Art as Joy, Art as Resistance: Interview with Artist Patrick Gabaldon

Born and raised in the border city of El Paso Texas, Artist Patrick Gabaldon creates pieces of work that highlight the beauty of the Chihuahuan desert. Gabaldon began painting in 2012, and with both sides of his family being Mexican-American he grew up in a home rich with tradition and culture. With each new piece, he looks for inspiration everywhere and constantly seeks to bring joy through color. Through vivid images of the borderland, he invokes this joy and pride of culture and uses his medium as a means of resistance.

The following is our email conversation about his work, inspiration, and thoughts on the role of art as resistance.

What are you trying to communicate with your art?
If you look through my past works and current work you will see that my voice has changed a bit but always comes back to color. The world can be so dark…I use my work to help combat the darkness in my life and in the lives of others.

There have been a few pieces where there are definite messages. Certain pieces represent and are a response to the world around me here in the border. After experiencing the constant bigoted hate speech from the President I felt compelled to create. His administration still continues to paint our diverse community and all communities of color with this broad hateful brush. All the trash coming out of his mouth (and still….) made it clear to me that we must all stand against this misinformed bigotry.  

“Señora Libertad.”

The night of the election I felt compelled to create and put pen to paper. Over the next few days, I worked constantly on a new piece that represents immigrant pride, cultural pride, and personal pride. The piece also represents the strength and bravery it takes for many Americans and individuals to simply be who they are. I was trying to communicate that sometimes being yourself is a protest. The piece is titled Senora Libertad and depicts a Folklorico dancer draped in a gown inspired by the Statue of Liberty and the pride flag. Her lamp in hand and crown depict a proud Lady Liberty welcoming all no matter the color of their skin or the country they are fleeing. She remains one of my favorite pieces.

Recently I created a sister piece to Senora Libertad. It doesn’t have a title yet but represents the anger and shame I feel surrounding the message of hate promoted by the current President. This piece is of a Pinata swinging above a pitchfork. To me the message is clear. Constantly the immigrant and Hispanic community are being scapegoated. The pitchfork represents the vitriol and hate aimed at the border community and immigrant. The piece also speaks to cultural appropriation of Mexican-American tradition. Popular culture loves tacos, sombreros, and pinatas but shuns the people who created and celebrate these things. And what is inside the pinata? Love, family, and goodies. The Immigrant is all of these things! Often families save so long to celebrate life’s milestones with pinatas. We are like these pinatas. We bring so much to the table and can create so much goodness.

What do the borderlands mean and represent to you?

The border represents everything. It is a physical manifestation of life’s great contradictions. The spirit of the border and its people flow back and forth every day in a way that can only be described as a slow dance. Each side has quirks and habits of the other, making the borderland some strange amalgamation of the two places. It is something one can only experience on the border. The border is rough and unforgiving. It is also filled with life and acceptance. It is a place like no other and I proudly call it my home. These contradictions are amazing and complex. Maybe that’s the word I’m really searching for… complexity.

“I am most inspired by the toughness and resiliency of the border and its people.

What role do you see artists having in society?

Artists and their work have an immense role. They help show the community that there is value in creative expression and free thinking. Their work is a mirror that helps us see our own complexities and contradictions. I also believe that as funding for the arts and afterschool programs get cut, artists will have more responsibility to make their work more accessible to affected communities.

What role do you see art playing in activism and political work?

Art has always had a role in political and social activism and will continue to be a cornerstone of activism around the globe. Often times we can’t find the words to describe how we feel. Sometimes our intentions and frustrations are best communicated through art.

You don’t have to look far to notice great art in activism. This year’s Women’s March was a great example of activism and art moving a message forward together. Whole articles were written focusing solely on the artwork created for the March and all of the globe artists are challenging cultural norms and the status quo through expressive artwork.

What does it mean to you to be a Latino artist in Texas?

It means so many things.

It means that I have an extra responsibility to represent our community in everything I do.

It means that my work will always speak to my cultural upbringing and heritage.

It means that I am one of many. There are so many talented Latino artists here in the state that often get overlooked or devalued because of their latino-ness or because they create on walls instead of in galleries. I am lucky because I call the border my home and because the city of El Paso does so much to support and grow local art.

Being a Latino artist in Texas is no different than being a Latino teacher or a Latino Judge or a Latino politician in Texas. It means that we represent so much more than the profession we choose and the job we do. I believe that this is the case for all people of color. Latinos are no exception. It also means that we have a duty to reach back and help others in our communities through art. Whether it’s donating time or art, Latino artists owe a debt to the forgotten and overlooked talents in Latino and Chicano art. Latino artists should take ownership and pride in our heritage and support one another.

          

What role do you see your art playing in light of the current political administration, both in Texas and nationally?

 I know that I can’t be the only Texan frustrated and disappointed in State and National politics. I only wish that my art can bring joy in those times of frustration and embolden others to take pride in their culture and heritage. Maybe my colorful pieces can inspire other Latino voices in Texas to be bold and proud in the face of adversity.

What is your dream project?

I’d love to have a mural here in El Paso or in my second home of San Antonio. I’ve often thought it would be amazing to have my own studio gallery space where I can work and share my love of color with others. The largest piece I’ve ever done was only 5 ft by 10 ft and I’d love to try something much much bigger.

Find more of Patrick Gabaldon’s work:

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Stay tuned for more Artists profiles & interviews in this Summer of Resistance. If you are an artist & would like to create Resistance Art against SB4, Visit the Basta Texas web page and use the resistance art feature to submit your own creative acts of protest.