Frank Ybarra

As a child, speaking Spanish was not prevalent in my family, nor was practicing the traditions and rituals of my native culture. This is not to say that we were trying to disassociate ourselves from our heritage, but rather I think it may have been my family’s attempt to “fit in” with our suburban surroundings. Therefore, my work is (in a lighthearted manner) a tribute to my “suburban ethnic” upbringing.

Fanfare for the Common Trabajador

(acrylic on canvas)


Fanfare for the Common Trabajador is a portrait for my father, Francisco M. Ybarra, who passed away April 1999 at the age of 76. This piece is a tribute to his life and my appreciation for what he did for our family. His parents migrated here from Mexico to work in the fields and mines of southern Arizona. His family was very poor and I can only imagine the lifestyle and conditions they had to endure. By the time he was in his teens he was working on a farm until he was drafted into the U.S. Army during WWII. He served in Europe from 1942-1944. After the war he married Maria Barraza. I come from a family of six children, three boys and three girls. My father worked his entire life as a steel worker for Reynolds Aluminum in Phoenix, Arizona. We have a picture of him in this pose standing next to his car. I took this image and added the lunchbox as a remembrance of his years of hard work and supporting his family on a modest income. The title makes a reference to Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, one of my favorite American classical pieces featuring brass and percussion instruments. I played the trumpet during my grammar and high school years, so I mounted the trumpet to the frame to signify my tribute or “fanfare” to him.

Hole in the Rock: Desert Dogs, 1993

Acrylic on Canvas, 36” x 48”

I grew up on the east side of Phoenix, Arizona, not far from the Phoenix/Tempe border. Landmarks like the Tovrea Castle and Papago Park are a part of my childhood experience. My family and I spent a lot of time at Papago Park, enjoying picnics, bicycling, visiting the zoo, and hiking “Hole in the Rock.” My painting depicts a father and son preparing hot dogs over the grill.

Tovrea Castle, 1997

Acrylic on Canvas, 48” x 48”

Tovrea Castle was this odd-looking building that we would pass by every time we took a trip into Tempe or Mesa to visit our relatives. I never went inside the building, as a matter fact, I don’t know much about the history of it either. I just felt compelled to paint it because it was always there and it stood out among the desert landscape. I enjoy picking subject matter that may seem ordinary but somehow shows an unusual side.