The Artist Spotlight series aims to celebrate creators at a time when art is being consumed the most. We wanted to invite individuals working within the creative field to provide their voice, opinions and suggestions for the improvement, development and future of the Canadian creative community.
Gabriel Gutierrez is a Chilean- born, multidisciplinary artist living in Toronto. His work, under the moniker Esote.rico, explores generational trauma and the struggles of assimilation and finding oneself through a queer, subversive lens. Currently working at local creative entrepreneurship hub, Artscape Daniels Launchpad, Gabriel opens up about what keeps him inspired and motivated through uncertain and turbulent times.
Q: Can you share a little bit about your background and creative practice?
My art is all about magic. I grew up in Antofagasta, Chile, hearing stories about spirits, magical powers and inexplicable occurrences. Where I come from in the Atacama desert (the driest desert in the world!) people not only like to believe in mysticism and magic – they have to. It’s what gets them through. My grandparents escaped the fascist regime in Chile in the 70’s and my parents experienced and escaped violence upon their arrival to Canada in the 90’s. My work derives from immigration and being a Chileno in Canada; it’s a story of queer magic and subversion, of generations struggling to heal the trauma of displacement and assimilation. This struggle is what brought me here and is a huge part of what has allowed me to fully realize myself as a person and my purpose which is to give a voice to people who don’t have one, to seek accountability when there’s been abuse and to empower and heal those around me.
I love to incorporate aspects of esoteric teachings such as astrology and tarot in my work. Reading tarot is a gift I inherited from my grandmother who used to read the tarot using a standard 52 playing-card deck. Using my body, performing and dancing are really important to me as well. I took photography and video in college and I also love to draw, paint and sculpt. One medium that has always spoke to me is sound. I love to write, sing and record music. I’ve been making music since I was a teen and have this large collection of songs, which are my babies, that tell the story of my life.
2 Cardinal and 10 of hearts (colour pencils, markers on card stock. April 2020.)
I feel very vulnerable sharing my art. To be honest, I’m always scared I’ll be rejected or ridiculed but I try to acknowledge this fear and vulnerability and push forward anyway. One of the most empowering experiences for me is putting my most authentic expression out there and standing by it knowing that not everyone will “like” or “agree” with it – and that that’s okay.
Q: What inspires and/or motivates you right now? Do you feel inspired/motivated right now?
Both the Black Lives Matter and Chile Despertó movements. Starting this new decade with people openly voicing their anger and expressing their discontent has been really healing for me.
It seems that a lot of Canadians still are unaware of the history and ongoing issues here: since the 70’s, it’s estimated that there are over four thousand missing and murdered Indigenous women whose cases are still unresolved or that in 2018 it was reported that in Toronto a black person was nearly 20 times more likely than a white person to be involved in a fatal shooting by police. I also think that Canadians can be too “nice” for their own good and often don’t speak up or say how they feel. I’ve seen this create a toxic environment with a lack of trust and transparency.
What motivates me is seeing how people in positions of power, like the white co-founder of Reddit, Alexis Ohanian, stepping down and saying he is trying to set an example for other leaders or the Toronto Chief of Police resigning, sends a clear message that the time is now and enough is enough. I also want to personally urge everyone who is in a position of power right now, especially if they have been in that position for over a decade, to really question why they are there. It’s very clear now that we live in a racist, class-ist, misogynistic and oppressive society. So if you’ve been benefiting from this ‘cis-tem’ and taking home a big salary, yet have people working for you living on minimum wage, you have some explaining to do.
Q: Is there a mantra, or any words that you live by?
“Everything is everything. What is meant to be, will be.”
Q: What is the most important tool for you in your practice?
I used to think that critical-thinking was my most important tool because I came to so many realizations by deeply questioning things I had previously taken for granted. But now, I’ve realized that self-care is the most important tool for my existence on this earth. It was only when I really dedicated my time to taking care of myself that I was able to begin connecting deeper with others. Taking care of your body, mind and soul is a full-time job that requires so much more time that we can often give it.
Q: How has the pandemic and sub-sequential physical distancing measures affected you? Where do you find support?
In many ways its actually helped a lot. I would consider myself to be a homebody. I thrive when I’m able to take care of my home, myself and my people. Just being able to prepare a home-cooked meal without feeling rushed is priceless. It’s really made me think about how exploitative full-time workloads can be.
It’s also made me realized how much support I have, I’m so lucky. I feel like my family keeps growing and growing and I wish I could dedicate all my time to fostering these relationships.
Q: What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on two projects, both with my partner-in-crime, Demian Diaz. The first is a collection of songs that we’ve been working on, touching on the topics I mentioned before. The second is an online role-playing game for creatives that will combine elements of astrology and tarot amongst other things.
Q: As an artist, what do you seek from the creative community?
What I look for in a creative community is to feel cared for, to be welcomed with open arms. If we are looking to foster real community, we need to expect that people are going to look to us for help. We should be providing access to support and resources that procure the holistic well-being of creatives, by taking into consideration mind, body and soul. The community should focus on building partnerships with local mental health supports, encouraging more physical activity and bodily expression, inviting healers and spiritual leaders from different backgrounds to engage and teach us. We need to create these networks to fully support the well being of all members of our communities.