venerdì 9 ottobre 2009


Gabriel,you live and work in Asheville, NC. Son of a nationally known folk/visionary artist Cher Shaffer (she was featured in the landmark book and traveling exhibition "O, Appalachia", in 1989) you were raised within the self taught medium. In which context did you grow up?

I grew up most of my early life in Parkersburg, West Virginia. From as far back as i can remember i spent alot of my spare time in my moms studio. She held me as a baby as she painted some of her earliest major works, i believe that had an impact on me. I always assumed making art was a common part of everyones lives. The first pieces of art i made were portraits of Rod Stewart and the Pizza Hut delivery guy.I have many memories of visiting different artists throughout Appalachia and the south who mom befriended as the years went on, many of them were folk/outsider artists. I can also remember helping mom hang paintings on the sides of barns in early folk art shows. When i wasn't around my mom, i spent alot of time alone, creating fantasy worlds with action figures, reading comic books,watching sci-fi, torturing my sisters and exploring the woods behind our house. We lived in a suburb that was far from town and was mostly populated by seniors in
retirement. I think growing up isolated in the kind of environment i did, put everything into place for me to work in a creative medium.

From the ages of 18-27, you focused heavily on writing hundreds of poems and short stories , while performing in a few bands at such notable events as South By Southwest, Austin,TX and Around The Coyote Festival, Chicago,IL. When did you start painting?

I infrequently made paintings and drawings all my life, but i never considered that i would do it full time. I always thought my mom had covered that territory, so i was mostly focused on writing. When i was 27, i was in a really messed up place. Depressed and just spun out on some bad shit, i intentionally decided to move to Wilmington,NC, a place where i knew no one, to either get my act together or kill myself.One weekend in June, i had an idea for a series of paintings come to me. By the end of the weekend, i had experienced what some folks might call a religious experience. The experience was at once cathartic, exciting and familiar, like making love. The main thing of it all, was that it made me feel good, when nothing else seemed to and it didnt hurt me in the end. Its been a whirlwind love affair ever since.

Tell me about GABRIEL SHAFFER AND THE CLEAR HEADED KILLING JOKE by RC Miller, September 2007 experience. What did it mean to you?

RC is my oldest friend. Technically he is my first friend. I met him during an archeology class during summer school when i was in the 5th grade. We also coincidentally ended up going to the same Junior high school as each other.He moved away when i was 15 to Massachusetts, but we stayed in touch until our mid 20's. The day i got back to Asheville from my first show in NYC, there was a note from RC on the door of my studio.I hadnt heard from him for probably 6-8 years. He had been traveling the country while writing the manuscript to Animal Returns in various assorted seedy motels. Months later he sent me the finished manuscript. I remember sitting in Izzy's coffee house reading them, as a flood of imagery filled my mind. I was pretty amazed, Even if no one else in the world understood or cared for the poems, they were illuminated manuscripts to me and the subject matter was dark and irresistible. RC and i decided to transform some of the poems into
paintings. So, my first major solo show with the Berenberg gallery in Boston, was Animal Returns, which happened to be a collaboration with my oldest friend.

When did you begin to show your work in galleries?

July 2004, i had my first show at the Broome Street gallery and the Historic Cedar Tavern in NYC. I was really excited for many reasons. I was amazed anyone would offer me a show at all, let alone that i would get the chance to hang at the Cedar Tavern, which was bonkers to me. The history of that place, in realtion to art and music, is intense to say the least.
I started regularly showing with galleries after selling out my premier at the 2005 Outsider Art Fair, in NYC.

How do you go about inventing your works?

My ideas come to me through all sorts of channels and it all depends on which style your talking about. My cityscapes are more of a meditative experience than a specific idea. The portraits i do for fun and because i love to paint sexy creepy women with blue hair. Sometimes i dream about them. Sometimes images come to me while im sitting around listening to music,walking the dogs or cleaning the house. I have noticed that most of my best ideas for the year, come to me in February and March, when i have a slight break from shows. Ill usually start with a small set of ideas and then they germinate into a large group of ideas.Then the group of ideas usually becomes a story and the story fills in the blanks. Its alot like tending a garden.My process has become much more involved as time has gone on.I spent most of my first few years just cranking out material. After a while that started to burn me out, so i recently decided to slow things down a bit and take
my time with the work. This has made a major difference and given me a chance to get to know my pieces better before i let go of them.

About how long would a typical painting session last and do you find there’ s an optimal moment for being creative?

It can vary from week to week and piece to piece, but usually i work mon-thursday in the studio from 8-9AM until 7-8PM. Then i spend the rest of the week working on drawings and staying up to date on all the details outside of the studio. The optimal moment is anytime i can get the chance to work.

Your unique art is often considered as outsider but it contains many elements of graffiti writing, collage and comic illustrations. Who are some of your favorite illustrators from history?

Robert Crumb, Will Eisner, Frank Miller, Egon Schiele,Henry Darger,Jack Kirby to name a few. Since ive had to teach myself,most of my influences in illustration have come from studying the comic book artists i grew up on.When i lived in Chicago, i was turned on to Henry Darger by some folks from The Intuit center. Ive been really heavily influenced by his inventiveness and storytelling.

What stories do you try to tell through your art? Tell me about the way of working layer upon layer.

It all depends on the individual piece. My current show has an overarching story line and each individual piece is a scene from that story.I imagine my pieces in a mythologically cinematic fashion, they are little fantasy movies in my head. So, most of my newer works are screen shots or portraits of characters from those scenes.The main story for my newest show involves a young boy named Astral, who claims to be an old time traveller trapped in a boys body. After an encounter with the three fates, Astral is transported to a dark fantasy world, where he experiences a series of adventures. Each painting in the show is a chapter from that story. My work is very narrative driven so even if its not a part of a larger concept, theres always a story.
My work also involves alot of salvaged materials, which always have their own story separate from the pieces. Im just as fascinated with where my materials come from as how im going to implement them.By layering these materials with organic forms and automatic drawings, im trying to incorporate different levels of perception and depth to the works. So the viewer can easily get lost in the paintings.

What are you trying to say with your art?

What ever im feeling at the time i create the piece. I dont have an overall message. I just try to do my best to do what i love with everything i can give. I feel so lucky to even have the chance to do it, so i try to go all out. Honestly if there is any challenge or theme to what im doing, it would be to explore the possibilities of collage and the cut-up method as a way of practicing art. Not just in terms of gluing materials together, but ideas,styles, races, genders, breeds, and mythologies as well. I would like to find a way to reach a truly universal language with my work.

Do you have upcoming releases or shows?

The main show ive been preparing for is my solo show, January 2010, with Blue Spiral 1, which is the major fine art gallery here in Asheville. Ive got about 20 pieces working for that show. Im also getting ready for the Outsider Art Fair, in February 2010, in NYC. Ill be featured with the Berenberg gallery from Boston. Ive got alot of other things going on for 2010, so the best way to keep up with me is through my website.

Have you ever been to Italy?

No but my work has. I had some early pieces exhibited in a museum in Florence back in 2006. I' ll show there any chance i get. Anybody interested?

2 commenti:

Megara ha detto...

wow this art is intense! good interview :)
xo meg

Daniela Petkovic ha detto...

Thank you for the kind words!;)
x D.