From Texas Public Radio:
Jesse Treviño, one of San Antonio’s most accomplished and prolific artists, has died.
Our Lady of the Lake University said in a statement that the painter, muralist and tile artist died on Monday morning. He was 76.
Treviño was born in Mexico but moved to San Antonio with his family when he was just two years old. He grew up on the city’s West Side and took an early interest in art.
By the age of 6 Treviño had already won his first drawing contest, and by 18 he accepted a scholarship at a New York City art school. “Jackson Pollock went there, Georgia O’Keefe,” he recalled in an interview with TPR.
In his free time, Treviño sketched tourists in Greenwich Village. By the mid-1960s, he considered moving to Paris to continue his art.
But war interfered. All young men in 1966 had to register for the draft, and Treviño’s number came up. He wasn’t a U.S. citizen, and he didn’t have to go into the army, but he felt an obligation to do so.
» MAP: Visit Jesse Treviño’s artwork throughout San Antonio
“I come from a family that out of my nine brothers, eight — think about this — eight of us served in the military,” Treviño explained.
After basic training he was sent to Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Two months later, he suffered a near fatal injury when he tripped a trap set by Viet Cong.
“There was several explosions, and the one that hit me, it must’ve catapulted me about 50 feet,” Treviño recalled.
As he lay there waiting for a chopper to pick him up, he realized what he would do if he survived: “Then all of a sudden I started thinking, ‘wait a minute, if I had another chance, I’d know exactly what I would be painting. My mom, my brothers, my parents.'”
But Treviño’s wounded right arm — his painting arm — had to be amputated. He was brought to Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston to recover.
There, he met Armando Albarran, a double amputee who liked Treviño and sympathized with his despair. Albarran arranged for an easel, paints and brushes to appear in occupational therapy area. He urged Treviño to paint with his left arm, but Treviño refused.
“‘No, no, no, no. I can’t do that anymore. I can’t do that, Armando,’ ” Treviño remembered saying.
But Albarran finally convinced Treviño, and the artist painted his first new work. That first painting was a bit rough, but it helped him see the possibilities.
“He soon learned that his talent was in his head,” explained Anthony Head, a Treviño biographer. “All he needed to do was convince his left hand to do what his mind was telling him.”
Treviño was on a long but steady road to recovery. He started by painting photorealistic paintings of his family, his neighborhood, and his mother.
» SEE MORE: How Jesse Treviño created so much of San Antonio’s public art
They impressed critics and art collectors. Then Treviño began to work in tile. He produced several tile murals that give downtown San Antonio a distinctly Treviño style.
“The greatest one that everyone knows about is on is the nine-story Spirit of Healing on the side of Children’s Hospital,” Head explained.
That massive tile mural by Milam Park shows an angel looking over the shoulder of a young boy holding a dove. That boy was Treviño’s son, Jesse Jr.