Going to a protest soon? If you're concerned with committing a fashion faux pas by wearing the same exact gas mask as your colleagues, rest assured — Workhouse Arts Center artist Nelson Gutierrez has got you covered.
Gutierrez, a native of Colombia, has been at the Workhouse for four months, and his impressive collection of work encompasses multiple mediums, from designer gas masks and bullet-proof vests to pen-and-ink drawings of protestors around the world.
He's a graduate of the Universidad de Bogota Jorge Tadeo Lozano and received his masters from the Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. Over the past 20 years, his pieces have appeared in more than 20 shows in Colombia, England and the United States. His latest work, "The Death of Fear" and "Fashionable Emergencies" is on display at the Workhouse in building W-9.
Gutierrez and his wife, Juanita, moved to Alexandria from Miami in 2006, the same year as the birth of their daughter Sofia. Gutierrez recently sat down with Patch at his studio in building W-9 for a quick Q&A.
Patch: Why did you leave Colombia?
Gutierrez: "At the time I graduated from college, the artist scene in Colombia was vey small and it was difficult to make a living as an artist full-time. Also, it was hard to get current information on what was going on in the art world. There was no Internet, and specialized magazines and books were not always available."
Patch: And you left for London…
Gutierrez: "Yes, I went to study art on scholarship. I wanted to see my potential and meet artists operating at a high level. It was an amazing experience. I met people from all over the world and I had the chance to speak with high-level artists and have them critique and have tutorials with them. I was breathing art 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it completely changed the way I see art. I understand more deeply now what's behind the art and artists."
Patch: What's up with the designer life vest, gas masks and land mines?
Gutierrez: "I developed this work while I was in Miami. It started when I read about a company that made bullet-proof clothes with design and style, and this is a global statement. Miami is a city where the people are superficial and physical beauty is extremely important. They enjoy consumerism and they spend more than they make."
Patch: What's your favorite medium?
Gutierrez: "That's hard to tell because I love so many different mediums. I used to paint with oils and acrylic. I was more traditional, but that changed when I went to London. My only limits now are resources. I can't always have all the resources to do what I want to do. I try to be realistic when working, so I try to work with what's available."
Patch: What are you trying to say with your latest work "The Death of Fear"?
Gutierrez: "I've been interested in protestors the last few years. I followed the Egyptian revolution almost like a football match. There are riots going on everywhere in the world, and you see the images as a group, but really as individuals, and still, there are a lot of similarities in protestors. Some are drawings of protestors in Paris in 1968. The whole idea is to unify the scenes as one single revolution."
Patch: What's different today? Why do you think fear is dying?
Gutierrez: "I think people are tired of what's happening to them, the way they are living. People are not afraid of going to the streets, and they know that some of them will be sacrificed in the process. The dictatorship in Egypt, for example, was in power for 30 years, and people were afraid of standing up, but at some point they lost that fear, and I believe that it's a collective feeling that's been moving from one place to another."