Interview by Julie Ann Davis, appears in AUXILIARY magazine's fall 2020 issue.
El Gato Gomez has a style all her own that harkens back to stylized Mid Century Modern artwork, sure to fire up your imagination! You may have even seen an El Gato Gomez in your travels because they can be found in the coolest of establishments. They are sure to put a smile on your face, so let’s find out more about the artist!
I'm a big fan. I think I have an El Gato Gomez in every room in my house except the kitchen because we only have one small wall... and in our basement!
You guys have been with me forever. I feel like you are family. There are people on Facebook whose faces (and sometimes asses, not yours) I see more than my own kids some days.
You have always felt like family to me too! So often times I’ll be chatting with friends and I see your artwork the next day and it’s what we were just talking about! I’ve always felt that you’re in-tune with the world and kitsch.
You are a very prolific painter with extensive knowledge of the Mid Century Modern aesthetic. What is your painting background? Do you have a fine arts degree? What attracts you to the modern art style? Are there modern or contemporary artists you admire?
I have always been enamored with Mid Century imagery. It was a time of such optimism and opportunity and that was reflected in the emerging modernist style. Everything was shiny and new and the future was full of great possibilities. Society, at that point, was making choices about who we wanted to be and doors were opening, people were changing their ideas. People were fighting for freedom from racism and gender discrimination, changing their minds about many things. Artists and designers were challenging norms and pushing boundaries. It was not exactly a time of true freedom and insight, but it was a time where it seemed like we could make the decision to be open to new ideas and make a brighter future for all of us. With jet packs!
Of course, somehow we just fucked that all up. I’m going to say the general reason would be, well...assholes. But that is where we are again, a time of great opportunity. It is reflected in our significant advances in technology that cross borders and bring us together in once unimaginable ways. This should give us the inspiration to try again for that truly amazing future for ALL of us. Definitely with jet packs and also robot dogs and all the cool Star Trek shit. We just need to figure out how to get past the assholes.
Oh! I did attend art school in Savannah in the early ‘90s but didn’t graduate and I don’t have much to say about it one way or the other. Art school is fun, and if you go you should learn how to use sponges. I missed that bit and regret it every day.
There’s a ton of amazing contemporary artists working in the retro pop style. I mean, too many to really name and they are all inspiration. Pascal Blanchet always makes me tear up a little, and the big boys, Tim Biskup, Shag, Derek Yaniger. The Disneys, Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, Joey Chou... Oh! And Genndy Tartakovsky (not a Disney guy, but a legendary animation guy). I mostly obsess over animators and illustrators that blew my mind as a little kid. Maurice Noble, Mary Blair, Eyvind Earle. I just peed a little squealing over them. There are the grown up, serious artists too. Barbara Hepworth, Stuart Davis, Joseph Mugnaini, and the guy who did all the paintings for Night Gallery. 😉
It seems like you are producing original artwork everyday. I like how it varies in theme. One day it's Universal Monsters, the next it's cat mermaids, or abstract designs or beatniks or who knows? But I always look forward to seeing them! What inspires you/ influences you? Do you have a range of how long it takes to complete a piece of art? Is your medium always paint and pencils? Your motivation is impressive.
I don’t know. It’s all a “study”. It’s all my way of taking something I love and trying to capture it somehow. It’s like to taking these little things, these subtle symbols that we all subconsciously recognize, the potato chip chair you sat in in kindergarten, the cat eye glasses your grandma wore, the “It’s Alive” moment in Frankenstein. These are things that we all share and understand and that bring comfort and a sense of camaraderie, because pop culture really is our culture. It is our language.
I think I produce paintings like a spirit medium scribbles on paper until she gets something that makes sense. I’m not really channeling anything, just pulling stuff out of my ass until something strikes a chord with my audience. Until I reach that moment it’s just pointless scribbles. I tend to just call those pieces “abstract”.
You live near the east coast, with your style being Mid Century Modern- often found in places like Palm Springs- do you ever think you'd ever move to the west coast?
I was in California one time, for a signing at WonderGround Gallery in Disneyland. I got to see just Disneyland and one like street in Burbank (one street with 2 year round Halloween stores!) and I adored every bit of it. It was wintertime and it was 70 degrees and lovely. I’d love to go back and see more and get a real feel for it.
Pittsburgh is somehow not terrible. Modernism and new and shiny are lovey, but I also like gritty and grungy and old and rusty and we have that shit for days. I’ve lived lots of places up and down the east coast, (Fuck The South, by the way) and I like it here just fine for now.
The feeling I get from your work is punk and horror but with a 1950s twist. How would YOU describe your own work? Has it changed over time? How long have you been painting?
