Another Pilot Down: The Artwork of George Gonzalez

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Influences: Nine Inch Nails

If the work of Joel-Peter Witkin molded the often disturbing and twisted characters of my artwork and Frida Kahlo influenced me in expressing myself on a very personal level then it is the the music of Nine Inch Nails signifies the intensity, rage, and often chaotic atmosphere that I try to capture style of drawings.

For those of you who aren't familiar with this hard-rock band, the band Nine Inch Nails is mostly made up of singer-songwriter, Trent Reznor. He is the main writer and man behind most of the music. He plays all kinds of different instruments and in his albums it is mostly him by himself. However, from time to time he does occasionally have different artists and musicians come in to collaborate or play certain instruments in his records. But for the most part it is Reznor whom is the mastermind behind all the music in Nine Inch Nails.

Like Joel-Peter Witkin (and even Frida Khalo), Nine Inch Nails isn't for everyone. The music can often be described as being very loud and abrasive (like chain saws and television static.) Yet, all the same it is also as whimsical as birds singing in the early morning or just as melodic as a children's choir. More often then not, all this might even take place within the same four minutes of a song.

As much as his music screams that he wants to burn the whole world down, it also whispers “love me.” It's in that balance that I try to create in my own work. It's how I perceive my drawings or when I set out to work on a design. Underneath all the anger, rage, and distorted figures of my self-portraits, my personal drawings also show you the melody and sound of a beating heart. If there is underlining message in my work, then I want it to show you a boy hardened by being an outcast, but display the maturity of man who knows how to overcome and move on. That's the melody of my art and how the music of Nine Inch Nails plays into it all.

**Originally published in Spanish in the August 10th, 2013 issue of Antesala

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Influences: Joel-Peter Witkin

If Frida Kahol influences the very personal aspect that my artwork takes on, then it's the photography of Albuquerque, New Mexico's Joel-Peter Witkin who molds the dark, scary, and often disturbing figures that usually shows up in my works. I've often joked that my drawings and paintings have a tendency to “scare little kids,” and I'm certain that those whom have seen my art can more than the likely say the same thing. Well, in many ways it was the influence of Witkin's artwork who guided me in that direction.

For those who aren't familiar Witkin's photography, they often deal with themes of death, corpses, and various “outsiders.” His models are primary dwarfs, amputees, and individuals whom are physically deformed. Witkin often places them in a cryptic setting, while various skulls, religious crosses, weird masks, limbs, and other creepy things fill the background.

As I've mentioned a few times here in my column, being born with Marfan Syndrome often made me feel like an outcast and an outsider. The physical characteristics of people with Marfan's are usually skinny, tall, with long arms and thin fingers. Coupled with being in and out of hospitals, the condition always made me feel as if I didn't belong. So when I first saw Witkin's photography, it made me think of all these people with different types of disabilities and it captured a sense of beauty for me. Even though his work can be viewed as extremely disturbing there is a sense of calmness and an classic elegance to it. In fact, much of Joel-Peter Witkin's pieces are reminiscent of classical paintings and there is often a lot of religious imagery that doesn't insult but celebrates it. It just happens to be in his own twisted way.

Despite that he photographs people with physical disabilities, his work never exploits them. In fact, many if not all of his models have said he is one of the most respectful people ever. His work doesn't try demonize or shame them, instead it honors what society deems weird and odd. It embraces “the strange” and just as I do.

**Originally published in Spanish in the August 3rd, 2013 issue of Antesala

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Influences: Frida Kahlo

For those whom have seen my artwork in person or visited my website, you'd more than likely see a lot of different artists and influences buried deep within my drawings and paintings. I like to draw from all sorts of diverse things and in the end I try to really paint a piece of work that really says something about me and who I am.

With that being said, I think it is safe to say that my biggest influence are the works of Frida Kahlo. Even before I got to know what kind of artist she was, the similarities in what I was doing mimicked that of hers as well. For instance, Frida suffered lifelong health issues and while they were the result of a car accident that happened when she was a teenager, this was something that I knew too much about. Since I was born with Marfan Syndrome, much of my early years were spent alone, isolated, and I felt like an outcast from the rest of the students. Spending weeks in hospitals didn't help this isolation either. This was a feeling that Frida felt too and she expressed that depression in her paintings.

She's often quoted in saying, “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” It's in that statement where I truly feel a deep and sorrowful connection with her. Like the majority of my drawings, my pieces are deep and personal reflections of myself. Frida did exactly that. Everything she painted was drawn from personal experiences, her numerous operations, and her unfortunate miscarriages. While her accident left her in a great deal of pain, she used her works to capture everything she felt and made masterpieces that would live on forever. Like in my own drawings, she often painted herself with all these abstract and very surreal imagery around her.

In conclusion, Frida Kahlo is an artist whom has shaped me greatly and I constantly continue to draw much inspiration from her. As I stare into her paintings, I see the inner turmoil and sadness she went through. But I also feel the relentless beating heart of a strong and powerful woman. I can only dream that one day someone will feel the same about my artwork.

