By Alice Yoo at My Modern Met
Take one look at Gabriel Dawe’s impressive architectural structures and get ready to be amazed. The Mexico City-born artist creates huge rainbow-colored sculptures using miles and miles of thread. Armed with a giant needle that’s attached to a long pole, Dawe hooks each strand of thread to a specific anchor point that’s nailed to a wall. Not leaving much to chance, he carefully plans each piece, even using geometry, until his sculptures appear stunningly prismatic.
Because Lincoln celebrates artistry that is innovative and thoughtful while giving a nod to heritage, Dawe’s installations, which are both ethereal and socially symbolic, caught our eye. Dawe has turned the age-old craft of embroidery into something new and awe-inspiring. While maintaining the bright and intense colors usually associated with Mexican culture into his installations, his work also questions gender roles, or what society commonly designates as feminine versus masculine traits or hobbies.
Throughout the years, Dawe has added conceptual and personal meaning to his work, making it both more complex and simpler. These ideas include human interconnectivity, transcendence, light, and alchemy. “I’m constantly reflecting on what they mean to me, and what they mean to other people,” he says. “My personal history has shaped my work in a subconscious way. Sounds obvious, and I’ve been aware of how my heritage has influenced me, but I never knew how deep and complex that influence is. In many ways, I’m still figuring it out.”
Q: Since you first busted out into the art scene, what lessons have you learned?
A: One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn is the realization that being an artist entails much more than creating art. I used to have this romantic idea that once I was able to establish myself, I would be dedicating most of my time to creating work in my studio. In reality, I spend a lot of my time on many things that are not specifically art-making, such as administrative work, replying to emails, and planning. I think it’s surprising that there’s not much talk about this in art schools. I’ve realized that in order to be successful, I need to develop a business sense, which I never thought, naively, would be necessary. Q: How do you challenge yourself?
A: A big part of the installations is having a dialogue with the architectural space in which they’re going to exist. Every space has unique characteristics, sometimes starkly different, as in the case of Plexus no. 19 in Como, and sometimes more subtle, like in a typical all-white gallery. But even so, there are always things that are unique to each space, which help me determine what to do.
Q: What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your art?
A: There’s been a few times when I’ve had to install where construction workers are around. They always stop by, intrigued at what I’m up to, and oftentimes they say to me how they don’t really know about art, but they really like what they see. That definitely makes me smile, because people don’t really need to know much about the work to be touched by it, which to me is a sign that the work is successful. If they’re inspired to do a little research to learn more about the ideas behind them, even better, although certainly not necessary. Q: What’s been your proudest moment?
A: Being able to inspire people is definitely one of the highlights of doing what I do. About a year ago, a father emailed me the drawing his 7-year-old daughter did after seeing Plexus no. 10 in the UK. Another great email I got was by an Australian doctor working with Aboriginals in an impoverished area telling me how, after a particularly rough day, her spirits were lifted after finding my work online. To be able to touch people in such a way is among my proudest moments, and, paradoxically, very humbling as well.