years. I’m an artist.”
To view more art by Jimenez, visit artofgene.com (fine art) or https://machine-brand.launchcart.store (apparel). Or learn more about studying studio art and other subjects at the University of Redlands.