San Antonio artist Michael Esparza's oil paintings put Texas-based fast food restaurants in the center of bucolic landscapes. It's hard not to compare his work to Thomas Kinkade's but that's the point. (The main difference, imo, is that Esparza's pieces are actually palatable.)
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The idea for the series, which Esparza describes as “a little bit Bob Ross and a little bit Thomas Kinkade,” came to him 2012, just after he came back to Texas from a year of studying art in Italy. In Italy, nothing was built taller than a church, so it was a shock when Esparza returned to San Antonio, the size of roadside signs were particularly jarring. “I was just seeing how iconic they are, but also from the Italian perspective, how ridiculous they are. From that point of view, it’s like, ‘What are you doing, Texas? What’s going on with these big signs that you have on the side of the road?'” he says. “But the first thing I did when I got back from Italy was I went to Whataburger, and then right after that, I went to Bill Miller’s. I just needed a burger, and I needed a po’ boy. I was already full after Whataburger, but I didn’t care.” Esparza says he wants the paintings to evoke the sense of homecoming you feel when you see those signs after spending time in a place where they don’t exist—be it Italy or elsewhere. “They become your own little beacons for where you live,” he explains.