Bright Colors, Beauty and Meaning: It’s Just Manny Being Manny

Aaron Carlos

The cafeteria was filled with faculty members, students and cameramen all eagerly awaiting the dedication of Manny Bracamonte’s mural “Color Palette of Our Ancestors” Friday.

“My mural is about connecting the past, present and future,” said Bracamonte. “It’s about our history, our destiny and the path we follow.”

Manny is an advanced art student at GCC. He is not only a painter, but also a rapper and a social enthusiast.

“We needed someone capable of completing a project of this scale, someone who could make it beautiful and meaningful,” said Mark Gens, the Art Department’s instructional lab tech who worked closely with Bracamonte on the mural.

Gens said, “Manny was the first person we approached to do it and he was more than willing.

“He has experience working on a large scale, he uses very vibrant colors and his work is very content driven: culture, history, graffiti, urban life, etc. He was a perfect match for the project.”

The dedication ceremony came together as a collaborative effort between the Food Services Department and the Studio Arts Department in order to bring color to a blank wall in the cafeteria.

“We decided to submit a proposal for an ASGCC grant and that money paid for paint, brushes, Masonite panels and Plexiglas,” said Gens.

“The project began when Jan Swinton and Nancy Jordan got the idea to have a mural painted in the cafeteria,” said Gens. “Nancy Jordan contacted [instructor] Susan Sing at the studio arts department about creating the mural. Susan and I met with Nancy and Jan to get a sense of what they wanted and to brainstorm ways to raise money,” said Gens.

“Jan and I got to talking and we decided that what we really needed was to get some color on this blank wall,” said Food Services Manager Nancy Jordan. “We came up with the idea, ‘what about a mural?’ After we got the money from ASGCC, we approached the Art Department and asked them to choose an artist. They chose Manny and now here we are.”

There is more to Manny than his art and infectious smile. In a room focused solely on him and his art, Manny still managed to be humble.

“My inspiration for my art is my life, my background and everyday struggle,” said Manny. “It took me about two months to complete, three including sketches. I was putting in work for about four to five hours a day, but it’s worth it because it’s my passion, and if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, why even bother doing it?”

Manny is a native of San Salvador, El Salvador. He moved to Echo Park when he was six months old. “This is one of the biggest pieces I’ve done, and definitely the most legit,” (referring to street graffiti). “On the street you can’t take it home with you,” said Manny as he affectionately glanced at his work.

“Some of my work is at Philly’s Cell Phone Shop on Pico and Union, and there is some talk of me possibly doing some more work on campus. It’s nothing for sure yet, but I’d definitely be interested in doing some more murals for the school.”

Manny kept glancing at his painting, knowing that it will hang in the cafeteria for years to come, with a look in his eyes of pride and gratitude for the experience. “It was a tremendous pleasure to watch it develop,” said Jordan as she watched the artist across the room receive the praise he deserves.

The mural is a depiction of a timeline beginning with corn stalks, depicting an image from the text “The Popol Vuh,” an ancient Mayan story that depicts the first man and woman growing from a corn stalk. “I spray painted the background connecting graffiti art to modern day glyphs to ancient hieroglyphics.”

The mural continues from left to right, showing a warrior, “Our Ancestors as a Tree.”
It continues on to a bus and ends with what is described as “Dreamer Offering my Heart.” It was painted with acrylic on three Masonite panels.

The mural can be seen hanging along the far right wall in the downstairs cafeteria above El Vaquero Plaza.