Artwork provides glimpse into Topeka painter’s faith

Fiesta Mexicana art show to be scaled back a bit this year

Even though he is taking a one-year break from heading up the Fiesta Mexicana art show, Joey Rocha remains very much committed to the event.


It’s just that this year, Rocha is a bit more committed to spending time with his family.

His daughter, Janelle Rocha, and her two children are coming to Topeka from San Antonio during the 84th annual Fiesta, which will run from Tuesday, July 11, through Saturday, July 15, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, 201 N.E. Chandler.

So, instead of running an art show that features some 50 works from local artists, Rocha will scale things down a bit, displaying four of his favorite religious paintings inside the church sanctuary.

Rocha said he approached the Rev. Gerardo “Jerry” Arano-Ponce, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, about displaying his four paintings on the north front of the sanctuary during the Fiesta.

The priest gave Rocha his blessing, and people will be able to view the paintings during tours of the church that will take place during the Fiesta, a fundraiser for Holy Family School that features homemade Mexican food, entertainment and a nightly carnival.

Seated inside the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church sanctuary on a recent Thursday morning, Rocha, a 62-year-old Topeka native, spoke of his artwork, particularly his pieces depicting Jesus and the Virgin Mary, and how he is inspired to paint them.

“I love clouds,” Rocha said, “so each one of these pictures is going to have clouds in it. I think clouds tell you a lot about what’s going on today.You’ve just got to look hard and kind of have an imagination.”

Rocha said his four paintings were selected to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima, when the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared six times to three young children in 1917 in a mountainous region of Portugal.

Rocha uses both oil and acrylics in his paintings, sometimes mixing the two in the same piece of artwork.

Three of the four paintings have been shown once before in previous Fiestas, but the fourth, which Rocha has named “The Angels,” was completed just a few months ago.

“These four, I keep at home,” he said. “These are mine. I rarely show these. My daughter, Jaime, loves these. She says, ‘Don’t ever sell these paintings. These are ours.’”

Rocha said he loves the color blue, and incorporates it into many of his paintings. He also utilizes clouds and planets, along with comets that are shown streaking across the sky.

Some of his works also borrow from a style made famous by artist Salvad0r Dali, one of Rocha’s favorite painters.

Rocha said it was with mixed emotions that he stepped away from the larger art show, which for the first time in nearly 20 years won’t be held in the church’s Marlo Cuevas-Balandran Activity Center.

The deciding factor, he said, was the need to be with his family.

“God willing,” he said, “next year, we’ll be back to the regular art show.”

For more information about the Fiesta Mexicana, visit

Contact Phil Anderson at (785) 295-1195 or follow live reports @Philreports on Twitter. Like him on Facebook at