Monday, September 28, 2009

PDX Art: Interview with Gabe Flores

Can you tell me a bit about your art practice and what drives you to create Art?

Art helps in my process of letting my guard down. I enjoy how art enables me to be vulnerable. I think my vulnerability helps the audience to be ok with vulnerable themselves.

What labels are you comfortable with if any and if not why?

I guess I’m working on becoming comfortable with labels. I am a person of more color and people freely put me into categories. I wear t-shirts that say hyphenated-american because it allows for a pause before a category can be used.

I often wonder if being gay, an atheist, a person of more color is more important of a label than being a gardener, artist, or dog lover. I know the narrative of oppression tells me that of course the history of being brown, gay, and poor means that it recognizes the struggles, but I’m not always thinking about the struggle. Maybe I’m just selfish.

With ideas of diversity you can see all people as people one in the same or you can say that they all have differences that need to be acknowledged. The minute you decide either of them you are oppressing because both honor and both oppress.

You cannot free yourself from that label.

I came across an interesting quote from your blog stating
“therapy is expensive blogs are free”
Do you think that most of us repackage our inner chaos and present it as fresh fodder and do you consider Art as form of therapy?

I definitely think of art as a form of therapy because it allows me to process and concentrate on ideas that puzzle me. The majority of my work deals with being an oppressor and how there is no escaping that, so instead with my work I focus on how I can accept that I oppress and I can honor myself in not hiding that from myself.

How would you describe your experience of “Manor of Art” in retrospect?

I had a great time at the Manor. I had taken a bit of a break from participating in shows and putting myself out there. I am really thankful for being given the freedom to really do whatever I wanted. I met a ton of people and had fantastic conversations. I hadn’t felt that high in I don’t know when.

What is the role of the art critic in your opinion?

Their role is to keep the conversation going. Hopefully they act as navigators and give language to ideas the audience may only feel.

Do you feel your installation was worth the effort and what happened with your piece?

I would totally do it again. I loved my room. Because it was an installation piece a couple of folks were curious about how much something like my work would cost to have it in a home to purchase. I told them a round about number and then told them they could only have it for 10 days and then I would have to take it down. I love the idea of it being temporary because it reminds me how wonderful an experience can be even if it’s just momentary. I wanted to create the most comfortable room I could and I think was.

Did you leave part of it there or is going to have an afterlife?

I do need to go and pry a couple of pin nails out, that’s all that is left in the room. I might use the materials again, I mean I sanded and stained 350 mahogany tiles so I hope I’ll use them again.

Do you believe in a concept of after life?

Nope. I think that a concept in any life besides the one you’re participating is really not so important.
Several years ago I had a psychotic break and began hearing, seeing, and tactilely feeling things other people couldn’t and my psychiatrist thinks it was because of stress and judgments growing up closeted as a Jehovah’s Witness.
The voices were all about how others were judging me. The scenario was that all of this is virtual reality and that my “real” body is someplace in the future hooked up to machines and I would eventually go back to my older body after 7 years had passed.
Well, it’s been 6 years and I have finally become ok that maybe the scenario isn’t real, or rather isn’t so important. Maybe me concerning myself with this life hooked up to a virtual reality sort of gizmo is making me distant to whatever life this is that I’m currently in.
That is how I think about the belief in an after life, maybe we all have had minor psychotic breaks because we’re terrified of being fully present in the life that we have here and now, so we make up a life in a different world that wouldn’t be as bad is this one.
There is a lot hope though in the belief and you can never take away someone’s hope.

That brings me to ’’Greener than who, Greener Than You?”
What does it refer to is like meant as a survival strategy?

The ideology of Green is an idea where we find comfort even though we have unease at the same time.
Ideology is always based on the fantasy of the ideal, of course making it impossible.
To be fully Green is death.
We can only see parts of this ideology and hope to find satisfaction in the part we know. Or we choose to ignore parts because it’s just too much to be sometimes. It becomes a comfortable yet contentious part of us.
We think of being Green as our own and forget the systemic nature of how it has become something to be. Our ideologies are usually places where we find comfort, enjoy being, and can congratulate ourselves for getting it even if we sometimes don’t. I guess that’s why we maintain them.

I guess the survival strategy is to try your best, but don’t be too hard on yourself when you can’t.
We oppress each other with our ideologies and we oppress ourselves in the process because we are distancing ourselves from each other and end up playing a very silly “At least I’m not” game.

What would your ideal world look like and how can artists help to shape it?

People being really present and not afraid to show their supposed ugly parts.

I would like it if people shared their stories of struggle and perseverance because the real is somewhere in there.
I think artists need to be willing to get a little dirty and start point the finger at themselves first and be more willing to get dirty and be vulnerable.

Do you agree with the statement “imperfection is the new perfect”

Perfect is that ideal type that is part of the unattainable desire-based fantasy.
Ownership is the new perfect.
It’s hard because I would hate to see the new perfect become a confessional.

And what is satisfaction in your mind set?

Being ok with the idea that I’m going to be here for a while. That means planting bulbs in the fall and getting annuals in the spring so I can enjoy them all summer.

Because I thought I was going to be going back to the future I stopped planning ahead, even for bulbs and annuals. For me satisfaction is realizing that this is my life and I need to start enjoying it and stop being so hard on others and myself. I’m working on acceptance.

What can you tell me about your upcoming show?

There are no gimmicks in this show. I created the work with extremely limited resources. In 2008 I spent 9 weeks in a Native American based rehab for alcohol abuse and this work is my process of trying to navigate my identity and my efforts to find a connected form of treatment.
I’m a gay atheist who was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, so I am immediately distrusting of groupthink and lack of questioning that sometimes happens in rehab. Going to the 17 acres near St. Helens was my white flag. It hasn’t been the easiest path since leaving residential treatment, but I think I’ve found a rhythm that works well for me.

I am very satisfied with the work. There are eight pieces that are reflections that I was trying to process, although I think of them as one piece because they all necessitate each other.

The show opens on October 3rd
at Q Center at 4114 Mississippi Ave

and the opening party is from 3 to 6.

more info about Gabe
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