The figurative surrealist’s peaceful, boyish visage and energetic body language belie his claim of exhaustion from constant painting and sculpting. In this second July of the covid-19 pandemic, during his first-ever Zoom, René Alvarado recounts the isolation he has experienced, the sadness of the suffering depicted on the news, and opportunities for new connections since March, 2020. Merienda, the converted church in the small west Texas town of San Angelo that is René’s gallery and home studio, has been closed during this 16-month saga. During one particular lockdown he so missed his seven siblings, and felt such sorrow about the struggles of others, that René did what he often does, assembling a visual narrative. It’s entitled “Twenty Five,” the number of days in isolation.  

The paintings and sculptures of “Twenty Five,” along with his series on horses, created over the last two decades are what compelled Veno Art to seek his participation in the Covid-Free Kids Charity Auction on September 17 and 18. The Auctioneer will contribute to selected children’s charities ten percent of the proceeds from the winning bids on each of the artists’ works. René says he would actually like to donate a higher percentage.

René learned compassion and social responsibility through his Mexican American upbringing. It helped him face, draw wisdom from, and overcome adversity. For him, the auction presents a golden opportunity to celebrate the human spirit and help make a difference during these unprecedented times.

He immigrated with his family as a young boy. They worked the fields around San Angelo. René recalls the difficulties his parents had to provide their eight children’s education. How fortunate he was to benefit from the arts enrichment programs provided by the farm workers’ union. How he continued working in agriculture after finishing high school but finally earned a scholarship to study art at Cooper Union in New York. He returned home, establishing his practice, and finding mentors and supporters in the community. René and other artists have become such a source of renown for San Angelo that in June Governor Greg Abbott designated it the Visual Arts Capital of Texas for the next decade.

Despite these achievements, René is troubled by a perception that the world is getting more complicated and that nature is angry with humanity’s shortcomings. Tilting his head slightly, he wonders if he feels this way just because he is getting older.