Having grown up in Westminster but lived in Long Beach since the mid 1980s, Edward Huerta considers himself “a proud Long Beach-ian.” The 53-year-old painter-musician is a self-taught artist who has been “pretty much a working stiff since 15 years old,” he says. “The household didn’t have many funds to support the college life, so I missed out on all that fraternity fun and hazing and putting emblems of my school on my car.”
Do you have a day job?
Certainly. I have a few. The one that helps pay bills is in Aliso Viejo in beautiful Orange County. I am a full-time quality assurance inspector. I am also a contributing writer for jackaboutguitars website, and I also play in a band called Rockford. Somewhere in there, the muse hits me, and I get to have “me” time and dabble in art.
I come from a pretty talented family. My brother Gerard is a world-famous illustrator and has designed many iconic logos, from AC/DC to People and Time magazines to Nabisco to Swiss Army Watches. My brother Jack is a photographer. My brother Al is a retired policeman. It seems my family is either into law-enforcement or into art. I have had several aunts and uncles and cousins that are/were artists also, so creativity runs deep in the blood, I reckon. I am married, have a house in Long Beach, no children but have two English Bulldogs and two cats that give us lots of pleasure.
When did you start painting and why?
I think it was about in 2007. My parents had just recently passed away, I had gotten married, and I was battling a case of the shingles from all of the stress. My wife suggested that I start painting. I started with little hardboard drawings/paintings of California Angels baseball players and baseball fields then started doing people and situations on canvas.
Your work reminds me of early American primitive folk artists. What would you say influences your visual point of view?
Yes, I would say I am very primitive. I am still learning perspective and how best to transfer an idea from my head onto the canvas. I was once told my paintings are like Jonathan Richman songs– child-like, innocent, but it gets to the basic core of things. So that’s cool. I really don’t know what my influences are. I truly dig Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, Robert Williams, Von Dutch and the whole West Coast car culture thing, but I don’t want to mine that field because it is being done quite a bit by people that are very, very talented. I will dabble in that occasionally for my enjoyment…almost as a drawing exercise. I also like the tiki stuff out there. Again that genre does not need another guy to join the fracas. I really appreciate the greats…Picasso, Dali, Van Gogh, Magritte, Chirico. Those guys are like major league, and I am still trying to win a spot on the bench of a AA ballclub. I have a couple friends, Dr. Doug Johnston and Don Butler, that have some pretty great talent but never really attempted to throw it out there. I have a DIY attitude probably from growing up during the punk rock DIY years. I am being called the “Punk Rock Painter” because of this. That’s cool. I just put myself out there because I live a life of screaming desperation.
Many of your paintings depict music-makers, ranging from rock-n-roll icons like Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, to Southern blues artists like Professor Longhair and Guitar Shorty, to jazz greats Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk, to SoCal punk musicians like Saccharine Trust and Mike Watt. What do you hope to achieve with these portraits?
Basically, I am just paying homage to some of my musical heroes on canvas. I also want to give the blue-collar musician a bit of credit too. I want people to recognize Whiteboy James, John Bazz, Joe Baiza, Jack Brewer, Henry Carvajal, Cory Davis, Kid Ramos, Monte Vista. These guys all bring a lot to the table and have given me a lot of pleasure in my life, so I guess I just want to give back a little to the musical community, maybe even document a certain time in history. I did a painting of Luis Lemus, the owner of The Prospector Restaurant in Long Beach. His story is a true American success story. I am just recognizing people that make a difference– hopefully, turn other people on to them. This is basically what I want to achieve with these portraits.
I think I have seen The Beach Boys about six or seven times but not since Dennis or Carl have passed. The first time I saw them was at Long Beach Arena in about 1974 or so. Brian I have seen about eight times and got to meet him twice, once at Guitar Center in Hollywood and the other time at Long Beach’s coolest record store, Fingerprints. He has signed a couple of my paintings.
You’ve played in bands yourself. What do you play, and what bands have you been a part of?
I play drums. I have played in many, many bands. Here are a few: Copper 7, The Eleventh Hour (w/producer Martin Beal on guitar), Moist and Meaty, The Final Tourguides, Mind Over Four, The Jack Brewer Band, The Lazy Cowgirls, and currently with Rockford.
Aside from musicians, some seemingly random folks like Charles Manson, JFK and comedian Paul Lynde pop up in your work. How did they get there?
I imagine they all loomed large in my psyche when I was a kid. I remember the terror that was felt when Manson and his “family” were running around out there. My parents were into the Kennedys, and I remember we even had a framed color photo of [John F. Kennedy] in our living room. I still have that, by the way, and all of the newspapers from when he was shot and when Bobby was shot. I get a bit too involved with the assassination and all of its theories. I try to watch everything I can about that event. It just mesmerizes me that there was actually a president out there that was trying to do good for the country and was just stopped immediately. As far as Paul Lynde, I just think he was a comedy god. I love comedians and comics Groucho, The Marx Brothers, Jerry Lewis, Rip Taylor, Charles Nelson Reilly, Bernie from Room 222 (David Jolliffe), Larry Tate character, because behind all the Mr. Funny there is a very big sadness that drives them all. I can relate to that a little too much.
Would you say you’re pretty involved in the local art scene or more of a loner artist?
I want to be more involved. I have had showings at Nino’s, at diPiazza’s Restaurant and submitted work to the Aquarium of the Pacific and have an upcoming showing at Harold’s Place in San Pedro next month. I have a lot of stuff showing at Azteca Restaurant in Garden Grove and at Old Town Pawn too. I am sort of shy and private, and I get freaked out meeting the public…like, I am a car salesman and trying to sell them something. I just need to get over that feeling. I am in the process of putting my portfolio on CD and getting it out there to a few galleries and cool places…already have talked to Jim at 4th Street Vine about a showing sometime hopefully soon and will contact Rand Foster from Fingerprints Records, whom I finally got to meet in person when Rockford played at a tribute [show] to Lou Reed. So I want to get out there, and if I have the loner artist tag well so be it. I am just a bit shy…so if anyone wants to represent me. Hahaha.
Gun to the head, you have to choose: make music or create visual art?
Wow, good question. I have made music for quite a while, and I love doing it, but you do depend on others, and they depend on you, so it really is a group thing. As far as art, I am solely responsible for what I put out there, so I have more control and at this point in my life, I like being in control more. God knows I spent enough time out of control. So let me go with the art thing, and please don’t shoot me!
To see more of Huerta’s work, visit edhuerta.com .