Fleischmanns gallery features art by former resident Santos
A long-kept secret is now a famous work of art! For decades, including the years during his residence in Fleischmanns in the 1970s, Alfredo Santos told no one of his major artistic achievement. Recently, however, Santos has been receiving worldwide recognition for the awesome murals he painted in the cafeteria of the San Quentin State Prison in San Francisco.
As a young man, Santos spent four years in the California prison on a drug charge. While an inmate, in collaboration with prison officials, he painted four 12-foot-high, 100-foot-long, murals depicting California history, which adorn the walls of the prison mess hall. Ashamed of his record, he told no one of his major artistic feat and few were aware of it outside of the inmates.
Following his release from prison, which Santos describes as his school of art, he worked doing portraits at Disneyland in Florida, had a gallery in Mexico and did paintings in and around New York City. He wound up in Fleischmanns where he had a studio and gallery on Main Street in the mid-1970s and early 1980s.
Santos’ studio was a magnet for young people in those days who went in and out of his open doors, and his windows were full of his work for sale. Paintings, sculptures and montages landed in the homes of many area residents where they remain—since the time when Santos left Fleischmanns to return to San Diego, the city of his birth.
Last year with the opening of the Art Et Cetera gallery in Fleischmanns, Santos’ artwork was shown publicly for the first time in years. Owners John and Gloria Mulloy researched the Santos legacy in and around Fleischmanns and rescued scores of pieces from storerooms, attics and walls for show and for sale. His graceful renderings include themes of bouquets of flowers bursting out of their wooden frames, owls and other birds shaped from pieces of found wood, city-scapes with three-dimensional bridges and faces painted on wood.
Art patrons can visit the Art Et Cetera gallery at 1164 Main Street in Fleischmanns to view its permanent Santos Room where many of the pieces are on display. Some are available for purchase. As recently quoted on May 9 in the Los Angeles Times, owner John Mulloy says of Santos, “He is a hidden treasure of Americana.”