When some spot Zavan Quezada around town, they might only see a homeless man, but if you ask him, he says he is a street artist, therefore, he must live on the streets, whether in Hollister or San Francisco, where he lived more than 10 years before coming back home three years ago. He does have family here — his parents and grandparents —but he prefers to live in a tent, near one of his art creations located between the fence around San Benito Foods and the railroad tracks along McCray Street.
“I want to be considered as a street artist rather than homeless because I want my artwork to be viewed, as much as possible, out here, so I need to be on the streets,” he said. “The more people who view it and view me doing it the more it appreciates the value.”
Quezada subsists on food stamps and occasional help from his family, and visits My Father’s House on Monterey Street for a shower and friendship, where Pastor Linda Lampe refers to him as one of her sons.
Most people who drive through the intersection of McCray and Hillcrest streets might notice what could charitably be called trash, which essentially it is. But on closer examination, they would discover those discarded materials have been re-purposed and transformed into art.
Referring to himself as “Zavan the Artist,” he has not always lived on the streets. He talks at a rapid-fire pace, telling of his journey after high school. He said he has always wanted to work with disabled children, but in the next instant, he says he wanted to be a fashion stylist. He experimented with photography and said he worked with GAP, Forever 21 and other major companies on the West Coast as a visual stylist, creating massive layouts in open areas to entice people not only to “spend time there, but their money,” as well.
“When I came back to Hollister, I discovered I was a true artist,” Quezada said. “My goal is to develop a facility where I can work with kids with conditioning problems using color, paint, or fabrics. I really believe in the power of color.”
He admits he has not been able to work with children, mainly because he’s homeless. He said the failing is his because he “lacks a foundation.”
“Kids could get distracted because ‘my teacher lives on the streets,’” Quezada mused. “I don’t want them to think like that.”
That foundation, he believes, is to have his art shown in a gallery.
“No one has given me a chance yet,” he said. “I’m looking for a sponsor. Someone who will say there’s a room available, you have 30 days to do whatever you want, paint whatever you want. I’ll have a showing and blow everyone out of the water.”
Quezada’s works of art can be found at numerous locations around Hollister. Besides the huge creation near the railroad tracks behind the cannery, there are others behind 7-11, Taco Bell and Jerry’s Restaurant on San Benito Street.
If one were to put a name to his art, which he has done, it’s “heartist” or art from the heart.
“I don’t know what else to call it,” he said. “I get everything from the streets. I don’t buy any paint. It’s either donated to me or I go to an estate sale. I get blankets from Goodwill. I don’t go into stores to buy anything.”
Quezada started working on the one near the cannery a few weeks ago. He adds to it when he finds something that fits the story that exists only in his head and calls, “The Three Crowns to the New Kingdom.” The intricate tale may never find its way to the printed page, but as he walks among the different creations laid out in the dirt, it quickly becomes obvious they are interrelated as each one perfectly fits the narrative as he tells portions of the story.
“I love poetry and I can get deep into thought, but when it comes to storylines, I’m not into hand-to-paper, but I can tell you a story with my paintings,” he said, adding that he would one day like to team up with a writer who could put it on paper.
As he walked among his creations and told his story, Quezada seemed a little overwhelmed. The sheer magnitude of names, planets, and kingdoms was proof enough that the story was all there, if not jumbled a bit as he rattled them off. There were the three guardian mothers; the liberty daggers used to enter the kingdom to retrieve the crown of the planet of war; the planet Nebular formed from Vulcan; and the crown-maker who made a crown from the pieces of a king’s armor.
Listening to Quezada was like trying to journey through a foreign galaxy without a roadmap. But the journey itself, and not the destination, was the purpose of his creations.
“There are only two Vulcans and in three centuries the volcano will erupt and it will be time for the script-writing, which is a type of writing I started doing out of nowhere after I read up on Da Vinci, who had his own style of writing as an artist that nobody understood,” he said. “I started writing it and I can’t stop. I call it star-scripting, like the Aztecs did.”
Only he knew the story and where each piece fit and what was still needed to complete it.
“The story is pretty much done, but I don’t have the third crown,” he said, pointing out the first crown, which in a former life was a football helmet. “And I have the makings of the second crown.”
Quezada said he doesn’t worry about his art being vandalized because he trusts his community. But he said they are all “interactive art” pieces and he hopes people who pass by will add their own bit of creativity to them.
“I feel people will appreciate the art and know what I am doing,” he said. “It’s all about inspiring people. It never was, it never is and never will be about the money. I think people respect that.”
Quezada believes there is not enough art in Hollister.
“The only art place we have is not even decorated,” he said. “It doesn’t have any color and it’s not even open during the Farmers Market. I want people to know there’s an art gallery in Hollister, that there’s an art movement. I want to do seven interactive media parks in six months. You get a spot, you transform it and people can interact with it.”
He even has arranged what he calls his crayon desk and mini-library next to his tent where he hopes people who might pass by will sit down and either draw something, read one of his books he has collected, or perhaps play a board game.
“It’s a creative space 24/7,” he said enthusiastically. “People need it.”
Click below for a video of Zavan’s art: