Gabrielle Gamboa is a busy lady. She’s a creator in all faucets of life: a portrait artist, a zine maker, a teacher– is there anything this gem of a woman can’t do?!
I found her work at the L.A. Zine Fest(and really, didn’t that place have the best artists?!) and totally fell in love. Gabrielle agreed to an interview and here it is. Hope you enjoy this peek into her world as much as I loved asking about it. xoxo
Your “Remote Viewing” series is HARDCORE! I love that the content centers around recognizable pop characters, juxtaposed with images in nature or more traditional content. How did you put together certain pieces, particularly “Heaven and Hell”?
I wanted to work with images that had significant personal meaning for me. I spent a lot of time alone with my imagination as a child, and I spent a great deal of time with media, particularly television and radio. My childhood memories are inseparable to me from the pop culture images I consumed growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I have approached the works in the “Remote Viewing” series as drawn collages, not pre-planned in detail, but arranging the composition as I go, to create some spontaneity in contrast to the detailed graphite work.
“Heaven and Hell” documents my adolescence, and the change from the innocence of childhood to the terrible insecurities of the tween years. Middle school was hell for me. But I leave it up to the viewer to decide which side represents “Heaven” for them, and which side represents “Hell.” When my mother first saw it, her only comment was a guilty “Well, television did raise you!”
You made a comic called, “Miss Lonely Hearts”, centered around a man who is hired to be an advice columnist. Would you ever be an advice columnist, and what sort of advice column would you have? Who is your favorite real life advice columnist, and why?
I love to give advice, and like most people, I am far better giving advice than taking it! I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at a relationship or manners-type of advice column, but I have been told that my best advice is usually about art materials. So if someone wants to hire me to write about paper weights and gesso, I’m all yours!
Dan Savage gives the most helpful advice, but Slate’s Dear Prudence is my favorite to read because she seems to be an obsessive pop culture nerd like myself. She can’t help but relate someone’s problem to a film plot at least once per column. Right now she seems really fixated on comparing her advice seekers to Downtown Abbey characters.
You’re an art teacher in San Francisco. What’s it like living in Northern California, and having such a rich artistic cultural history around you? How does this play into what you are teaching your students?
It is incredibly inspiring to be able to say “Diego Rivera made that mural,” “Dorothea Lang’s studio was right here,” “Bruce Connor taught in this department,” “Charles Schultz drew his strip there,” etc., etc. It is soooo easy to take students on field trips to see inspiring local art…the Di Rosa Museum is a collection of entirely Northern California art since the 1960’s, for example. The difficult part is making them care.
Right now I’m on a mission to make my students aware of the California Funk artists and their descendents, such as Robert Arneson, William Wiley, Mildred Howard, David Best, etc. In my youth, the Funk artists staffed the art departments and filled the galleries through out Northern California, but now I worry that they are being forgotten. I guess maybe their work has too much humor and fun, and not enough transgression to be fashionable to the contemporary art establishment.
It’s obvious from your work that you have a strong connection to rock’n'roll. Did you grow up with that music around you? Was there a point where that music informed your decisions– your lifestyle, your attitudes? Does it still? And who was your rock’n'roll icon growing up? Do you have one now?
I have a brother who is eight years older than me. He trained to be a radio disk jockey, and also deejayed weddings and proms. He made me very aware of rock music from an early age, and when he wasn’t home, I had free access to his record collection. As a little kid I used to listen to a local radio station that played the Beatles all day on Sunday, so I still remember where I was when John Lennon was assassinated, and how my dad didn’t understand why his 7-year-old daughter was in shock.
Punk music came into my life when I was about 13 or 14, and I’m going to say the cliché: Punk rock changed my life. It really did. It was a subculture that became my culture. It taught me a d.i.y independence that has served me well as an artist. It also taught me to live my convictions, which can be a miserable thing to do at times.
I still love rock’n’roll and roots music so much, and my idols are always changing. But an artist who is also a great lyricist or songwriter can really stop me in my tracks. I was crushed when Big Star’s Alex Chilton died a couple of years ago, but I was glad I got to see him play before that. Lately I’ve been really into the songs of Daniel Johnston, but I must admit that I prefer it when someone else performs them, and the late great L.A. band Love.
You do a lot of work centered around books and things people can transport with them– that format really informs how the piece is set up. Do you see your work continuing in this direction? How do you see the future shaping up for zines and zinemaking folks?
I hadn’t really thought about it before, but books and publishing has been a huge part of my life. I worked at the legendary Comic Relief comic book store, and at the underground comics publisher and distributor Last Gasp. I was a member of the Berkeley-based comics publishing collective and zine distributor Puppy Toss, and I’ve been making zines since the late 1980’s. And I married a former lit major. So it makes sense that my work would gravitate towards books, and it probably always will.
It feels like the zine seems to be having a renaissance, which makes me happy. I think people have been missing the hand-made object. While the blog has replaced many zines, there is still so much room for the small run, hand-made book you can hold in your hands, especially if it is image-dependent. And I can’t stand reading comics online, so I prefer to print mine. For the zine culture to maintain its momentum, there needs to be a more centralized distribution. In the 90’s we had Factsheet Five, which listed practically all the zines that existed, and told you where to order each one. The zine fests springing up all over is a great start, but there needs to be some sort of online “Factsheet Five.” And, no, I’m not volunteering to do this!