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The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

From star athlete to momentous artist

One of the many challenges that college students face is figuring out what they want to study or pursue professionally in the future. Local Fullerton artist Rene Cardona ultimately chose to pursue the artist lifestyle over becoming a student athlete after he realized how rewarding it was.

Cardona grew up in La Mirada where he attended La Mirada High School and was actively involved in sports throughout his high school career. Cardona was captain of both the football and wrestling teams. He helped lead the football team to a league championship after an eight-year losing streak.

Cardona’s younger brother and current Cerritos College football coach, Michael Cardona, ended up taking the athletics path after high school. Emulating his toughness, tenacity and pure desire to win on the football field or wresting mat was what drove Cardona’s brother to compete at the level he was able to. Although very different, the two share a genuine bond and mutual respect in the careers they have chosen.

“My brother was the most intense athlete I have ever seen. He just competed with reckless abandon, true competitor!” Cardona’s brother said.

Cardona spent most of his senior year of high school in the art room. It was then when he decided to pursue art and leave his aspirations of athletics behind. He wanted to stay clear from the aggression and high male testosterone that he found attached to himself as an athlete and instead found spirituality while pursing art.

Rene Cardona reflects on his work. Photo credit: Sue Hwang

“Art was a different kind of exhilaration, and I found it more rewarding with the social content of what was going on with my life at the time. It was a good change,” Cardona said.

After graduating high school in 1989, he was fortunate to have found immediate success. While doing framing at an art store in Irvine, he encountered an agent who helped him financially.

The financial security allowed him to shortly move into a space at the Magoski Arts Colony in Fullerton where his studio space is still held in. The space allowed him the freedom to be expressive and not have the hindrance of lack of space to exercise his creativity. He also enjoyed the unity of the community within the colony and was able to form relationships with other fellow artists.

Floor painting
Rene Cardona and his fellow artists painted the floor with a bamboo stick. Photo credit: Sue Hwang

In 1991, Cardona first attended Fullerton College for painting and art classes where he found incredible instructors that opened up many doors and pathways of creativity.

“They allowed me to be who I was rather than putting me in the conformity of the classroom,” Cardona said.

Shortly after his time at FC, he began a 10-year apprenticeship under scenic painter and designer Ed Gallagher, who worked at the Fullerton Civic Light Opera at the time. Gallagher acted as a mentor and was an influential figure in Cardona’s career.

Aside from the murals that he has done around the Fullerton community, Cardona also involves himself with the art walks as well as other events that are held, such as the “Day of Music,” where he helps build panels and decorate the city.

The inspiration for his work comes from many daily life activities and the different occurrences that accumulate over time. Art was a way for Cardona to stay positive all while still acquiring the negative information that was happening in society. He described his art as an “exaggeration of beauty” and developed his creative style after 5-10 series of artworks.

Wall of art
Paintings by Rene Cardona up at his studio. Photo credit: Sue Hwang

Brian Musil, former owner of a gallery called Art From The Hive, was a fan of Cardona’s artwork and expressed his interest with his paintings.

“His art, to me, had a lot of depth and after meeting him, you can see there’s a part of his wonderful crazy mind in every piece,” Musil said.

Rene said that he does not layer or glaze and doesn’t concern himself with any of the discipline of what goes on with the art institutes today.

“Art is that moment that sits back and it could be rude [and] honest. It can be anything. It’s free to express what’s going on in the culture,” Rene said.

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