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Speaking with Queens-Based, Self-Taught Artist Gabriel Fuentes

Working in a wide range of styles, Queens-based Gabriel Fuentes has fashioned dozens of infectious artworks that he is beginning to exhibit in public settings. I recently had the opportunity to interview the young artist.

When did you first start drawing?

I was always drawing – as far back as I can remember.

What is your earliest art memory?

Getting yelled at for drawing stick figures in the hallway of our South Bronx apartment building.

What inspires you to keep creating art?

It’s been one of the only constants in my life, and it is the one thing I feel confident doing.

Who are your favorite artists?

Among them are: Van Gogh, Salvador Dali, MC Escher, Takashi Murakami, and Jackson Pollock.

What are your major cultural influences?

The graffiti culture, American cartoons, Japanese & Greek architecture. I grew up in a predominantly Greek neighborhood in Astoria.

Is there a central or overall theme that ties your work together?

Stretching the limits of what is seen as ordinary.

How has your artwork evolved in the past few years?

I’ve become open to trying new mediums and techniques. I used to work solely with pencils and markers on paper.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

Never! I can never look at my art objectively because I’m so fixated on the details and what I could have done better.

How long do you usually spend on a piece?

Anywhere from a few hours to a few months.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?  

About 80%. When I’m not doing it, I’m almost always thinking about it.

What are some of your other interests?

I love Old School New York — everything from vintage clothing like Coogi to vintage video games.

How important is your viewers’ response to you? Is it important to you that others like your work?

It’s important to a degree. I’d love it if you do like it because I want to awaken feelings within the viewers. But if they don’t like it, I can respect that.  Art is subjective and everyone has a different taste.

What are your favorite media to work with?

Spray paint, paint markers and pencils.

What is your favorite piece that you’ve created?  Why?

The bathroom that I converted into a NYC train. (Note first featured image.)

What is your main source of income? 

I work in a rehabilitation center up in the Bronx.

Have you a formal art education?

No! I’m self-taught.

Where are you headed?

I see myself as a tattoo artist. No matter what I do, I’ll be surrounded by art.

What do you see as the artist’s role in society?

To show others the bittersweet truth of our lives.

Your role?

To give others the same feeling I had when I first saw a Salvador Dali painting.

Interview by Lois Stavsky; all photos courtesy the artist