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‘Vietnam car’ art honors service, sacrifice


“I’ve always been very grateful to the military, law enforcement and first responders, because without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do and I wouldn’t be able to paint. We wouldn’t have those freedoms,” said Las Cruces artist Luis Navarro.

Navarro put his talent and his heart into completing a special art project for U.S. Army Sgt. Richard Lewis: painting memories and icons from Lewis’ service during the Vietnam War as part of the First Cavalry.

Navarro began the project by painting the hood of Lewis’ Cadillac and completed the work over a four-year period at his Roundtree Place studio in Las Cruces.

“I got a lot of inspiration from Sgt. Lewis,” Navarro said. “He told me stories of what is was like – the good and the bad, things that happened. It was an honor for me,” he said. “There’s many sides to it, but the point is, the American kids, they had to serve.”

The fully painted “Vietnam Car” is “dedicated to the military and the people who are out there fighting,” Navarro said.

During some of his painting on the Cadillac, particularly of empty combat boots, “I got teary eyed because I could almost feel the pain and the hardship and the burden of choices you cannot escape and have to deal with sooner or later,” Navarro said.

The final product was beyond Lewis’ expectations, Navarro said.

“He was just very proud of everything I did.”

For “every single client, from the smallest job to the most elaborate,” Navarro said, “when they speak, I can almost feel what they’re saying,” and that’s what goes into each commissioned piece.

“It’s me personally as an artist,” Navarro said. “It’s my duty to understand what they want and provide to them what they expect or beyond what they expect. I’m pretty good at that. God gave me a gift and I have to do right by it. It’s to bring a smile to people with artwork, because art makes me happy as well.”

Navarro was born in El Salvador in 1975. He moved with his family to Los Angeles at age 5. Navarro studied for four years at the L.A. Art Academy.

Follow Navarro on Instagram @luisxart and @navarrofineart and on Facebook @ Luis Navarro Air Brush Studio.

Luis Navarro