**Originally published in Spanish in the July 27th, 2013 issue of Antesala

Monday, July 29, 2013

Confidence in Expressing Myself

As an artist I put a lot of myself into my artwork. So much so, that I used to never actually show my family or friends my drawings because the subject matter was very personal. I felt that I didn't have the confidence to express who I was. Instead, I drew a lot of portraits of famous celebrities and my favorite rock bands so I didn't have to show my dark drawings.

While I had fun in making portraits, it wasn't in my heart or what I really wanted to do. This would all change when I started to attend the Laredo Community College. During my first semesters in LCC, I got to know my professors and they really helped me to refine a lot of my technique. In turn, I gained some confidence in showing them my more original and personal pieces. Later, my professors pushed me to have some of my personal artwork in a local art show at the Laredo Center For The Arts. Even though I was very excited and thrilled to participate in the show, I felt a huge sense of anxiety because my family would come and finally see my dark and very personal artwork.

"The SALSA Exhibition 2008 at the Laredo Center for the Arts"

My drawings featured scary and distorted figures and I knew it was sure to cause some controversy with my family. However, the night of the opening reception my anxiety was slowly going away. It was still very nerve-racking, especially since a lot of my family came to the gallery. But ultimately, I was overjoyed to have those who cared about me support me and my art. Despite that it felt as if my there was so much people wanted to know about my work, nobody judged me for my work. Though, it wasn't a very easy thing to overcome it was a process and necessary step in-order to fully grow as an artist and actually try to make it as a career. I got a lot of recognition by my family, peers, and art enthusiasts. It was the first public exhibition that I had ever participated in and the experience further gave me the confidence to continue to be myself.

**Originally published in Spanish in the April 28th, 2012 issue of Antesala

Friday, July 26, 2013

Marfan Syndrome

Being born with Marfan Syndrome has not been easy. Infact, it has been a rather difficult challenge. For those that do not know, Marfan Syndrome is a genetic disorder that effects the connective tissue of the body and it is a condition that I have lived with my entire life. The physical characteristics of people with Marfan's tend to be tall with long hands and arms and tend to have long thin fingers. Furthermore, I ended up having a slightly more severe condition of the disorder because my heart valves, eyes, and spinal cord have suffered defects throughout the course of my life. Some people whom have the condition go through most of their lives not not knowing of it's existence and it goes undiagnosed until their late 20's or 30's (which is why it's important for me to educate people about this disorder.)

For me, it was especially challenging to grow up with the condition because of these things. As a child when I was going to both elementary and middle school I always felt different from the rest of my classmates. Because of the physical characteristics, I was picked on and bullied because of my appearance and I was not allowed to play many of the sports during P.E. while I was in middle school. Then, later in high school I had an operation that would leave me using the assistance of crutches, which too did not make things easier. In spite of this, I am grateful that I had amazing parents whom looked for the best doctors on the genetic disorder.

I feel it is very important more people know about Marfan's, because of the fact that many go undiagnosed. Lastly, even though life I have always found it hard to put down my experiences into words, I draw and paint them onto paper and canvas. I use my art as an outlet to express my ideas and the things that I have been through. Yet in spite of everything that I have experienced, this disorder isn't what dictates me. Though I take medications and I try to keep myself healthy, I feel that this is something that I live with, yet it isn't what I live by.

For more information on Marfan Syndrome please visit:
The National Marfan Foundation

**Originally published in Spanish in the April 14th, 2012 issue of Antesala

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Motivation and Inspiration

As an Artist, it can be difficult finding inspiration and motivation. I remember in my senior year of high school, there was a period in which I did not have much of a drive to create any art. Being diagnosed with Marfans Syndrome and having surgical procedures done throughout my teen years, made me feel exhausted to motivate myself in starting my ideas. Sometimes, this went on for months. The ideas that had were placed on hold because I didn't have the energy to create any drawings or paintings. Even when I tried to write poetry, I found myself being displeased with the outcomes.

But deep down, I knew this path couldn't continue. I felt that without Art, I didn't exist and I did not want to let that happen. If my artwork and poetry is my autobiography then it felt as if there would be lots of empty lifeless pages. So I tired to push myself, even when it was so painful. Trying to draw while being in a hospital can be extremely difficult, but my friends and family knew that if I was going to get better I had to start drawing again. Thinking negatively is like a plague that eats away at your mind and when you are feeling physically broken it can be extremely toxic in getting well.

Thus, I kept drawing and writing. Deliberately, I tried to put all my feelings onto paper in hopes that something positive can come from my struggles. As I continued, slowly my motivation was coming back. The lines I drew eventually turned into sketches. The sketches eventually turned into clear designs. Eventually, I started to heal to get better and I noticed that the artwork I was doing grew and matured in the process. My teachers and mentors saw my art as a breakthrough. My friends were impressed and in turn it made me feel good about myself. Months later, a lot of the artwork I did during this time would eventually be displayed in local art shows. Through this painful trial, I was able to bring out the motivation and inspiration from within. Even though everybody is different in their own way, I learned that if you have a passion and will to strive to better yourself, you can overcome any situation.

**Originally published in Spanish in the April 7th, 2012 issue of Antesala