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Inside the World of Artist Jaime 'Germs' Zacarias

Cheech Marin: We are today in the Vincent Price Museum on the campus of the East L.A. College where they’re having a show of Germs among others. Jaime Zacarias to the uninitiated. And he’s a Chicano artist that I’ve been following for a number of years but have been recently started collecting.

Jaime Zacarias: We’re here in my studio here in Chinatown right next to Lincoln Heights. My name is Jaime Zacarias and I also go by the name Germs. I was in the skate crew so everybody in the skate crew had a nickname. We were all hungry, we didn’t have money at the time so we went to Carl’s Jr., went to the trashcan, pulled a cup, washed it in the restroom, and filled it up and started drinking out of it.

Cheech Marin: You know I started educating myself in art as an academic pursuit. That’s when I discovered Chicano painters and I go these guys are really good but they were telling it with a different energy and were being influenced by their own energy from their own communities.

Jaime Zacarias: I was born and raised in South L.A. Just the environment inspires me a lot. I’ve been doing art all the time. I didn’t want to be bossed around so I wanted to do my own thing and I started painting. I like not being tied down to just any genre of art.

Cheech Marin: Chicanos are Mexican Americans with a defiant attitude that they stand up for their rights. They won’t take a secondary citizenship.

Karen Rapp: Chicano is a term that at one time had a strong political association.

Cheech Marin: And as time went by, it expanded into the private concerns of the individual artists.

Paul Dunlap: That genre really speaks to Southern California and what we are as a culture in Southern California. We are almost all of us here of two cultures.

Cheech Marin: When we put these points of views together you get this 360 of the essence or the sabor, the feeling, the taste of what it is to see the world through Chicano eyes. And it’s slightly different. My mantra has been you can’t love or hate Chicano art unless you see it. And when they see it, people go oh I didn’t know it was going to be like this.

Jaime Zacarias: You got to carry on the legacy and push forward. The Clayton Brothers, Magu. Those four – I just like what they did as far as opening up doors for Chicano artists.

Paul Dunlap: What I feel when I look at Jaime’s work there’s an energy comes off of it that I pick up on. I find it very positive, uplifting.

Cheech Marin: They’re very vibrant color-wise, but very modern and futuristic at the same time.

Karen Rapp: His work has been compared to Basquiat, I think because of the raw energy that he has.

Paul Dunlap: Kind of a combination of Basquiat meets “The Simpsons.”

Jaime Zacarias: I don’t like taking my work seriously – I mean I’m serious about making my art, but the humor is more of a joke. Sometimes I like hiding stuff in there and I don’t tell anybody about it. I incorporate a lot of L.A. motifs in the pieces.

Paul Dunlap: Obviously Jaime is a huge L.A. Dodgers fan, so if he can put the logo in there somehow he’s going to do it.

Cheech Marin: He’s really developed his own distinctive lowbrow art and it’s very highbrow now.

Jaime Zacarias: Try to combine old things to make it new again.

Paul Dunlap: He’s somebody who really does take his craft seriously and pursues it in a very intelligent matter for a young artist.

Karen Rapp: He’s an artist who can fit into so many different categories and I think it’s something he promotes and sort of plays around with that he knows that he can be with the original Chicano artists and he can be with the hipster scene and so it gives Jaime the ability...I think he’d like to say to recruit the next generation.

Jaime Zacarias: I got a 2 and a half year old and a 9 month old, they’re the reason why I have to keep working. I love ‘em. I draw with Jeremy. I love watching him make a mess. He’s a good kid. It’s the only thing that keeps me sane. If I could keep doing it for the rest of my life, it would be awesome.

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Jaime "Germs" Zacarias is a Chicano artist and South L.A. native who has captured the essence of Los Angeles and Chicano history through a myriad of futuristic designs and three-dimensional characters.

Germs says his favorite artists include the Clayton Brothers, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring.

One of his greatest mentors is Chicano artist Gilbert "Magú" Luján, the founding member of Los Four, which was one of the first Chicano art collaboratives to be exhibited at a major American museum in the early '70s, notes art collector Paul Dunlap.

"He liked to nurture young artists. Magu was one of my mentors. He taught me a lot as far as how to behave, how to be a troublemaker, just show up to art shows, have beers, make a mess, break things, tag on things," says Zacarias. "He just taught me how to compose myself and start focusing and making better art work."

One of Germs' most recent paintings is a tribute to Magu. Purple tentacles wrap around the whimsical painting, while a blue dog drives a shiny, futuristic car.

If you take a closer look at his pop surrealist paintings, you'll catch a glimpse of hidden messages in the form of eyeballs, bacon, and robots. You might even see an image of an iPhone with an emblem of the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Virgin Mary.

"Sometimes I like hiding stuff in there. Combining old things to make them new again," says Germs.

His artwork was recently displayed at the LA Art Show earlier this year, alongside other galleries like La Luz de Jesus, and Thinkspace.

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