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Art & Life with Ed Gomez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ed Gomez.

Ed, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I was born and raised in a rural area of East Mesa in Arizona. I am the youngest of 8 siblings, raised by parents who immigrated to the US from Mexico in the early ’60s. I grew up playing and hiking in the Sonoran Desert, where my home overlooked the Superstition Mountains, a place filled with coyotes, cacti, and UFOs. My childhood was shaped by listening to my family’s countless tales of the Mexican Revolutionary War, folk and religious stories as well as mystic tales from neighboring Apache and Pima tribes about rituals, specters and shape-shifting entities. A major influence in my younger years was rigorous religious education through the Catholic church. Although I now view this contentiously, it still very much informs me as a person and an artist.

When I was 11 years old, a sister took me to see an exhibition of Picasso’s sketchbook at the Phoenix Art Museum. I remember being in awe over experiencing someone’s whole creative life documented in drawings, and when I returned home, I immediately made my own sketchbook from a discarded notebook. From that point on, I knew that I wanted to do something creative in the Arts, and drawing became the foundation for my art path. After high school, I was fortunate to receive an art scholarship that allowed me to attend the local community college, which coincidentally kept me from enlisting in the Marines. It was there that I really learned to draw and paint in a representational manner, learning classical painting techniques from old master studies. This is also the time when I fell in love with the work of Claudio Bravo and his still life and figurative works. Bravo was someone that I saw as a modern painter who was using old master techniques, which I found fascinating. I moved to Los Angeles in 2000 after receiving a BFA from Arizona State University to attend graduate school at Otis College of Art and Design, not fully realizing at the time that the area would become my permanent residence. I have continually worked in the arts since then, doing everything from art handling to teaching to curating. I am currently an Assistant Professor of Art at California State University, San Bernardino.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My art practice is non-linear, often fluctuating between painting, design, sculpture, and lately, I have been bringing in my love for Mid-Century art and design. I have worked in geometric and abstract styles and even representational forms of painting in particularly figurative ways. My current body of work serves as an interrogation into the intersection between Christian eschatological prophecies found in the Book of Revelations and modern day conspiracy theories and how that defines contemporary ideals propagated thru the media. Of particular interest are those concepts which radiate through political ideologies and systems for immortality.

In conjunction with, and as an extension of my multidisciplinary art practice, I organize and curate art exhibitions and events. My curatorial practice began as a way to create art opportunities for myself and connect with the greater Los Angeles art community. In 2004, I started GOCA (Gallery of Contemporary Art), an ongoing art project consisting of a self-contained fully functional art gallery located in my suitcase. The project started as a way to question exhibition practices and space, in that GOCA shows can happen at any place or time nationally or internationally with little or no funds. When GOCA is shown inside an art gallery, it functions as a virus in that the physical location, phone number and gallery hours are co-opted by the host’s location, hours and is managed by the host gallery’s staff. GOCA has continued to evolve and now has its own gift shop and a permanent collection of works which artists have donated. It was most recently shown in Berlin at Hilbert Raum Gallery, where it showcased works collected specifically for the project over the last 12 years.

In 2006 my colleague, Luis G. Hernandez, and I started the MexiCali Biennial, a DIY, artist-run arts organization. The inaugural round of programming first took place in 2006 at La Casa de la Tia Tina, an alternative art space located in the border town of Mexicali, MX. Due to the nature of the organization’s programming, specifically questioning the proliferation and redundancy of “biennials,” the second biennial didn’t occur until 2009 through 2010, during which time it took place in four different locations in both Mexico and California.

The MexiCali Biennial is now a non-profit contemporary visual arts organization that focuses on the area encompassing California and Mexico as a region of aesthetic production. The organization is migratory in nature and showcases exhibitions on both sides of the California/Mexico border. We just recently started our 4th iteration of the program that opened at LACE, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions in the Summer of 2018 with a LAUNCH event that entailed two nights of newly commissioned art performances. The show then traveled to the Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art in San Bernardino in October of 2018 with additional events planned for the US/Mexico border and a closing exhibition at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena set for October 2019. All of this is done with a very small team consisting of myself, Luis G. Hernandez, Daniela Lieja Quintanar, and April Lillard-Gomez.

As an artist, how do you define success and what quality or characteristic do you feel is essential to success as an artist?
As an educator, I often ask my students this same question. I often prompt the question by asking them if success is fame or fortune, and if so, what about health and happiness? Does success mean only one person benefiting or is a success when everyone around you also succeeds? I also have them brainstorm other forms in which success can take as well as asking them to write down what success feels like. I do this because, as an artist, my journey like others has been filled with many challenges and financial struggles that at the time seemed impossible to overcome. This was made even more evident when I graduated from Otis and realized that it was entirely too easy not to make art when all your time is spent just trying to make rent and pay for food. At times for me, success was simply being able to make art and share my art with others by being included in art exhibitions with my peers. Now I have come to understand that success is more than I could have imagined. Success is having a loving family, being able to provide for my children, and watching others around you grow and develop into their highest potential. Success is an understanding that it’s not just about yourself, but it’s about all of us and being able to be a supportive force for positive growth and development in someone else’s life. I think this is why I enjoy teaching and creating art communities through exhibitions because what you do for another you also do for yourself, what you put out into the universe is also what you receive. I am also very fortunate to have a strong support system. Most of the projects that I am involved in are part of a partnership with my wife. She has taken on a lot of responsibilities with the MexiCali Biennial, as far as research, fundraising, and coordinating special projects, which allows me to spend more time making art and teaching. Success is finding your “tribe” and mutually supporting one another.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I think that social media is such a great tool. The best way to see what I am working on is through my Facebook or Instagram. My website is edgomez.com, and on Instagram, you can find me at edgomezdotcom. You can find the Mexicali biennial at mexicalibiennial.org and on Instagram. I am also part of a wonderful Los Angeles based collective called Durden and Ray that has an exhibition space in the Bendix building downtown. D&R is a 24 person art collective that creates art opportunities for local and international art exhibitions and global exchanges with other art organizations and art groups. You can find the group at durdenandray.com.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
April Lillard-Gomez

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