This month we had the pleasure of getting to know Venezuelan-born and Miami-based visual artist, Gabriel Gimenez. Commonly referred to as “GG” amongst the community, we learned all about this special kind of artist, who we found, is also just a real, down-to-earth, good-hearted human.
Before you read our interview below, understand that one of the most compelling and progressive aspects of Gabriel’s work is his allusion to popular culture through the characters he employs. There is a raw sense of relatability behind his work, largely due to the vibrant details and color schemes he implements. We even learned that some of those details derive from his childhood home, where his parents chose colorful furniture and décor. It is little things like this that make GG such a rare and interesting artist to know. Naturally, Gabriel has been recognized and praised for his work on an international scale, which includes a variety of murals, exhibitions, international art fairs, and collaborative art projects.
Talent aside, we ultimately hope to expose Gabriel Gimenez as the self-taught, hardworking, and deeply committed human that he is. In turn, we hope you take a minute to stop, enjoy your coffee or tea, and immerse yourself in learning about one of Miami’s most inspiring artists.
You are a native of Venezuela. What influences from the country have carried over into your art?
GG: Venezuela has a big influence in my work because truly, the culture of Venezuela is an especially interesting one. It embraces lots of beautiful things, like the warmth of people, for instance, and that’s something I believe my work reflects. It’s that type of warmth that makes people feel comfortable and able to be their true selves. And then it is also a culture full of taboos and stereotypes which I like to make fun of, call attention to, and drag inspiration from.
The bio posted on your website mentions your childhood experience of doodling and how that transitioned into your individual and distinct style as an artist. What can you tell us about that specifically?
GG: Well, most of the drawings I did as a kid where related to cartoons and movies. I was a big fan of Pokemon, Aaahh!! Real Monsters, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Beetlejuice. So I kept remixing all of those more and more and eventually combined it with my life experiences until I was able to develop the works I produce today. Also, the colors of the furniture and decorations my parents picked for the apartment I grew up in are still a huge part of my work and inspiration.
That’s awesome! I love picturing you as a kid, soaking in the rich colors of your home and translating that into your art. Accordingly, I know a lot of creatives that consider sketching and doodling vital components to their idea process. Do you still use sketching and doodling as part of your creative process?
GG: Totally, I think those first marks are always the best ones. The contain something very raw and honest.
How do you choose the materials and color schemes that you employ so vividly in your art pieces?
GG: The colors are very important for me. I usually pick one color to start with and then react to that. I do that again and again until the piece is fully colored.
So, aside from your parents choosing vibrant-colored furniture, did you grow up in a creative household?
GG: I did, but it was a different type of creativity. I say different because the household I grew up in was not full of recognized art and no one in my family was a professional artist. But it was the type of creativity that was very organic. Jokes where always told, dancing was always encouraged and laughter was a core part of every gathering. Both of my parents have artistic tendencies but they’ve dedicated their lives to different things--dad chose business and economics and my mom has always been an educator. That said, they have always remained engaged in side projects that have huge amounts of artistic integrity.
Wow. I love that you mentioned your parent’s artistic integrity because that is something I feel your art represents so effortlessly. What can you tell us about your relationship to the art you make?
GG: The art I make completely breaks down who I am as a person. Recently, it’s starting to take a new shape into different forms of art. This is exciting for me personally because I believe that the work you make is a reflection of the growth you experience as a person.
Speaking of growth, tell me about your journey to becoming a visual artist in the city of Miami. Are there any specific aspects of the city that you depend on for inspiration and connection?
GG: Honestly, I think Miami is the shit. As a place, its allowed me to create at a solid level and furthermore, it’s given me perspective on where I want to go next. It’s a place that has lots of absurd things which are just great for inspiration.
Absurd, indeed! It’s an entertaining city and much like your art, it is full of vivacious energy. But your art also reveals human life and raw emotion to reflect images of vulnerability. Have the people of Miami made you think about human life differently?
GG: I came from Venezuela when I was very young so Miami is really my greatest reference for human life. Since I was a kid, I’ve had the opportunity to meet, connect, and have conversations with people from all over the world. This experience has given me a unique perspective because I’ve found that when you are able to connect with people from different places in your daily life, it allows you to be respectful and understanding of all kinds of people in a gracious way. I think that understanding is reflected in my art.
I appreciate your understanding of people from all around the world, Gabriel. Let’s talk more about the connections you make as a collaborative artist. What are some of the visual aspects of Miami that you connect with most? Also, what local creatives do follow and draw inspiration from?
GG: Visually, the art deco architecture and beachy, pastel colors are a constant source of inspiration for me. In terms of local inspiration, I like what Zak the Baker is doing. His attention to detail and passion for his craft is impressive. Tagvin is also a big inspiration. I have a passion for fashion and the founder is one of my homies, so we get to bounce ideas around and help each other stay focused.
Shifting to your work now, what can you tell us about “FADO”? Who is he and what does he represent?
GG: Fado is a character that was created in 2009. I don’t remember how or where he came to life but I can recall that ’09 was the year I started expressing through this character. His name was derived from a word that my dad made up and used very much, “EncuchuFado” which represents the ideas of “Hugging” or “cuddling”. Accordingly, Fado represents the idea of human vulnerability.
Ah, that makes sense. I want to note for our readers that your art is powerful. It really says something. What strategies do you use to really speak to the issues your art reflects?
GG: I just pay attention. I try to eliminate personal preferences. This helps me understand things instead of judging them so that my concepts are translated on canvas in a very real form.
So, what concepts do you hold sacred to your professional and creative process? What rules have you learned to follow? To break?
GG: First, I think that every piece no matter the surface should carry something true to you as a person. Second, I feel like I still have a lot more rules to learn in order to hopefully break them all. That said, balance is something I strive for and while I’m sure I’m not the most rebellious person, I do break enough rules to keep things interesting and moving forward.
What can we look forward to from GG art?
GG: Lots of painting. At this point, I feel that I’ve only given people a small glimpse into the world of Fado but in order for me to move on to other styles, I have to put out all the Fado Imagery first.
Someone once told me “Belong to where you ARE.” That saying has stuck with me ever since. So as I was looking through your project gallery, my heart stopped when I looked through the pictures of your Airbnb Collab, which represents a sense of belonging and reminded me so much of that saying. Tell us about that project and the experience of working with others to create a piece that represents the sense of belonging anywhere.
GG: I can definitely relate to that saying. The Airbnb project was hosted by Unconventional, a start-up company that my good friend, Jordan Magid, and I started last year. We focus on connecting artists with companies and creating partnerships that can benefit the community. In this case, Airbnb was the company and I was lucky enough to be the artist they wanted to work with. It was a remarkable experience to see art come to live with the help of the community because it immediately changes the dynamics of how art is perceived. You can check out more about the project at beunconventional.co
Also, as I said before, belonging anywhere is an idea that I resonate with. I see it on a spiritual level. As long as you love yourself you can truly connect and understand others. I think you hit the nail on the head and I have loved learning about your process and commitment to community outreach.
Thanks for sharing with us today. Last question, what non-profits are you currently involved in?
Art Studio Miami is one. The youth is where I like to invest my time and all together what I feel most passionate about supporting. My focus on the youth comes from my experience with students I’ve worked with in the past. I’ve witnessed first-hand how those students have gone back to their communities to help. This has shown me that if you teach good habits to the youth they will integrate them in their life and share those positive things with others around them.