Born to a German American father from Nebraska and mother from Los Mochis Sinaloa, Mexico, the works of Charles Glaubitz reflect the cultural influences of his parentage as well as the two cities he lives in (San Diego and Tijuana). I speak to Charles to better understand his art and the common theme of social commentaries that run through his work; juxtaposing child-like figures in bright colours, with the darker messages they deliver.
Finally, Charles Glaubitz believes that the secret to living life is “do everything you do in life for the righteous cause, or love”.
Pixelsurgeon: Could you tell us a little about how you began your craft and turned this art into yourprofession?
CG: I began at a early age like every child, colouring colour books and playing with crayons. I started drawing Star Wars pictures with crayons at the age of three or four. I had a voracious appetite for books and tried my hands at drawing comics. You can say that all the money my parents spent on my comics went to really good use because it was like my first lesson in art. After being expelled from a couple of high schools in Mexico at the age of 17, I worked odd jobs until I got tired of it at the age of 21 and went back to school in San Diego California to study graphic design.
At this time, I still lived in Mexico in a town named Rosarito Beach. I commuted from one country to another; it took me two hours to get there and another two hours to get back. I commuted by various means of public transportation; taxi, bus, walking, and trolleying back and forth for three and a half years.
After a short stint at a graphic design studio I decided to go back to school to study illustration at California College of Arts and Crafts in San Francisco. I was fortunate enough that the people at the design studio “VisualAsylum”, supported me by giving a job whenever I was on vacation to save money for college. After I graduated I went down to Tijuana, Mexico for a short vacation, fell in love with the country and never returned to the US or back to the Graphic design studio.
Pixelsurgeon: Your works have very strong social messages, either as a commentary or critique. What are your views on Capitalism and art today?
CG: First of all, we have to understand that these social messages I try to convey in my work are heavily influenced metaphorically on observation of what happens here in Tijuana. I perceive Tijuana as the closest city to the third world that is completely influenced by capitalism and American culture. It is a city with an identity of its phenomena, it is a city where all citizens are here for one reason and that is the proximity to the US and the economics benefits that they can obtain from that.
I look for a form of activism in my art and try to question the dominating culture of consumption of the capitalistic system and all of the derivatives like la maquila (factory, sweat shops), control, destruction of nature and third world economic slavism. To me, Capitalism has changed our humanity. Instead of being more humane and environmentally aware, more energy is focused on profits and gain by exploiting underprivileged human beings and the environment.
Art today seems to more focused on the culture that is produced by the capitalistic system. It does not seem to question it; it questions the neurosis it creates that transforms itself into culture. But it does not attack it directly or clearly denounces it.
Pixelsurgeon: There is a recurrent motif of the child in zebra costume. Is that a reflection of yourself as the protagonist in the narrative?
CG: In a way it is a reflection of myself, but not entirely. The protagonist “Niño Burro” donkey boy is a hybrid of necessity and creativity. In Tijuana, Revolution Avenue is the most visited place for tourism and there a dozen or so white donkeys painted with black zebra stripes, with Mexican paraphernalia: sombreros, zarapes, Mexican motifs. Tourists have their photographs taken on these donkeys, the donkeys represent the hybridity that occurs here in Mexico. For example these donkeys back in the 1920s were used for tourist photos, but since they are white and they use black and white photography they were hard to show in the photos; so somebody came up with the idea of painting black stripes on them so they can reproduce better on the photographs. This is an example of poverty or the need to survive combined with absurd creativity that generates a new way to see the world.
Combine this powerful and interesting concept with that of a child who grew up on the streets and in poverty whose name represents the ability to make mistakes but also the ability to learn from them, I think Buckmeister Fuller, the great Canadian architect and philosopher, said, “human beings learn by making mistakes”. Which is something our capitalistic society neglects to do! We overlook the importance to learn from our vast historical mistakes from the past 10,000 years. Capitalism makes us deny the past and embrace the future but without change only conformity.
Pixelsurgeon: What inspires you? A particular artist/writer/thinker or school of thought?
CG: The major influences in my work come from the great Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco. These men at their time where not afraid to create art about revolution, domination, conquest and the horrors of war, and the realities of living in those times. I read and use adbusters as a source as well as other publications such as Guerrilla News Network, notinourname.net, Noam Chomsky, Micheal Moore, Goya. I am specifically inspired by Hiyao Miyazaki’s animated stories that always portray a conflict between nature and technology. Joseph Campbell’s work on cultural mythologies and the hero’s journey makeme understand that my work is not really new in context but has always existed, trying to define the worlds we have lived in. I’m constantly inspired by other artists. For example, I am inspired by The Clayton Brothers and their folkloric, crude, dreamlike depictions of American suburban life. Camille Rose Garcia’s content is extremely political and deep. It has a profound metaphorical visual story attached to it. Trenton Doyle Hancock’s work takes and combines fine arts with a comic book narrative; Barry Mcgee work is ephemeral and real, Kara Walker is a narrative as well as educational of our historical past. Yoshitomo Nara’s work is full of childlike punk resistance and Takashi Murakami’s work portrays the collision of two different worlds to generate a new one.
Pixelsurgeon: Is there a particular reaction you aim to provoke in the audience with the surreal childlike figures in bright colours juxtaposed against darker tones and a sometimes morbid message?
CG: I try to invite the audience to see what they feel about what they are seeing, to question what is given to them as art or as a message. To provoke a reflection or response, and have them close the circle of the message.
Pixelsurgeon: Are you a graphic designer by profession or have you gone full time into the craft of Art?
CG: Well, at this time I am blessed that I am almost making my living by selling my art, a little of it is commercial work doing illustration jobs, another part is that I teach Illustration at San Diego City College and the rest of the time is spent selling gallery and commissioned work. I have left the graphic design scene a long time ago.
Pixelsurgeon: Do you believe that good art can be commercial at the same time?
CG: Yes and No! If we look at Takashi Murakami or Yoshitomo Nara they make their living from gallery work, but they also have created a niche in the culture by generating an assortment of commercial goods based on their art, shirts, books, toys, sculptures, etc. Comic books are art and are fully commercial, Art Spiegelman’s Maus for example comes to mind. And no! Not unless say the system of consumption is hiring artists that create social and political art to do their next ad campaign.
Pixelsurgeon: Do you like music? Does it influence your art?
CG: Yes, I like music! It would be hard to really get into the artwork without good tunes such as Mogwai, Sigur Ros, Pink Floyd, Tommy Guerrero, DJ Spooky, Stereolab, Sparklehorse, Sex Pistols, Thievery Corporation, Soda Stereo, Tricky, Terrestre, Lila Downs, The Weakerthans, Trizteza, Miles Davis, Coltrane and Charlie Parker.
Interview for Pixelsurgeon here.
Charles Glaubitz’s site.