Yeah, I think you got it. That’s a vibe I am comfortable with. Punk, horror and too much TV, maybe? The 50’s/60’s twist was probably a direct result of too much TV. I was raised by The Munsters and Maynard Krebs. My work has changed a bit over time. My technique has tightened up a bit. My personal rage has popped its head in here and there. More lately, of course. I definitely still have the punk rock rage and I hate my parents more than ever. I’ve been doing creative stuff forever, but I’ve been making a living at it since about 2008.
You sign your paintings El Gato Gomez and there's often a cat lurking in the background. Why cats? I read somewhere that you are allergic. Any chance you would get a hairless cat?
The cat thing is complicated. I think they are fascinating and lovely creatures. To me they are more symbolic of what I would like to be, than something with which I would like to share a room. They are sleek and hip and wonderful to paint. That’s why I always paint the same cat. It is more the spirit of cool than a literal animal. Gomez is the same thing. Longer story on that one...but it’s all about that vintage hipster vibe.
I am very allergic. Hairless cats are fantastic and I would love to own one, but I would never subject the poor thing to a Pittsburgh winter. I am cold all the time from September to June. If I ever do move to California, I would go out and get every one I could find. I also love hairless dogs and hairless rats, not hairless mole rats though. Those things are freakin’ terrifying! They live in colonies and have a queen and you can see the babies under her skin! I kinda wonder now if that is true of all hairless animals. Yikes!
You incorporate a lot of different music genres in your paintings in the form of album covers and band T shirts, is there a top five you find iconic? Or find more fun to paint?
Music is another complicated question for me. I tend to gravitate toward the accordion/kazoo end of the spectrum. I adore Gogol Bordello and The Dad Horse Experience. I like kooky/fun/kid/horror punk and goofy shit. A lot of songs make me cry lately Creep, Hallelujah, anything from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Tom Waits. I use a lot of more mainstream bands in my work just because people get it and like it and it’s funny. Putting a DEVO shirt on Spock or a Black Sabbath shirt on Iron Giant is something everyone can get behind. I’d like to do a Guillermo from What We Do In The Shadows with a Slayer shirt soon.
My husband is a metal head and he will listen to anything loud. I like loud too sometimes and grew up with it, so it’s familiar. I can appreciate the sentiment, especially the really dark Satanic stuff, which just tickles me to pieces. I find it hilarious. The more growls and references to dark lords and demons, the better. It’s just cartoonish. I always tend to picture the vocalist as either Jack Black or an actual monster, so it’s fun. The band names and sub genres are the best. I’ve done some pretty witchy artwork recently. So it helps to have the appropriate background noise.
Are there some notable collaborations that we should know about? I know that Disney contacted you to exhibit some work? Do you have any exciting things coming up?
I don’t work well with others. Disney was the greatest honor EVER! I cannot describe in human language how much the art and imagination of Disney has influenced me. I can’t get close enough to the screen during Sleeping Beauty. I think it nearly literally broke my eyes. The genius is overwhelming.
I have done some original art cards for Topps’ Mars Attacks revival which earned me some major cool points with my kids. I recently did some artwork for the International Cryptozoology Museum which is just the most fun thing in the world. I can boast that my work is in a museum.... THE INTERNATIONAL CRYPTOZOOLOGY MUSEUM! How cool is that? I have also done some art cards for Robert Jimenez who is a fantastic artist and designer, for a trading card series called Fearsome Weirdos. He does a lot of trading card stuff and books. He is very creative and prolific and just a really great person to work with. I have a project that has been in the works for...years. I want to do a 3D ViewMaster series with a custom viewer and possibly, a read along booklet, but I’d have to do a Kickstarter and I think it’s a bad time for that. People have more important things to do with their money right now.
You've written and illustrated a book can you tell me about it? Was it in response to something in particular? Where can it be purchased?
Well...I did write a small children’s book. It is called Birds Of All Feathers and it’s available on Amazon. It was written in response to the horror of the 2016 political situation and, unfortunately, it still stands up today. Little birds are still being shit on by the bigger birds on the higher branches.
How can people follow you and find your work?
My glorious new Big Cartel store is open! elgatogomez.bigcartel.com I have lots of prints and I post new originals every day.
Follow me on Instagram at El Gato Gomez
Or on Facebook at El Gato Gomez
Wonderful! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. If you haven’t yet, check out El Gato Gomez. I’m also going to mention that the originals and prints for sale are affordable and make great gifts for the upcoming holiday season.
p.s. A Guillermo/ Slayer combo is brilliant!