By Jesse E. Rodriguez
Houston artist Jesse E Rodriguez tells the story of one of his newest paintings, inspired by his grandmother’s childhood fascination with the traditional costumes worn in the bull ring.
Jesse’s grandmother Benita was 6 years old when she came to Texas from Guanajuato Mexico. Benita and her parents settled in Rosenberg, Texas on a cotton farm.
Benita always loved when the annual clothing wagon would roll into their cotton farm. She eagerly awaited the moment when she could dig through the wagon’s contents and uncover the most amazing outfit. This year was no different, and Benita was determined to find something truly special.
Climbing into the wagon, she rifled through a pile of black, brown, and grey, clothes–but nothing caught her eye. Just when she was about to give up hope, she saw a small glimmer at the bottom of the pile. It was a beautiful Torera jacket that sparkled with gold, and it looked magnificent. Along with this chaquetilla, she also pulled out velvet pants and a silk shirt.
Benita was overjoyed and ran to her mother, shouting with excitement. Her parents, however, warned her about the Torera outfit, reminding her that she would have to wear it all year long. But Benita was unafraid, nodding her head with excitement and a determined look in her eyes.
Her mother went to work, hemming the pants and turning the silk shirt into a cummerbund. When Benita finally put on her magical finding, she felt transformed. She wore the Torera outfit with pride, strutting around the farm like a bullfighter. The jacket represented more than just a piece of clothing; it was a symbol of strength and resilience, of daring to stand out in a world that often tried to dim her light.
Years later, Benita’s memory lives on through Jesse’s incredible art piece. The Torera jacket is depicted in all its golden glory, a stunning tribute to the young girl who dared to dream big and stand out in a crowd. And the painting is a testament to the enduring legacy of Benita and the remarkable journey that she and her family embarked on.
This art piece is a celebration of the human spirit, a reminder that our stories and traditions are precious and deserving of preservation. It’s a tribute to the strong and courageous women who came before us, and a call to action to keep their legacies alive for generations to come.
About Jesse E. Rodriguez
Jesse E. Rodriguez a.k.a. Magnolia Grown is a Houston community artist. The passion Jesse E. Rodriguez has for his community, he expresses through art. Jesse E. Rodriguez was born in 1969 and raised in Magnolia Park. 1989 Graduate of Stephen F. Austin Senior High School and a 1991 graduate of the Art Institute of Houston. For a decade, he directed the graphic design department for a packaging company, creating new work for clients as varied as NASA, Pennzoil, Hanes, and Brianna Salad Dressings. Returning to his first love, Rodriguez began painting in 2017
Jesse E. Rodriguez aka Magnolia Grown draws from deep cultural roots established while growing up in a Houston barrio, Magnolia Park. His works are acrylic, oil paintings and sculptural assemblages of architectural salvage, photographs and cultural ephemera. They can be found in major collections including Gilberto Cárdenas and David Duthu.
Transforming a shuttered YWCA into an art gallery called Magnolia Grown, Rodriguez held his first art solo show in October, 2017, fulfilling his childhood dream of showing his art in the building where his whole community had often gathered. It was the first art gallery opening ever held in Magnolia Park. 500 people attended the opening, astonishing local arts leaders.
In April, 2019, he was invited to participate in Latino Art Now! a national conference organized by the Inter-University Program for Latino Research, that year hosted by the University of Houston, and held at venues throughout the city. He curated a show called Honoring the Masters, selecting original works by legendary artists with ties to Houston: Daniel Lechón, Mario González and Leo Tanguma, all of whom loaned works and came in person.
His art and community advocacy has been covered by the Houston Chronicle, The Venture (online), and on Houston’s ABC13 TV. He has launched two successful clothing and accessories brands: Magnolia Grown and Mi Vida Costa.
Jesse’s work is deeply connected to Magnolia Park. He founded the nonprofit, Magnolia Park Arts & Community, to support and blossom the severely underserved community with inclusive arts, culture programs and infuse the community with inspiration for community activism and pride through art.
He has received recognition for both his artistic contribution and his commitment to the community from Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia, and State Senator Carol Alvarado, among others. Most recently, in the East End Cultural Arts Strategic Plan, he was called a hero whose work in the community “should be the highest priority for microgrant targeting.” Jesse lives and creates in Houston with his wife JoAnna, two adult children, one grandson and extended family.
Jesse E. Rodriguez joined the Alley Theatre’s El Zócalo Advisory Committee in 2020 and continues to share his artistic skills and talents with Houston’s diverse community.
You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram @MagnoliaGrown.