Art Pick! 5 Questions for Artist, Shaunte Gates

Art Pick! 5 Questions for Artist, Shaunte Gates

Shaunté Gates is a graduate of the Duke Ellington School for the Arts, Bowie State University and the University of the District of Columbia.  He has shown his work across the country and has been represented by several galleries across the East Coast. His artwork has dotted the landscape of the visual art community in DC quietly in the last five to seven years.  But increasingly, this soft-spoken talented DC native has been making major moves and garnering attention not only in Washington, DC but  across the country.  Most recently, he was featured as part of a New York City gallery’s offerings at a satellite art fair during Art Miami Basel, some of which he shared recently at a panel presentation presented by Catalyst Projects at the Hive in Anacostia.  He is also one of several millennial-aged visual artists make up of a collective called Delusions of Grandeur, whose current exhibition “NO STRINGS ATTACHED(closing February 23, 2013) at the 39th Street Gallery located at Brentwood, Maryland, received attention from The Washington Post.

T Miller Gallery in Baltimore, Maryland had this to say about his work:

Shaunté Gates’ amazing  ability to manifest his inner most thoughts and past memories with his artwork  is uncanny. Combining “the present” with reflections of his own past  experiences to express his constant progression; Gates’ breathes life into his  subjects. His signature style of infusing strong artwork with various pieces of  influential print media, such as various magazines, photos, etc., has become a  fan favorite, providing a testament that Gates’ has successfully mastered this  method of composing collages with his strong and confident brushwork. Every  piece in Shaunté’s collection has a  story, which is either relevant to his own life or the lives of others, which,  in turn, gives the admirer a since of intimacy and a chance to delve into the  mind of this magnificent painter.


“Bullseye” mixed media art by Shaunte Gates

I recently interviewed Shaunté about his thoughts regarding his journey as an artist, his inspirations and his role as an artist.

Sharon Burton: When was the moment that you knew inside that you were an artist?

Shaunté Graves: I must have been around 3 years old when I remember staring at this small painting of Stevie Wonder that my aunt had painted hanging on a wall in the house. I was totally captivated by the piece to the point where I remember exactly how it looked hanging unframed on that blue wall. I needed to learn how to create that.

That”‘s my first memory not only as an artist but just being visually stimulated. When I was around 7 years old, my uncle asked me that question, “What I wanted to be when I grow up?” I responded with the obvious: I want to be an artist, which is the reason I believe he asked me the question. “Artists don’t really make money,” he said. “How about an architect or something along those lines where your craft is respected and rewarded?” As much as I wanted to agree, I accepted his view as a challenge. I knew then in my heart I was an artist. From that point, when the question would come up, mainly in school I would just say that I wanted to be an architect to divert people from trying to convince me otherwise.

SB: What inspires you to create ? How does that inspiration show up in your artwork? 

SG: I’m inspired by everything. Even though that’s the broadest answer, that’s pretty much what it is. I enjoy the dichotomies of everyday life: the pain and joy, dreams and realities, life and death. I find myself more inclined to create when I’m faced with a situation that puts me in a state of concern or despair. My concerns are usually stimulated by systems that I notice that are placed in societies that suppress creativity and spirituality; the monetary, political and religious systems that divide people and perpetuate war..on all levels.

My work illustrates collisions of reality and fantasy, presenting the viewer with surreal scenes. Within these scenes I present the ramifications of the influences possessed by a myriad of political, monetary and religious structures on society as a whole and individually – what I call “psychological genocide”. The implementation of fear is the main weapon and that is where I focus. Most of the figures – depictions of marionettes/puppets – and the scenes in my pieces are realistically rendered by collaging archival prints and acrylic paint (occasionally glass and string to represent obstruction and control) typically on linen and wood.

SB: How would you describe your collectors?

SG: I’d say true admirers of my work. I think in some cases collectors purchase work with a prudent approach, in hopes they hit the “jackpot” on an emerging artist or as an investment in a well established artist. Then you have those that collect work simply for the connection they have with the art- they just need it. I’d like to think my collectors have purchased my work for all of the aforementioned reasons. With that said, any of my collectors that I’ve dealt with personally have had a genuine connection with the work they’d purchased. I’ve seen some cry, laugh, even cringe.

SB: As an emerging artist, do you find it easier or harder to be recognized for your work?

SG: I feel like it has been easier. I think I’ve gotten ample recognition, being as though I’ve sold more than 80 pieces of work over the past 7 years. However, I’d prefer my work to be recognized on larger platform over being sold: art is much more significant than just being a source of income. I’m sure I’ll always feel as if I’m an emerging artist even with highest level of recognition.

SB: Finish this sentence:  As an artist, I feel that it is my responsibility to______

SG: As an artist, I feel that it is my responsibility to create from a place of extreme freedom of thought, without allowing societies to inhibit how imaginative I can be with my work. Besides, we as artists owe societies the ability to stretch the imagination to new heights.

Art if it is truthful
Must also reflect decay.
and unless it wants to
break Faith
with it’s social function
Art must show the world
as changeable
and help to change it.

-Ernst Fischer

Sharon Burton keeps her finger on the pulse of D.C.’s visual arts scene and runs The Artinista Art Advisory a savvy boutique, woman-owned, art consultancy specializing in providing services to professional women looking to build and maintain contemporary art collections by emerging and mid-career artists. Got a LSP Pick!? Contact Sharon here.

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