Sean Paul Gallegos, Weapon of Mass Consumption: AK-47, 2012, Nike Air Force 1 sneakers, laces, thread

Visual AIDS artist member Sean Paul Gallegos is a busy man. He recently completed the Artist in the Marketplace (AIM) program, which includes work being featured in "Bronx Calling" exhibition at the Bronx Museum, and he has two pieces in the Cue Art foundation’s exhibition "Goddess Clap Back: Hip-Hop Feminism in Art". Amid all the action, Gallegos had time to answer a few questions about the AIM program, his creative practice and how he views people seeing his work.

Visual AIDS: You are part of the second AIM Biennial at the Bronx Museum. Can you tell me about your work in the exhibition?


The work in the second AIM Biennial is second in a series called "The EthnoCulutral Portrait Series". It is a triptych comprising of two photographs and a sculpture. The photographs are a 6.5" x 8" in. tintype and 24" x 36" in. cotton rag photo. The sculptural icons are created from discarded materials. I research the pose and backdrops from turn of the century ethnographers such as Edward Curtis recreating his staged photographs of Native American culture.

First I create the sculpture, then I paint the backdrops and costumes around them. Next are the self-portrait test shots. From there I transport the backdrop, sculpture and costume to Louis Riso's studio in New Rochelle for the tintype and medium format photographs. The photographs are comparative in nature. Shedding light on the questions of what we see and what is created by the camera and medium. This series is in response to my identity and the questioning of it.

Visual AIDS: What it was like to be in the AIM program? What did you learn from AIM that you could share with other artists?

The AIM program was, as any experience, two-fold. There was a take away from every class and it has enhanced my career already. I was one of a handful of participants with no MFA, which took me awhile to prove that I was supposed to be there. Some courses were highly academic and others had practical gallery knowledge. I am grateful to have been chosen.

The experience to have dialogue and feedback from other artist working hard was amazing. The artist in my group of 13 all have the drive to want something more from their career and are doing multiple jobs in the art field while still creating their own work.

AIM made me tell and ask myself all these things:
 When does your art become your job? 
Make a choice and work harder than you ever imagined. 
Become the web and graphic designers, social media marketers, sales people, on top of being the artist.
How bad do want to be doing what you love?

Visual AIDS: Your piece Weapons of Mass Consumption is part of the exhibition Goddess Clap Back: Hip-Hop in Art curated by Katie Cercone at the CUE ART Foundation. In the curator’s essay your work is introduced right after this sentence: “Hip Hop is ancestor worship of an incipient warrior culture within an eroding white patriarchal capitalist milieu that disrespects women out of fear and awe. Enter Sean Paul Gallegos's Weapons of Mass Consumption (2012)." How does it feel to have your work contextualized in such an interesting way?

I have to admit I had not yet read this....I tend to let people make their own opinions about my work. I have mine and if I have done my job then they will have theirs. It is amazing though how concepts or theologies can overlap. 
For me these pieces are about bullying on the block, gender stereotypes and how much of a weak, scared person it takes to use a gun. Be a man, be a warrior.

Visual AIDS: In your work you deal with consumer culture, ideas of worship, and ancestry. I wonder if one could also see ideas and issues around HIV and health in your work as well. Is HIV something that is an explicit part of your work and your process?

Not at all, it is part of who I am, not the singular label. I see HIV from the population control point of view. A weapon created by the elite. It is a way to distract me from my purpose in this lifetime.

Visual AIDS: Is there a relationship between your sculptures, prints and performance work?

All of the work at this point has a performative quality whether it is the ritual of creating, the practice of using the object or being photographed or performing in it.

Visual AIDS: An important theme throughout your work is deconstruction. If you were able to deconstruct one thing to improve the world, what would it be?

Fear- I would deconstruct it into love and insecurity. Process the insecurity by creating pride and temper it with love. "Sanctifying the discarded through transformation" this is how I like to refer to my work as of late.

To learn more about Sean Paul and his work, visit: www.seanpaulgallegos.com


Sean Paul Gallegos