The Museum of Fine Arts held a solo show of Gonzalo's work as part of the Traveling Fellows program in 2015. Follow Gonzalo and his work at gonzalofuenmayor.com.
Sample Work: Carmen Leda and Genesis III
Tell us about your current job. What's a day like for you?
Everyday is a constant juggle between family and studio time. I have a five and a three year old, so time management is always a challenge since both are very important; I usually work between 6-8 hours a day at the studio, and the rest of the day I try to be with my family.
You were awarded an SMFA Traveling Fellowship in 2013 and selected for a show at the Museum of Fine Arts—tell us about your upcoming solo presentation.
The generous support of the Traveling Fellowship provided the unique opportunity to travel to Leticia, Colombia located in the epicenter of the Amazon. I was able to navigate along the mystic Amazon River, and gain a better understanding of the jungle, its people and cultures. My show, "Tropical Mythologies," showcased large scale charcoal drawings as well as photography. My current work questions cultural specificity by intersecting extravagant and decadent 18th century imagery together with exuberant tropical landscapes. By subordinating the contradictory into a delicate and imaginative order, my intention was to explore the meaning of place and belonging from my point of view as a Latin artist living in the United States.
What are some of your recent projects?
First and foremost, these past years have been creatively very exciting. The show at the MFA opened up many possibilities which I am now working on at the studio. At the moment I am making a new series of large scale charcoal drawings and flirting somewhat with abstraction. I am also developing a new series of photographs, and hopefully will be finishing up a video by the end of the year...
Professionally I had the pleasure of creating a series of murals at the new Hotel Faena in Miami Beach. Along with the two murals, a limited edition of prints and photographs were also commissioned for the Hotel rooms. It has been a unique experience, which has expanded the scope and reach of the work. Besides this amazing project, I am happy to be part of several group shows, such as "At Home in the World" at 516 Arts, Albuquerque, NM and "Food Nostalgia" at Radiator Gallery in Long Island City, NY. I am also very excited about two upcoming group shows: "Displacement" at Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College, Winter Park, FL and "Another Better World" at the Bascom Center for the Visual Arts, Highlands, North Carolina.
Thinking back on your experience at SMFA, what was your focus as a student? Were there any faculty members who were particularly influential?
As a grad student at SMFA I focused primarily on painting, but flirted with drawing, printmaking and video. I look back and remember it as a time of intense experimentation and dialogue between mediums.
I value the friends made at SMFA: I am eternally grateful to classmates and faculty, which influenced me and my practice in so many unexpected ways. I remember thought-provoking conversations with Jane Hudson, Sandi Slone, Ann Craven, Diane O'Donoghue, Julie Graham, Mary Ellen Strom, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, and Adriana Zavala.
I am still very close to many of my SMFA classmates as well, and although we may be living in different cities, there still persists a friendly and supportive network.
How did your experience at SMFA influence you professionally?
SMFA is a unique school. The philosophy and structure of the MFA program fostered discipline, self-motivation and perseverance. It also helped spark an intellectual curiosity, by offering the flexibility to explore diverse disciplines. I believe such an environment provided a smooth transition into real life after school. I matured as an artist and person by experiencing a different approach to learning; somehow you were motivated to think about what one needed to learn (why, what?), instead of following a preset curriculum.
What advice would you give to graduating students on transitioning to the professional world?
I don't have any particular set of handy tips; nevertheless, patience and hard work have been vital for me: patience—to overcome the hardship, the rejections, the difficulties, the closed doors—and hard work, which is the only way to make sense of all the challenges ahead.
What is ahead for you?
After the Museum of Fine Arts show last spring, I've been working on two upcoming solo exhibitions for Fall 2016, I will be having my second solo show at Dolby Chadwick Gallery in San Francisco in September, as well as my first solo show at Galería El Museo in Bogota, Colombia in October. I am very grateful to have these two opportunities to challenge myself and show new work.