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49 Farolitos: Art Installation

Through June 24


This installation by James Nocito pays tribute to the forty-nine people murdered in the Orlando nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016. Nocito’s simple and dignified portraits are a moving reminder of this tragic loss and also, that love is stronger than hate.


Artist Statement

In the days following the Orlando attack, I began drawing portraits in my sketchbook of those whose lives were taken on June 12. It was a way of privately working through the sadness, anger and helplessness I was feeling. I’ve got no money, no power, no influence to change laws. But I can draw a likeness of someone. This is something I can do. For months, a stack of paper bags had been sitting within arm’s reach of my work desk (remnants of Christmas-present wrappings). I was reminded of the tradition of the Luminaria, or farolitos (little lanterns) that’s practiced in the Southwest and Latin America in which paper bags are filled with sand and illuminated with candles, lighting a path to homes or along church steps. I transferred the sketches to the paper bags. With bricks and wooden planks, I put together a primitive, winding, raised platform in my yard, arranged the bags, lit them with candles, took pictures and realized that I had a project on my hands. A good friend came by and saw what I was doing. She immediately emailed a friend of hers, one of the organizers of San Diego Pride. Within days I was invited to display at three Pride-related events: on the stage of the Pride Stonewall Rally, a vigil at St. Paul’s Cathedral and at the Art of Pride exhibit. My intention with this project was to pay tribute to the forty-nine souls murdered in Orlando in a way that was simple, dignified and respectful. What happened after that was something I had not anticipated. It turned out to be a place where people felt safe to express their grief, to talk about their sense of helplessness in the face of such violence and hatred and to cry. I now have so many stories about the effect this heartbreaking event had on those who came by, some of whom personally knew people who had died in Orlando. In a last minute decision, I set out a small table with a sign inviting people to write a message on a bag with their thoughts about our lost brothers and sisters and their families. Within hours, dozens of messages were left, many in Spanish, all heart-felt, with a recurring theme: LOVE IS STRONGER. Love is stronger. I’m going to go with that.


About the artist

James Nocito’s editorial illustrations have appeared in a range of publications including The San Diego Union Tribune, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, San Diego Home and Garden and How Magazine. His fabric designs have been included in the collections of Donna Karan, Joseph Abboud, Anne Klein and the private label collections of Barneys, Henri Bendel and Bergdorf Goodman. As a graphic designer he has received the highest awards from The Society of Professional Journalists, The San Diego Press Club and The National Builders Association. Nocito’s paintings have been exhibited in the Littlejohn-Smith Gallery, New York City; The Palm Springs Desert Museum of Art; The Athenaeum, La Jolla; and The San Bernardino County Museum. Other professional clients include Harcourt Publishers, Random House, John Wiley and Sons, The Regent Beverly Wilshire and The Chopra Center. Other work includes the illustration and design of SING TO YOUR BABY by two-time Grammy Award® winners Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer. FOUND LIVES: A Collection of Found Photographs published by Gibb Smith pairs snapshots from the turn of the century through the 1950s with Nocito’s poetry as well as historic quotations. The book provided the catalog for the exhibit Snapshot: From the Box Brownie to the Camera Phone at the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts. Nocito received his BA in Art from Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh and pursued graduate studies at Columbia University in New York. He lives in San Diego.




Free and open to all


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