Muralist and caricature artist

Greg Borja Flores (1958 – 2010) was a master artist who was well known locally as a muralist, airbrush artist, caricaturist, political satirist and businessman.

Born in 1958, Flores was one of seven children of Jesse Cruz Flores, a retired United States Navy Chief, and Rufina Delgado Borja Flores, a schoolteacher. Flores was married to Maureen Borja Dondoyano and together they had two sons, Christopher and Derek Dondoyano, and one grandson. Flores died on 14 December 2010 at the age of 52.

Flores was a resident of the central village of Tamuning and attended St. Anthony Catholic School and Tamuning Elementary School. He later attended George Washington Junior High School and graduated from John F. Kennedy High School. He also spent one year at the Guam Vocational Technical High School (the present-day Guam Community College) where he studied electronics.

At the age of twelve, Flores began nurturing his artistic talents. He started his art training through a correspondence course called,“Cartoonerama,” with commercial cartoonist Leo Stoutsenberger. In the late 1970s, Flores attended the University of Guam for two years, taking courses under the tutelage of local artist Adriano Pangelinan as well as Robert Sajnovsky.

While attending the University of Guam, Flores worked part-time in the advertising sections of MVP Enterprises and J&G Enterprises, as well as Admasters, Inc. In addition to his work in advertising, Flores exhibited a spirit of entrepreneurship and operated several small businesses of his own. In the early 1980s, Flores, along with several partners, opened a tee-shirt screening company. He also opened a design and sign shop, Paradise Paintings, which specialized in airbrush art. Paradise Paintings was likely the island’s introduction to this contemporary style. Later he opened other airbrush shops at the former Gibson’s Department Store in Tamuning and the Micronesia Mall in Dededo.

Throughout the years, Flores made a name for himself as a muralist, receiving commissions from both the public and private sector. His first mural had a “Star Wars” theme that covered the walls of The Odessey nightclub. He was just 19 years old then and still a University of Guam student.

Other murals he was hired to do can be seen at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport. Hundreds of thousands of airline passengers who make their way to the island each year are greeted by Flores’ 80,000 square foot “Hafa Adai! Welcome to Guam, USA” mural. His work also greets customers at the entrance of the Hard Rock Café located in Guam’s tourist district of Tumon. Flores worked on the Planet Hollywood exterior dome, too, which is also located in Tumon. Towards the latter part of the 1990s, Flores painted a monolithic 10 feet high by 80 feet long mural for the Tumon Golf Driving Range.

During the late-Governor Ricardo J. Bordallo’s term (1983-1987), Flores was hired to create more than a dozen depictions of ancient Chamorros that now adorn the Executive Offices of the Ricardo J. Bordallo Governor’s Complex in Adelup. Flores also painted works for local McDonald’s restaurants depicting life in ancient Guam. He was also the designer of a poster for the Latte of Freedom for Governor Bordallo in 1985. In 1996, the Guam Visitor’s Bureau and the Department of Public Works commissioned the artist to paint 90 scenic sights around the island.

Flores’ talents are also showcased on the walls of the open-air atrium of the University of Guam Jesus S. and Eugenia L. Leon Guerrero School of Business and Public Administration Building in Mangilao. The building was constructed in 2005 and features several commissioned artists’ works. Flores produced a number of panels depicting the legacy of the school’s donors—the Leon Guerrero family—who founded the Bank of Guam. He painted portraits of Tun Jesus and Tan Eugenia and their children, Jesse, Anthony and Lourdes, the Bank’s current President.

Flores’ artistic reach extends beyond Guam. In 1995, he was commissioned by the Republic of Palau’s Prince Leboo Foundation to produce an oil painting of the prince, who had traveled to and died in England in 1784. Well-loved for his personality, artistic skills, sense of humor and love of people, Flores had been active in Guma Mami, a local organization that provides services to adults with disabilities. He was also popular at island arts fairs and Guam’s yearly Liberation Day activities. He participated in cultural and art festivals in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas and Guam, including the Guam Micronesian Island Fair and the Flame Tree Festival in Saipan. Brush in hand, easel in place, Flores would make his subjects laugh or smile as he created their caricatures. Flores was also responsible for some of the comical airbrushed island-themed photo boards with head “cut outs” stationed at different venues throughout the island. At these cut outs people are often seen sticking their head through the boards while having their photos taken.

In addition, Flores was a political satirist. His work was exhibited in comic strips that spanned more than two decades beginning in 1979. These include his first comic strip, “The Cruz Family,” published in the now-defunct local newspaper The Guam Tribune. This was followed by the Goro series:Goro’s Guam” in Hafa Magazine; “Goro’s Nana’s 4WD” in Gasetan Gobetnu (Government Newsletter); “Goro’s Marine Drive” in the monthly Marine Drive Magazine; and, “Gregory the Great One” in Marianas Business Journal.

Flores also used his talent to restore paintings and statues for Catholic churches on Guam, including Sinajana’s Saint Jude Thaddeus Church, Tumon’s San Vitores Church, Chalan Pago’s Our Lady of Peace and Safe Journey Church, Piti’s Our Lady of the Assumption Church, and Talo’fo’fo’s San Miguel Church. He also designed an historical mural for the Archbishop Felixberto C. Flores traffic roundabout at San Antonio Street in Tamuning.

Flores’ unexpected death was a shock to the island and arts community. Today, however, a number of his caricatures can be seen in a special tribute page on social networking site Facebook.

By Tanya M. Champaco Mendiola

For further reading

Guam Legislature. Relative to Commending and Congratulating Mr. Greg B. Flores… Resolution 42. 24th Guam Legislature. 21 February 1997.

––– Relative to Recognizing and Honoring the Late Greg B. Flores… Resolution 495-30. 30th Guam Legislature. 21 December 2010.