Milwaukee Talks: Gabe Lanza

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JM: What do you think about working in Milwaukee? Does the location influence you?

GL: I use to hate living here. There wasn't a single thing that inspired me and I felt that there was no future as an artist in Milwaukee. Many artists felt the same way. I couldn't find a single gallery that had work I liked so there were no galleries to take my work to. Even my illustration career was suffering.

When I lived in New York I was offered tons of work but when I tried here half the companies didn't even know what I was taking about. That really brings a person down, especially when you just spent a shit load of money on an education and you don't know what to do with it.

I think Milwaukee has changed a great deal in the last year or two. A great deal of non-commercial galleries have opened up and the ones that have been here for years are increasing in popularity. Many supporting organizations such as VAM!, are helping to increase public support and funding from the state. Not to mention what the Calavatra has done or the Wisconsin Arts Board which somehow finds more and more money to give to artists. It's just great. A lot of opportunities are popping up and the number of people who want to be a part of it is overwhelming.

When I first thought of doing Rust Spot it started out as just me and a couple of people wanting to show some work. I could never have imagined what it has become. Even with this last show I did, I was afraid that the TENANT show might be to far for the art crowd to make their rounds. Instead there was a huge crowd and a great deal of supporters. It was unbelievable; I don't think that these kinds of things could have happened five years ago.

OMC: What do you consider was your most successful project and why?

GL: I would have to say the TENANT: Art Inhabitant show. I was just so overwhelmed by its turnout. I couldn't have asked for a better time. All of the artists worked very hard and (it) showed. The space was unbelievable and the crowds of people were even more impressive.

I wanted to achieve more that just a pit stop on the Gallery Night tour. Like I said before, I was very afraid that since it was located so far from the Third Ward, that no one would want to make the trip. However, the crowds kept coming and staying, and everyone who came to the show came out there just for the show. It wasn't just a pit stop on to the next place because there was nothing nearby. No one was just poking their head in and then leaving, which was good.

OMC: What are your future plans, exhibitions, etc.?

GL: I am lying low right now and most likely will until spring. I get pretty wiped out mentally, physically and financially after putting shows together. I will continue to paint all winter, focusing on the figurative/character style. Along with snowboarding. I'm thinking about starting a children's book and seeing what happens with that. As far as organizing exhibitions, there are plans for something in spring but that's still hush-hush.

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