This week I walked into the west wing of the gatov gallery and was instantly intrigued. There were images of a pig, bullets, a badge/shield with the words “ABUSER,” “husband,” and ironically “champion,” under an image of a football helmet, and next to an image of football shoulder pads with more aggressive words written on it.
At first I didn’t see the artist, but I knew I wanted to learn the story behind the images they created. As soon as I saw the artist, surrounded by other students, I made my way through to join in with the discussion. The artist’s name was Gabriel Garcia and he was discussing the process of making his art pieces. Garcia’s pieces were each made from big rolls of paper and were covered with charcoal ash and reduced with erasers to create some images (as seen with the pig), while with others he added black ink and white ink.
After I heard a small bit of Garcia’s process, he then delved a bit into his personal and academic life. Garcia is in the process of going for his MFA and said that he feels relaxed this year, his last year, but also somewhat nostalgic. He feels nostalgic because he enjoyed his time here in California and studying art at CSULB. Originally Garcia is from Texas and started out believing that his calling was in teaching art rather than making it. Thankfully Garcia wanted to come to California and get away from the non-diverse state of Texas and applied to CSULB. Garcia began by taking classes to become an art teacher and soon realized that he did not belong with that group of people, nor with that career path. Garcia had drawn all throughout his life and realized he wanted to continue doing that and explore his own creative work, rather than teach other students the basics of art.
Garcia explained that he grew up in a household that raised him to believe that he wanted a “real” job that was dependable and predictable, therefore making him pursue becoming an art teacher. Garcia also explained that because of his upbringing, his parents support him, but don’t always understand his art now that he decided to pursue his passion for art. I know I’m proud of Gabriel Garcia, for he had the courage to pursue his passion rather than be limited by the mindset of getting a “real” job and sticking with art education. Not everyone has the courage to pursue their passions.
After discussing his academic and personal life, Garcia began talking a little bit about what he wanted to do after college and elaborated on the inspiration and thought processes behind his art work, making his images more three dimensional and clear. First Garcia said that he would enjoy getting his own studio to continue with his artwork, and would love to work in a gallery or alongside other artists. Then Garcia shared a story about him as a kid being labeled as “skinny guy” when he was simply jogging in his PE class. When he heard this outburst from a peer, it made him wonder, “Why not call me the guy in the red shirt? Why did someone just label me by something that is out of my control? Why my physical attributes? In reality am I regularly seen as a ‘skinny guy’ in society?” All these questions sparked Gabriel’s creativity and he began making art pieces that questioned society’s standards for male bodies, that revolved around body image, and that compared his body to the ideal male body to question the world, “does my body measure up to the male body standards?” I find this amazing and powerful, not many young men will question society’s views on the ideal male body, most young men will feel pressured to look like and act like the “ideal male.” After Garcia matured, so did his ideas. He began to take note of things he heard that bothered him in daily life muttered by women and men, and transferred those sayings into his art.
“Dont be gay.”
“Dont be a pussy.”
Garcia’s whole gallery was made to make a statement about the problems with society’s standards of masculinity and raise awareness to those who see his artwork and feel the power behind his images. Once I realized that most of his images had a negative story behind them, the message struck me even more deeply. I realized that the mere image of a pig could mean the “meat eating” standard that society expects men to uphold, or the police, or the questionable stereotype that “all men are pigs.” I also realized that the image of binoculars labeled “hunter” could symbolize the manly sport of hunting or it could signify the negative nature of some men to hunt, catcall, and mistreat women. Gabriel’s gallery was pointing out all the negative standards that society expects of men, and I, like he, did not like it. The gallery was touching on domestic violence, violence on transgender women by military men, football players that have participated in domestic violence, the sayings that people mutter when encountered with a “weak man” that should maybe “grow a pair.”
Essentially Gabriel Garcia’s gallery was a challenge on the views of masculinity and made me realize that, like said in his artist statement, the “boys will be boys” statement is a dangerous idea that we as a society perpetuate. This is true because domestic violence still isn’t considered a big deal in some relationships, and ultimately doesn’t deter a woman from marrying an abusive man. This idea is a fault in our society and is brought on by our standards of masculinity. For example, men are expected to be prideful and to act less emotional than women because they “have balls” or because they don’t want to be seen as a pussy or gay.
After all the other Art 110 students left and it was just Garcia, Eduardo, and I, I asked Gabriel Garcia if he considered himself a feminist. Surprisingly, yet unsurprisingly, Gabriel Garcia told me that he didn’t want to label himself as a feminist. Like most people, he felt the feminist label to be too strong of a movement/concept to want to be considered a part of. This I understood, many people are intimidated by the label and are afraid of the backlash they might receive for being a part of the “man-hating” feminist culture. However, Garcia also mentioned that although he says he isn’t labeling himself as a feminist currently, even though his mindset and art would prove otherwise, he told me he felt that later on in life he would look back and say “I was just kidding myself, I actually was a feminist, but I was just to afraid to stand up and say it.” I agree, Garcia seems like he shares many feminist views, but, understandably, doesn’t want to be considered a feminist. Garcia even feels a little embarrassed by this fact, because he stated that most of the great critiques he’s received have been from women and feminist women. His artwork is so strong that only those that share his views and aren’t afraid to be seen as feminists, and a few men, have shared their thoughts with Garcia about his phenomenal gallery.
I really enjoyed Gabriel’s gallery and loved having an intellectually stimulating conversation with him about his thoughts on the problem of masculinity and his gallery. ❤
This was a great experience.