A door was opening to another dimension.
July 10, 2020
Girls with Masks / Girl Goddesses, 2020
It’s been a few years since I adopted the phrase by Rufino Tamayo, one of the most important Mexican painters of the 20th century, that says I am a laborer of my profession who works eight hours a day. As a Mexican woman, an artist and mother of a six-year-old girl, I try to fulfill those eight hours daily, out of the instinct and dedication to my passion that does not allow me to be constricted by ordinary routines and social expectations.
Mexico closed its borders in March, 2020. The world stopped unintelligibly and there was a deafening silence. Despite the uncertainty, there was peace flourishing in every corner of my house. The circumstances gave me time that I craved so much. Without school, schedules, deadlines and homework, not going out to get materials or picking up my daughter, not going to meetings, appointments, events, openings or friend’s dinner parties—everything was cancelled. Everything! The constant movement, that I so often cursed, just stopped and I felt as if a door was opening to another dimension.
The days became one day. I put away the calender and switched off my alarm. I finished reading books that have been there for years. I painted in my pajamas and started writing again. I drank coffee at night, not worrying that I wouldn’t be able to sleep, so I could create without pressure.
The Headmaster, 2020
The isolation was very therapeutic but at the same time anxiety grew in me. I had headaches, my shoulders and neck got tense, my body was weary for days. It was overwhelming to think of the suffering of the others day after day. Thousands of deaths, so many infected, women living through hell with their abusive spouses. The cases of domestic violence against women and children were rising to scary numbers. Stores closed, the ones we needed most, while the big chains remained open. Zoos lay abandoned, animals unprotected.
The Scream / Mexico SOS, 2020
I continued to create as if every day was my last. Art has always been my escape and everything that I think and feel is in each of my pieces. Now, more than ever, there are so many emotions and, due to the pandemic, good and bad have inevitably transmuted my life and my art.
When my daughter was born, the idea of childhood flourished in me. How did my ancestors understand childhood with their Mesoamerican worldview? What is one more girl coming into a world that is so complicated? A world that classifies, annihilates, silences you, minimalizes and corrupts you? What is a girl, when as soon as she is born, becomes a mere number, a color, a race, a gender, a nationality, a border? One girl more or one daughter less? These questions, without answers, I have been exploring in my art over the past six years.
clockwise: Untitled, 2019, The Cascarita, 2019, Jumping Rope, 2019, Girl with a Red Balloon, 2019, The Cyclists, 2019, Little Girls with Balloons, 2019
My daughter taught me to give new meaning to the simple, the small, the spontaneous and the ordinary. She inspired me to ask myself over and over: what happens if... What happens if instead of only painting and drawing children on paper and canvas, I explore the aesthetic possibilities of the Mexican dollar in small silhouettes and, upon them, bestow a symbolic value through the heroes of my country and homeland? What happens if I build ephemeral monuments with girls dressed in police uniforms and integrate actions of power that address issues of violence against women?
childhood, toys, value, power, gods, heroes, monuments, footballs, balloons, dollar notes, police uniforms
clockwise: Child Soldiers, 2020, The Infantry, 2020, Indigenous Girls, 2020
It is for all these elements that the lockdown has turned into a battlefield and a game. Thanks to my work I could escape into an indissoluble world of my own freedom despite the mandatory confinement. The possibilities kept unfolding in endless questions and answers, that my only daughter has inspired me to reflect upon.
Gabriela González Leal is a Mexican-born visual artist who works with contemporary and traditional materials. Her work has been shown in Mexico as well as inernationally, with exhibitions in the U.S., Germany, Spain, Argentina, Serbia, Uruguay, Cuba and England. Gabriela’s work is held in numerus private and public collections all over the world. She lives and works in Mexico City. @gabrielagonzalez.art︎︎︎