Gabriel’s exhibit, which will be displayed in the CFA Lobby from Jan. 7 to Feb. 23, includes recent works that were handpicked by the artist to foster interplay between Gabriel, her artwork and her audience. Through her work, she establishes an intimacy with her audience that stems from mutual exploration of nature’s role in shaping our work and world.
In the CFA Round Room on Jan. 7, Gabriel spoke to members of the Knox community about her artistic inspirations: the childhood loneliness that taught her to embrace daydreams and to make playmates out of the sun and the shadows it wrought.
“One of the things that fascinated me the most about either going to bed or waking up … was just laying on my bed and looking up at the ceiling or at the wall and, when the cars drive by, noticing the shape of the window. It starts as a parallelogram and it turns into a diamond and then a squareÉI remember looking at that a lot, this sort of transformation of the shape moving across,” Gabriel said.
This tendency toward observation and introspection contributed significantly toward Gabriel’s development as an artist, engendering within her an appreciation for the architecture of nature and the careful geometry to be found in even the most miniscule of organisms.
“I’m very interested in sequential order; our natural impulses to organize, compartmentalize, and how nature echoes through our creative process as we do it,” Gabriel said.
This appreciation for symmetry and pattern is reflected in the work of the visionaries who inspired her, including Jackson Pollock, Sarah Sze and Sol LeWitt. Throughout her talk, Gabriel punctuated her reflections with images of their work. Some of these pieces appeared chaotic and others methodical, but as Gabriel spoke she explained that each piece is an exploration of systems, as well as the artist’s consciousness. Gabriel used Pollock as an example to expound upon her philosophy. “What’s beautiful about [Pollock’s] work is that it’s a series of systems that work simultaneously …
we kind of work the same way. We all have different systems in our body that all need to work together for you to function correctly,” Gabriel said.
Gabriel explained that creating art is also like nurturing a relationship, and that an artist must attend to the whims of her work before she focuses on her own.
“Listen to it. Step back, and think about what it needs,” Gabriel said.
In regard to her process, Gabriel embraces controlled spontaneity, in which she enters her studio with a variety of sketches and ideas, but remains open to the possibilities and limitations of the space and the materials.
“To me, the studio is my place of play and the work I create in it are my playmates. I sketch, work, step back to see what the piece needs, and eventually get to a point where we [the work and I] are satisfied.”
Gabriel is also the cofounder of the Contreras-Gabriel Project, a platform for artists and audiences designed to promote greater visibility and accessibility of art in our society. The project works to draw attention to visual artists who are doing important work and yet remain largely unacknowledged.
Part of the CG Project is called La Buena Espalda (The Good Back), which is a reference to people who have long lines behind them and thus have the power to influence people.
“We frequently find ourselves in that position so we try to direct that attention toward artists, filmmakers and other folks that are worth paying attention to. We hope to reach and educate others in hopes of introducing, growing and maintaining visual culture in our everyday lives,” Gabriel said.