Gabe Langholtz is an abstract expressionist artist who resides in Austin, Texas. I met him online www.gabelangholtz.com several years ago and own several of his paintings which I love. We lost touch, but recently reconnected and I’m glad we did. Here’s our chat.
MICHAEL: Hey Gabe! As of this time, you're returning to painting after a five year sabbatical. What happened?
GABE: I'd hit a dry spell with my art. At the same time, I was making a career change. So I just sort of walked away from it all, never expecting to come back to it. I was done with it.
MICHAEL: As a writer, I certainly understand dry spells. Why did you return to painting? What brought you back?
GABE: Five years after the fact, people were still asking me about my art, which made me think about it too, I guess. I don't think I realized the impression I was leaving on people before then. And I suppose I'd spent enough time away from it that I'd let go of all the associated frustrations. It felt new again. And of course, getting back in touch with you, Mike. That had a lot to do with it, because you got me talking about art again. No one else had been able to do that.
MICHAEL: Wow, I love that. Cool! I must say that your work strikes me as being representational yet abstract, not quite cubist, but with a somewhat quirky twist. How do you describe your work?
GABE: I try not to think about that too much. I don’t like getting hung up on descriptions and definitions because my art (and this probably goes for most artists) is always evolving. It’s obviously abstract because that is the extent of my abilities at this point. Fortunately for me, that also happens to be the type of art I find most interesting so I’m quite content with my limitations as an artist. I often hear my work described as “representational” and I suppose I agree with that to some extent. However, I personally think that description is too finite. The term “representational” is not representative of my entire body of work so I try to avoid categorizing my art in that way when I can. I’d prefer not to paint myself into a corner, so to speak.
MICHAEL: I understand. Still, most people might say that they "accept" their limitations, but not that they're "content" with them as you say. I accept my limitations, but I hate the fact that I have them. Isn't this what art is all about? Helping us transcend limitations?
GABE: I don’t think you can transcend limitations generally speaking. Limitations will always exist. To me, that’s a wonderful thing because without them, the challenge and reward of producing a great work would be significantly reduced. “Content” is more accurate about how I feel about my abilities as an artist. I think “accept” makes it sound like I’m able to tolerate where I am without being happy about it, but that’s not accurate. I’m happy with my abilities because I can produce something that I see value in ... something that as a collector, I might consider purchasing. That’s a comfortable place to be as an artist.
MICHAEL: Do you come from an artistic family? When did you become aware of your talent?
GABE: My mom is very artistic. Truthfully, she could probably paint circles around me, but we're coming from different places artistically, so I don't like to compare. Although I still do at times, and she's clearly the better painter. I didn't start painting seriously until I after I had children. It wasn't anything I remember wanting to do specifically. I suppose I was looking for some form of creative outlet. Before art, my passion was music. But that lifestyle wasn't family friendly, so after 12 years of music, I gave up the ghost. Painting was far less complicated, yet equally rewarding. And it could be done in the company of friends and neighbors, which is how I got my start. Every night I was (unofficially) hosting painting parties in my garage. None of us were artists, but all of us were painting, drinking, and hanging out enjoying each others' company. In the midst of it all, I'd discovered that I might actually have some talent. My first sales were made via those painting parties. Those were incredible times.
MICHAEL: Painting parties? Wow, that sounds like great fun. It sort of deflates the whole stereotype of the anguished artist toiling in solitude. So many people perceive art as this elitist, snobbish thing, but it sounds like you were making art more accessible.
GABE: Art isn't elitist or snobbish. Those are human traits. I don't necessarily understand it, but I can imagine it's a pretty lonely place to be. I prefer to share my experiences, whatever they may be. That isn't to say I haven't toiled in isolation. I've done that too. It's closer to where I'm at these days, but that's a matter of circumstance, not choice. Nothing lasts forever. Evolution is persistent in art and in life.
MICHAEL: I think it's very cool that you say art isn't inherently elitist ... that that's something people create. I couldn't agree more. On another note, if evolution is persistent in art and life, then shouldn't abstraction characterize the first part of an artist's work and figuration and representation come toward the end when we gain more insight and wisdom? It's like being a baby with unfocused vision, but as you develop and grow, you begin to focus and see clear, sharp objects.
GABE: I suppose that's one path evolution can take. However, I think evolutions are individualistic by nature. The only commonality between them is that they're composed of beginnings, middles, and ends, which are individualistic in and of themselves. Similar, but never the same. My children are living proof of that.
MICHAEL: During your actual painting process, what guides you most ... your mood/emotions or intellect?
GABE: Emotions. Although, it's not always one way or the other with me. Ideas and knowledge are hard to contain. But I've noticed that it's mostly on those occasions when I've successfully withdrawn from the intellectual aspects of the process, that I'm truly happy with the outcome. Everything else gets covered up.
MICHAEL: You know, I'm wondering ... how does a family guy even find time to paint?
GABE: You have to be resourceful. I paint with my kids. That and I live amongst my works. So the paintings, as long as they're still with me, have a sense of continuation. I also stay up too late, too often. It's the same way you would find time for anything else, I suppose. Something is sacrificed.
MICHAEL: Finally Gabe, what does your art mean to you now and what are your plans for the future?
GABE: My plans are to explore, to continue to find my way as a painter and hopefully to fully experience each step along the way. As far as my art goes, well, my art is something I can relate to. It's something that speaks to me. The better I do with it, the more I feel like I belong.
MICHAEL: Well Gabe, as you know, I love your work and I’m glad you’re back and thrilled that we’re back in touch.
Check out Gabe’s website at www.gabelangholtz.com