Several of Nacho Moya’s works include monarch butterflies as symbols of transformation, migration

By Marty Cheek

Acclaimed local artist Nacho Moya celebrates his Latino culture this month by showcasing more than 20 of his paintings at Gavilan College, his alma mater.

The exhibit entitled “Nacho Moya Art Reception: From Retail Worker to Artist” showcases the Gilroy-based paintings at the main campus library gallery.

The 41-year-old was born in Guanajuato, Mexico. He  moved as a teen with his family to Gilroy in 2000.

His love of the arts led him to take art classes at Gavilan. Moya is known for his signature style of using vibrant colors in paintings and portraits reflecting his Hispanic heritage and social justice issues like farmworker rights.

As a former student of Gavilan, this exhibit at the El Centro library gallery marks a full circle moment for Moya in pursuing a career in the arts. His works are collected by professional athletes and Hollywood executives but he wants to keep his roots in the South Valley.

“It’s a dream come true to be back at Gavilan showcasing my art,” he said. “As a student here years ago, I remember being inspired by other artists’ exhibits, hoping one day I, too, could display my work. I’m honored to bring my art back to my hometown of Gilroy.”

Moya’s art elicits varied emotional reactions from viewers. “Everyone sees different things based on their perspectives,” he said. “Some may cry, some may laugh. The beauty is it impacts everyone differently.”

Moya in front of his work “Peace.” Photo by Marty Cheek

The exhibit presents paintings several of which reflect well known heroes of Latino heritage from artist Frieda Kholo, professional boxer Carnella Alvarez (known as “Cinnamon Boy”) and farm workers activist Caesar Chavez.

All of the paintings were made in 2023. Several in the collection include monarch butterflies as symbols of transformation and migration.

Here are brief descriptions of some of the paintings in Nacho Moya’s Gavilan exhibit:

Moya in front of his work “A Child’s Dream “
Photo by Marty Cheek

“A Child’s Dream” — Featuring monarch butterflies traveling from the Mexican flag to the American flag, this portrait represents Moya’s journey as a teenager immigrating to the U.S. and settling in Gilroy.

“The Visitor” — Depicting an immense hummingbird, Moya describes this work as a representation of good energy and transformation of spirits of the deceased paying a visit to the Earthly realm. The  bird’s brilliant color in front of a mystic cosmic background reflects the artist’s vibrant style.

“Be Kind” — Black and white paintings of faceless figures portray homelessness as a woman provides one with money. Moya was previously homeless with his wife and children in the South Valley region. The painting shares a message of showing compassion to the less fortunate.

“Flaming Hot” — This portrait pays tribute to Richard Montañez, the Mexican-American inventor of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Moya used real Cheetos in the hair and mustache in a whimsical salute to the successful Hispanic businessman.

“Feeding America” — Two paintings show migrant workers in fields with the U.S. flag, honoring their labor and contributions while recognizing the challenges they face.

“Cesar Chavez” — A black and white portrait of the prominent labor activist in front of a colorful background, honoring his civil rights legacy.

“Peace” — Created from used paint brushes forming a peace symbol with American flag colors, this mixed-media work promotes inspiration and unity to achieve a better world. A young Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers union, is included in the lower-left corner of the painting under the words “Si Se Puede” to note peace can be achieved.

Gavilan College Superintendent Dr. Pedro Avila expressed excitement about Moya’s exhibit.

“We’re thrilled to host this former student turned professional artist,” he said. “His journey showcases the power of following one’s dreams no matter where you start. We invite the whole community to join us in celebrating Nacho and Hispanic Heritage Month.”