Somerville Arts Council’s June Artist of the Month, Raúl Gonzalez, was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, México. They are border towns that he describes as dusty, outlaw places on the frontera or frontier.
“I love the idea of the frontier,” Gonzalez said. “My work really is about exploring frontiers and exploring new lands.”
Boston was a new land for Gonzalez to explore when he moved here more than a decade ago with his wife, who was attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Gonzalez grew up hating school, flunking subjects that he found boring (like typing) and excelling at those that piqued his interest (like drawing).
“It has been my dream to be an artist for as long as I can remember,” Gonzalez said.
He didn’t know exactly what he would do in Boston, but he knew he wanted to pursue his dream. Gonzalez would sit in cafes in the South End and Davis Square drawing, hoping that someone would notice him. They did and he found work drawing posters for bands and plays. Then Gonzalez started being asked to do larger pieces, which is where he began to really grow as an artist.
“I’ve always had very specific goals for myself that I’ve wanted to accomplish,” Gonzalez said. Doing those early art projects “allowed me to be involved in the community.”
These days Gonzalez works in a variety of mediums–painting, video, sound, found objects and more–though drawing remains his first love and the place all of his ideas begin.
“My work is definitely a reflection of the world,” Gonzalez said. “The issues we have now are very cyclical. I like for my work to have a look that isn’t very present. In terms of styles my characters exist in a period that is everlasting.”
Gonzalez is currently at work on several very different projects. The first is a show at Carroll and Sons Gallery (450 Harrison Ave., Boston) called Los Nuevos Guerreros (The New Warriors) that features 100 drawings.
“It’s an open-ended narrative that is filled with a cast of characters caught up in a situation beyond their control,” Gonzalez said. The subjects of the drawings are heroes, but not necessarily in the traditional sense.
Gonzalez also has a show called Gran Exitos y la Obra de Sobrevivir (The Great Escape and the Art of Survival) coming to the Nancy Beland Gallery at the Essex Art Center (56 Island St., Lawrence) this summer.
“That exhibition is a complete installation that comes with a soundtrack,” Gonzalez said. The main piece is a sculptural painting of a woman floating on a raft surrounded by objects from her past life, her dreams and that remind her of her mortality. She’s on a voyage of evolution through the desert to a new world. “It’s a show that’s about survival,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez is preparing for a show taking place in late summer in Provincetown at the Alden Gallery and will have his first solo museum exhibition in October at the New Hampshire Museum of Art in Durham. In addition to those projects, Gonzalez is working with writer Cathy Camper on a graphic novel called Lowriders in Space due to be published by Chronicle Books in 2014.
Though he lived in Somerville for years, Gonzalez recently moved to nearby Medford. He still spends a great deal of time here though, immersing himself in the city to find inspiration for his work. But he warns that rising housing costs may soon force many of our beloved artists out of Somerville.
“Somerville’s always been cool,” Gonzalez said. “In a way it’s those who don’t have a lot who end up defining an area.”
Images courtesy of the Somerville Arts Council.