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Iconic painting featured as 2018 Fiesta poster now on display at Santa Barbara art gallery

Jesus Helguera’s 1940’s painting “La Bamba” has become one of the most recognized, celebrated and iconic images of the 2018 Old Spanish Days Fiesta in part because the painting was used as this year’s official poster.

The original painting has been featured at Sullivan Goss Art Gallery in downtown Santa Barbara every fiesta for some 10 years now. It’s become quite the tradition — particularly for 2018 La Presidente Denise Sanford who heads down to the art gallery year after year to get a look at the famous painting.

Although Helguera died in 1971, “La Bamba” remains arguably one of his most famous paintings. It’s also the only one still being offered for sale.

“[La Bamba] is one of only a very, very few in the entire world that are in private hands and it’s the only one we know of for sale in the entire world right now,” explained Nathan Vonk from Sullivan Goss Art Gallery.

So many of Helguera’s works were done on commission and very few were offered for sale because they instantly went into the possession of the company that commissioned them.

The Mexican-born illustrator was known for being intricate and laborious with his paintings and using his wife as the model for many of them. Some believe that the woman dancing in “La Bamba” is actually Helguera’s wife.

The thick texture of the paint used in “La Bamba” helps to emulate the look of lace in the dancer’s dress and fabric in her partner’s shirt as well as the palm fronds featured in the painting.

“La Bamba” depicts a common dance from Veracruz, Mexico during a wedding celebration. In fact, ever heard of the phrase “Tying the knot?” Vonk explains that the old saying comes from dances like La Bamba.

“Part of the dance involves a ribbon where at the end of the dance the knot is tied, and that symbolizes the marriage union,” said Vonk.

Before heading out to partake in all Old Spanish Days Fiesta celebrations, stop by and catch a glimpse of “La Bamba” now on display at Sullivan Goss Art Gallery located at 11 E. Anapamu Street in Santa Barbara.

Fiesta starts August 1 and runs through August 5.

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