Ernesto Palomino was born on December 21, 1933, in Fresno, California, and has lived a life that has touched many. He served in the Marine Corps, holds an honorary doctorate from California State University Fresno, a master’s degree from San Francisco State University, and taught for many years at Fresno State. Now, at 89, he lives at Pacifica Senior Living Fresno, and reflects on his biggest claim to fame: his art.
Using sculpture, masks, drawings, mosaics, paintings, murals, and found objects, Palomino has left a meaningful artistic legacy.
Palomino’s passion for art first began at Edison High School in Fresno, thanks in large part to his art teacher Ms. Elizabeth Baldwin. He dropped out of school in 10th grade to join the Marine Corps, but after his time served, turned to art again, enrolling in the San Francisco Art Institute in 1954.
By 1956, he had moved on to the Fresno City College, and it was at this time that Ms. Baldwin also helped him to publish his book titled In Black and White: Evolution of an Artist. The book was published in 1956, and features art he created between 1945 and 1955.
In 1957, Palomino attended Fresno State College, and from 1960 - 65 he attended San Francisco State University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts followed by a Masters in Fine Arts.
The art he created during his time in school, which he himself labeled gabacho or Anglo art, was characterized by found and repurposed objects and sculptural designs. Many of these were featured in his thesis piece, a film titled “My Trip in a '52 Ford.”
Palomino later moved to Denver, where he worked for the Migrant Council and was also part of La Raza Unida party, which aimed to end marginalization of the Chicanx community. He had a strong sense of self and identity, rooted in his Chicano culture, and was involved in various activism movements associated with the arts.
He returned to Fresno, where he was an artistic director of several community programs and school boards. His work included the painting of murals on schools and public buildings, as the artistic director of the “Inner City Mural Project” in Fresno. He also worked with the Fresno Juvenile Hall and Retired Teachers Organization and took part in the National Symposium on Mexican American Art at Trinity University in 1973.
Through a 1973 National Endowment for the Humanities grant, assisted in the creation of the Malaga Community Park mural titled “Humanities Mural”. Over the next few years, his community reach grew, and he received the National Endowment for the Arts grant, and the California Arts Council grant in 1976.
His community impact, as well as artistic voice can be seen throughout the California Valley, and his work has impacted so many. From shows at the Fresno Art Center to The Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, the Mechicano Art Center, Los Angeles, Fresno State College, Teatro Campesino, Chicano Art of the Barrio in Houston, University of Texas, and Califas: An Exhibition of Chicano Artists in California, his art can be seen throughout Fresno, in a number of other states, and was even in the Smithsonian.
Now, Palomino resides in Pacifica Senior Living Fresno, where he was recently awarded an honorary Highschool Diploma, a story which saw him featured across local news channels. He is a much loved member of his Pacifica community, but also a revered member of both the Chicanx and art communities in California. His bright fighting spirit and moving artwork continues to warm the hearts of friends, family and neighbors in his community and beyond.