I was born in post-revolutionary Cuba in 1987 and educated in an academic setting heavily governed by the Russian Academy. This frame of reference is evident in all of my work. To deny my experiences, perceptions and the impact of history would be disregarding my own existence. These influences are the lens through which I create and the motivation that propels me.
Cuban history has guided me in a variety of ways. On the one hand, it allows me to rethink the way storytelling is part of our memories. On the other, it allows me to question the accuracy of history and its telling. This conflict absorbed me during my early years and continues to engage me as I complete my artistic education. Currently, this near-obsession with the past translates into figures, scenarios, and most importantly, the recreation of my own stories.
In Cuba, I was exposed to figurative arts by the presence of the Russian Academy. This presence, as well as the censorship of contemporary art and the limited access to information, was the accepted dogma. Consequently, I understood that decontextualizing epochs and artistic symbols was the tool I could use to establish a connection between the present and the past. The resulting work provides an escape from reality and creates an illusory world. I am more fascinated in altering history than depicting it accurately.
Carlos Gamez de Francisco was born in post-revolutionary Cuba in 1987, to a Cuban- Spanish mother and a Cuban-American father. He grew up in Cuba and was educated in an academic style heavily influenced by the Russian Academy. At age five, he determined, with absolute certainty, that he would be an artist. By the time he was fifteen, Gamez de Francisco was diligently painting 8 hours a day, every day. Today, he often spends 15 hours a day painting and feels “very blessed to do what I love.”
Gamez de Francisco arrived in the United States with $650 at the age of 21 knowing no English. He spent $600 on art supplies and $50 on a pair of Cortez running shoes – “just like the ones Forrest Gump wore to run across the United States.” He committed himself to learn 100 English words every day, studying diligently, working, and painting at night. For the first five months, he lived in America without sleep. His exceptional talent, hard work, and perseverance led him to earn artistic commissions and recognition.
Gamez de Francisco paints and photographs very passionately, making statements filled with symbolism. He frequently includes insects in his artwork. He says: Flying
insects represent FREEDOM; Falling insects represent CHAOS; When they are lying down, they represent BALANCE.
His classical training was based on portraits and history, paintings that Royalty and the very wealthy upper class would commission. Garments were exquisite, surroundings emanating wealth. But Carlos felt that “Everybody has the right to be in the portrait” and he embarked on a series where everyday people were featured with ‘found’ objects in their home, like lace doilies, curtains, plastic bags, and kitchen towels, draped and adorned in such a way they appeared ‘royal’.
His paintings of furniture tend to be over-decorated, a nod perhaps, to that of the wealthy, but maybe more as a result of a childhood memory. In Cuba, his mother saved for two years to purchase a new sofa. It was such a sign of achievement for her that it was kept in plastic and no one was allowed to sit on it. He learned to admire it from a distance as if he were in a museum.
After arriving in the United States, he noticed the lavish attention we devote to our pets, spoiling them and allowing them to lounge on the sofa. This led to a new series: “Keep Your Pets Off Furniture”. This series not only had dogs laying on the sofa but had horses jumping on the elaborately decorated couch. Today, Gamez de Francisco’s Afghan Hound has the run of the house, lounging wherever he likes.
Living in Kentucky, horses are a favorite theme for Gamez de Francisco. In surrealist fashion, he combines horses with the human form, centaur-like, but in reverse – the horse’s head with a human body. Or, maybe the head of a dear, a fox, a giraffe . . . and don’t be surprised if the body is that of a beautiful woman attired in silk and finery.
Gamez de Francisco’s work is exquisitely detailed, beautifully executed, and primarily – thought-provoking.
Highly awarded and exhibited, some of Carlos’ numerous awards include Honorable Mention, International Color Awards, Beverly Hills, CA (2020), Honorable Mention, (2019) Tokyo International Photo Awards, Tokyo, Japan, “Dreammakers” Artist in Residence at the Muhammad Museum, the Distinguished Scholarship from the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum Guild Purchase Award from Evansville Museum. I have had solo shows at 21c Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, and Bentonville, Arkansas, Kenise Barnes Fine Art in Larchmont, New York, Tinney Contemporary Gallery in Nashville, Tennessee, Hardcore Art Contemporary Space in Miami, Florida, The Muhammad Ali Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Colonial Museum of Fine Arts in Havana, Cuba. My work has been exhibited at Scope-Art Basel, Miami (2012), Art Palm Beach (2014), Art Southampton, New York (2015), and Context Art Miami (2016).
Carlos Gamez de Francisco knew that he wanted to emigrate from Cuba to the United States when he was 14-years-old. According to Carlos, the generation before him had moved to Cuba for opportunity, and now his generation was leaving for opportunity. After early studies in dance, at age fifteen Carlos began devoting his time to studying and perfecting his art. He would eventually find his way to the U.S. where he took the first available job in a warehouse while continuing to create art. Within months, and after learning English by repeating 100 words 11 times each day, Carlos talked his way into gallery representation, had his first solo art show and sold it out. He promptly quit his warehouse job and became a full-time artist. Carlos' determined commitment to hard work, discipline, and constant learning is an inspiration for us all.