During the holidays, when family and giving are on many minds, a local painter Dago Benavidez wants to bring attention to children in the court system who might not have a family, and who lack that most basic of supports, an advocate to speak for them.  The CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Program is set up to provide this support.  CASA advocates, volunteers who are appointed by a judge, watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children to make sure they don’t get lost in the legal and social service system and are placed in appropriate foster homes.  Benavidez, who worked as a special projects manager for the CASA program for five years, wants his show at the Salem Public Library to help remind people about the importance of this program and the and service it provides in our community for children.

He was born in Texas and credits his love of color to memories of the brilliant wildflowers in the panhandle. The son of migrant farm workers, he spent his childhood moving from place to place as his father followed the crop harvest.   His paintings frequently depict scenes from his childhood travels.  Benavidez works in oils, which he describes as his lifelong love and passion.  He took classes at Portland State, which he credits with helping develop technique, and names Monet, Renior, and Dali as favorite artists, but his style is uniquely his own, incorporating his love of color and impressionist influenced technique with a strong Latino flavor and deeply personal and evocative subjects. 

Describing his work Benavidez says, “Some of my oil paintings are the end product of dreams I have had, and they will not let me sleep until I paint them.  Many of them have very meaningful stories that come from deep within and that I attempt to convey to the viewers.”  For the show at the library he has chosen pieces that are community themed, both that the subjects of the paintings are all family-friendly, and also the aspect of community involvement through programs like CASA. The central painting of the show is one that has been featured in the national Court Appointed Special Advocate Magazine and prints were given to Pulitzer-prize winner Ann Quinlan and Governor Kulangoski in recognition of their advocacy for children going through the court system and in foster care.

Although he used to show regularly, this is Benavidez’ first show in a while.  He states that painting allows him to see the beauty in things and hopes that viewers will be able to find a peaceful place in his images.  The show will be in the main lobby of the library through December.  If you are interested in meeting this unique artist and learning more about his work he will be at the library on Saturday, December 17 from 1-5pm. He has a website where you can view his work and read some of the stories behind the images. dagosoriginalart.com