A Challenge from Artist Gabriela Denise Frank

Artist Gabriela Denise Frank as a young girl. © 2015 Courtesy of the Artist
Artist Gabriela Denise Frank as a young girl. © 2015 Courtesy of the Artist

Gabriela Denise Frank, is a multi-disciplinary artist whose current work focuses on topics including identity, family, self-image and aging. She is a 2014 and 2015 4Culture Art Projects recipient and we asked her to share a bit about her latest entitled, Ugly Me.

Summer is when we loosen up, let down our hair, and in that regard, I have embraced the summer of 2015 like no other. Earlier this month, I opened a multi-media sound installation called UGLY ME at Jack Straw New Media Gallery in which I’ve let fall all pretense and propriety —no hiding behind makeup or bulky winter clothing— in the hopes of exploring the relationship between appearance and self-worth.

The idea for UGLY ME came about in 2013 (more about that here) though my struggles with self-esteem and identity began decades before. Little did I know when I proposed the installation to 4Culture and Jack Straw that my quest for self-knowledge would lead into dark and funny places, that I would draw upon the slings and arrows of childhood as much as the fashion of the 70s, 80s and 90s which, even now, influences my (ahem) modern wardrobe? Fashion photography, large-scale collage, distorted selfies and twelve original prose poems recorded at Jack Straw come together to tell a larger story about the link between a person’s insides and her outsides.

In preparing for this Friday’s artist talk, I realized how the self-image we create as kids becomes deeply entrenched in our self-understanding as adults—and why we need people throughout our lives to remind us that we’re better than we think we are. UGLY ME teaches the importance of mentorship, especially for young people, as they take creative risks and embrace the unknown landscape of growth and maturity, both as humans and artists. We need boosters equally to nurture us and push us into uncomfortable territory; their encouragement helps to light alternate pathways that we might otherwise not have dared. These artist-mentors inspire our bravery, spark our curiosity, spur our sense of adventure. They are the electrons that trigger quantum leaps that change the world.

In a time when an arts career is equated with a shaky economic future, when financial security is considered more valuable than creativity—when we feel we have to compromise a stable life for doing what we love— I would challenge everyone to act now in order to create a different future. Talk to your children about their creative interests. Encourage them to pursue untrodden roads. Rather than squash the validity of a career in the arts, let young people play and explore; if you don’t know how, then connect them with resources like 4Culture who can help them grow.

Education is training for life, not only a paycheck. Challenge the young artists in your care to define how their art is relevant to the world even if you can’t. Over time, they will be able to tell you how learning to write stories and play music influenced the ingenuity they bring to everything else. We will thank them, and you, for it later.

The goal of living isn’t perfection or innumerable wealth; it’s not about avoiding failure, either. Life is about learning and art is means of reflection on that learning, a way to understand the universe and our role in it, a means of inspiring innovation in a multitude of fields.

At its best, art makes the world a bigger and more meaningful place; it connects us to each other. For projects like UGLY ME, then, the ultimate purpose of art is transformation—often in ways that we can’t foretell at the start. Like all summertime road trips, isn’t that part of the fun?

Artist talk this Friday, July 31 at 7 pm at Jack Straw Cultural Center.

UGLY ME Installation Dates

July 10 to August 14

Jack Straw Cultural Center

4261 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105


For more information, www.gabrieladenisefrank.com and www.jackstraw.org