The cover art of this week’s issue is part of Jesse Trevino’s monumental mural, the “Spirit of Healing,” a mosaic tile masterpiece constructed on eight floors of Christus Santa Rosa Hospital.
Jesse Trevino, one of America’s premier Latino artists, grew up in the Westside San Antonio neighborhood called Prospect Hill. His family of eleven brothers and sisters lived in a modest home on Monterey Street. His dad, Juan Trevino, immigrated from Monterrey, Mexico to the United States in the late 1920s.
Juan Trevino drove trucks and repaired cars for a living. He was working as a mechanic in San Antonio when he first met his future wife Dolores in the nearby city of New Braunfels. Following their marriage in the mid-1930s, they moved to Monterrey, Mexico where most of the Trevino’s eleven children, including Jesse, were born.
The Trevino family moved back to San Antonio in 1950 and bought a house on Monterey Street, two blocks from Henry Cisneros’ home. Jesse Trevino’s interest in art and design led him to Fox Tech where his older brothers had attended.
Trevino’s early years were formative and important to his development as an artist. During his first year at Fox Tech High School, Trevino painted a portrait of Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson which he titled simply “LBJ” (1962). Finishing high school in 1965, Jesse headed East to the prestigious Art Students League of New York on a scholarship. His mentors and teachers were some of America’s finest portrait painters and he studied alongside some of the brightest young artists in the nation.
In the 1960s New York was considered among the top three places in the world to pursue the study and practice of art. Trevino’s stay New York lasted less than a year, ending when he was drafted into the United States Armed Services.
Trevino’s biographer, Anthony Head, described Trevino’s Vietnam service and his return from the war as the beginning of a tortured experience extending from many months to many years. Head wrote: “Under heavy fire, he sustained life-threatening injuries including to his right arm, which he painted with. Eventually, that arm was amputated below the elbow, but not after Jesse had already started training himself to live left-handed—especially as an artist.”
In the early 1990s Trevino’s good friends Jorge Cortez, owner of the well known Mi Tierra Mexican Restaurant in San Antonio, and fellow Fox Tech High School graduate, Dr. Carlos Orozco, suggested that Jesse paint a large mural at Market Square or at Christus Santa Rosa Hospital just a block from the Cortez family restaurant. Trevino always loved monumental art and proposed painting a mural on the entire nine-story hospital wall facing south which could be viewed from the elevated I-35 Highway.
Trevino’s Spirit of Healing mural is a gigantic 93 feet by 43 feet which required thousands of small pieces of tile of 70 different colors. At its completion, the art piece was reputed to be the largest ceramic mural in America. The mural depicts a young boy (his son) holding a dove under the watchful protection of a guardian angel.
We have had friends tell us that they wanted to see three things in San Antonio: the Alamo, the Riverwalk, and the Trevino Spirit of Healing mural. Because of its central location near touristy Market Square and the busy I-35 corridor, this mural is viewed by millions every year.
Talking about his many Jesse Trevino interviews in preparation for his book, Head told Matt Joyce of Texas Highways magazine that “ At its heart, this is a story of sheer determination to follow a dream. When he was at his lowest, Jesse found faith in himself to continue working. He simply was not going to be denied the life he always wanted to live.”