Zach Gibson: New York State of Mind

By Zach Gibson

zach

I had never been to New York City before, and this trip with my fellow AAC students and faculty would be the furthest that I had ever taken from my home town. Before the trip, I was pretty excited and anxious because I wasn’t confident that the trip would allow me enough time to see all the exhibits that I wanted to see. I thought that I would get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the city, that my time would be consumed by the sights of the city…in retrospect, the New York City trip exceeded my expectations.

Seeing Haring’s studio was life changing, and, by far, an experience that I will never forget. The walls had his paintings bled into them, and I was able to see his thick paint splatters on the floor. I was so excited to be able to touch the dried paint that was his. I also saw “The Symbol Source Book” that he used for reference, and realized that I can use this book as a tool for my art. Haring is totally a derivative of symbol and I use symbols in my art – I freaked out.

Afterwards, I went and found one of Haring’s murals in the gay community center; it was a huge mural that went around the top of the men’s room. The bathroom had been gutted and the mural had been preserved – it was straight out of the 1990’s. It was incredible to see Haring’s work, follow in his footsteps, and spend time in a place where he had spent a lot of time. Then, I went to the Whitney and saw a 1980’s exhibit featuring Haring, Basquiat, and Scharf. This exhibit was really awesome, and I kept going back to look at it.

Most of what I learned from this trip happened while I was following, in vain, the 1980′s artists, hunting down the places that still existed in the city where they had spent most of their time. I cried wherever I went – I had so many feelings – I even cried my eyes out in the busiest Starbucks in the middle of Time Square after seeing Haring’s studio. It was incredibly liberating. Seeing where these artists spent their time gave me the inspiration to be true to myself, and to not be afraid to express whatever I am, as hard as I can, in as much art as I can.

I have never believed in myself so much until I learned from the direct evidence of these artists. Learning to be myself really reconnected me to my inner child; it was so freeing and I felt completely innocent and pure – like a big kid with a paintbrush in NYC, like an art machine.

On the bus home I wrote this: “I’ve learned how important it is to believe in yourself. Some might say you can blindly believe in anything and run yourself into the ground, but that shouldn’t be something you’re afraid of. If you find what you really truly want, what is absolutely tied to your soul, the ONLY option you have is to believe in yourself. To believe in your dream for this life, harder than anything you’ve ever put faith into. Of course believing in what you want will lead to hardships and disappointments. CHERISH THEM. You won’t achieve anything until you’ve failed first or failed hundreds of times for that matter. How could anything ever get accomplished if you don’t try? You can’t try if you don’t believe in it. Love and believe in yourself like your life depends on it – because it always has and always will.”

On my first day back from the NYC trip, I finished two and a half paintings. I joined the library to start reading (I had never been to the library before). I made the decision to sell almost all of my video games. I turned my apartment into a locker – I am no longer using my free time for anything that isn’t productive. I haven’t slowed down. I found a camera and ordered film (I’ve always been the least photographically inclined person) and I went out and bought a big bag of chalk. I’m opening myself up to every medium that I possibly can.

Now, I’m trying to make as many different kinds of art as I possibly can. It’s almost like a race, to make more art than anyone. And, I’ve been incredibly more positive since I’ve come back from NYC – I have better posture now, I smile everywhere I go, and I’ve been engaging to strangers. I’ve even been dancing and skipping around since my return and I am far more energetic. Essentially, I’m a little kid again.