Through the power of social media and the grace of Jah I stumbled upon the brilliant artwork of Gabriel Garcia Roman. His artwork spoke to the honarary Chicana in me and reminded me of my days in the Mexican neighborhood of Pilsen Chicago. I later discovered that his flava runneth ova and he was indeed a native Chicagoan raised on the north-side. I can always spot my people. I began following Gabriel and instantly found him fascinating. Some days, it seemed like he was doing everything I was doing, laying out fabrics, designing, stumbling upon textiles goodies. Other days he was doing everything I wished I was doing, getting his hands dirty, playing with clay, creating jewelry.
Gabriel has quickly become one of my favorite artists. His works speaks volumes to this Cubana and makes me miss my late Colombian husband Andresito and my Mexican bario all at once. The only reason I haven't purchased on of his works is simply because I don't know what to buy! From his necklaces, to his shirts, to his prints everything is fantastic and ties together in his truly Mexican-Amaricón style. His "Queer Icons" series showcases queer people of color with beautiful halos and give honor and visibility to a population rarely shown as such. I posted two of my favorites "Kia" and "Jahmal".
I squealed when Gabriel agreed to answer some questions for us and am highly anticipating the addition of his work to the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen, Chicago.
See more of his work at http://www.gabrielgarciaroman.com
TT: Where do you call home?
GGR: I currently reside in NYC, Harlem U.S.A. to be exact!
TT: What is your favorite medium or style to work in?
GGR: That's like asking a parent who their favorite child is! I can't name one as they all bring me joy when my hands are moving and creating.
TT: If you could have any talent or super power what would it be?
GGR: My super power would be to be rested while needing very little to no sleep at all, so that I could continue to work on all the projects without needing sleep!!
TT: What inspires you the most?
GGR: I’m inspired by the textures and patterns of my environment, no matter how mundane. The patterns created by light being filtered through a lace curtain, the cracks of paint in an old painting, the texture of the concrete sidewalks, etc.
TT: Is your studio in your home or in a different location?
GGR: My studio is in my home; my kitchen and backyard are where I do a lot of my work.
TT: What do you do to keep yourself healthy?
GGR: I practice yoga to keep me centered, I ride my bike through the crazy streets of NYC to feel alive, and I go out dancing to work out any negative energy out of my body.
TT: Was there ever a time when you almost gave up on creating and if so why?
GGR: I don't think giving up was ever an option or a thought. Creating is the way I communicate and respond to the world and not doing that would surely wither away into nothingness.
TT: What is your creative process?
GGR: My creative process is not overthinking and getting your hands moving. I probably waste a lot of material that way but I find that I waste so much time thinking and overthinking a new idea and lately I have given that up and start working on it immediately. It’s the mistakes I make that help me improve on the project and also a lesson is learned in the process. I also don’t tend to throw things away even if they are “mistakes” because I can reuse them for something else.
TT: How has social media affected your creation process?
GGR: I have been more open to sharing my process with people. Prior to social media I would create work in my own bubble and only my friends would see my work. Since the advent of social media I post not only the final piece but behind the scenes and process shots and videos of whatever project I'm working on. I find that people respond positively when you let them into your process.
TT: How has social media affected your sales?
GGR: Social media has been the vehicle that gives my work visibility. All if not most of the opportunities that I’ve gotten over the last couple of years has been through people connecting via Facebook, Instagram or Tumblr and a lot of that has turned into sales.
TT: Where is the most inspirational place you’ve traveled and how did that trip affect your work?
GGR: The most inspirational place I’ve traveled to definitely has to be Mexico! My family left Mexico when I was 2yrs old and I didn’t return until I was an adult. I’ve been travelling back every year for the past 10 years and am always inspired by the handcrafts, the colors, the sights and sounds of my motherland.
TT: What’s the biggest compliment you’ve ever gotten about your work?
GGR: A few weeks ago during the opening reception I was standing in front of my work and a woman approached me to ask if I was the artist and when I said I was she simply put her hand in my shoulder and shook her head as tears started rolling down her eyes. She said my work touched her so much she couldn’t find the words to express it. I just held her and said her emotional reaction was enough.
TT: What artists are you inspired by?
GGR: Some of the artists that pop in my head are Pieter Hugo, William Eggleston, Yinka Shonibare, Jan Van Eyck to name a few.
TT: What season do you like most or feel most creative in?
GGR: This one is easy. I love summer! I love hot and humid weather when people are half naked on the streets and glistening in their sweat. I love beach trips with friends, eating dinner al fresco, weekend BBQ get-togethers, etc.
TT: Have you been influenced by any culture that is not your own? If so which one and how?
GGR: I have lived in Harlem for over a decade and there is a sizable Senegalese and Ivorian population and I can’t help but be influenced by the vibrant colors and patterns the men and women wear. Those textiles have made it into the shirts that I make and that color sensibility has made it into my prints as well.
TT: What do you hope people take away from your work? I work in so many different mediums but I have a very strong voice and there is part of me in every project or work that I make and so I would say that what I would hope people take all of the love and effort that goes into each work that I make, whether it be a print, a ceramic necklace or a piece of furniture. It’s all made with so much time and care.
TT: How long does it take you to create a piece of artwork?
GGR: Because I am all about the process when I make artwork it can range from an hour to a month. It all depends on the project and or medium I’m working with.
TT: When did you realize that you were a creative being?
GGR: believe I took my creativity for granted most of my life and it wasn’t until I started making artwork in my mid 20s when I realized it’s always been inside of me but I didn’t use these magical powers until later in life.
TT: What is the one thing that most people assume about you that’s not at all accurate?
GGR: Most people assume that I’m a social butterfly because I have a large group of friends and am often out dancing. The reality is I’m an introvert that enjoys one-on-one interactions over groups and when I dance it’s really a conversation between the DJ and me and nobody else exists.