The politics of my work is in a constant flux. Maybe this is because my own identity is in a constant flux or maybe it is because the rapid movement of information today keeps one in a constant state of questioning. My primary investigation for the last several years has gyrated between decolonizing and feminizing the aesthetics of 60s–70s land art / earth works. As much as I appreciate the mythological imprint of works such as Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson or Michael Heizer’s Double Negative, I could not let go of the fact that there was something missing. They were talking about big, open, free, desolate, absent of people, geological locations, but what about the land that Spiral Jetty sat on. Who occupied that land first? Had that land been “empty” in the past? The myth building of these artists required no such acknowledgement. This is what the indigenous individual inside of me had to say. How could someone make land art but leave it free of the history of the people who occupied that land to begin with. I can trace my blood through photocopied tribal cards and family trees. I am Prio / Manso / Tiwa, a collage of colonization. Ideally, my work is displayed in a domesticated space, leaving some objects only one or two steps away from their original home. An awkward stance where the objects now dominate the space, they take it over and render it unusable based off its original use. Something happens in this exchange from domesticated object to art object. A near complete separation at its handoff from home to gallery. In the gallery, my objects are a medium to be used in the field of minimalism. When they are at home, they may be paper weights, door stops, blankets for a guest, fire pits, art, ash trays, green houses, furniture, and so on. When they are in a gallery, they are being exhibited. They are an object used to perform the roles of minimalism. Decisions are made on their structure, color, weight, reflexivity, mass, and how those various qualities interact with each other.
- Aaron Flint Jamison, Chair (Photo/Media)
- Rebecca Cummins (Photo/Media)
- Ellen Garvens (Photo/Media)
Read the interview of Stefan Leandro Gonzales by Naz Cuguoğlu.
What do the stones want? // In response to Stefan Gonzales’s practice
On a seemingly ordinary day in 2014, Stefan Gonzales spots a new lot being built in North Ballard, Seattle, WA. Its temporary driveway constructed of quarry stones seems attractive, sensual, burning with desire. In a timeframe that feels like a millisecond, Gonzales decides to steal six, five-gallon buckets of those stones. Why this driveway? Why not? “I was stoned, the music was right, and it looked like the right driveway,” Gonzales responds. They leave the site of crime in a rush — at least I imagine so — and never look back.
What makes an act, any act, a crime? Can we consider Thelma & Louise as delinquents? Or were they rather getting what was theirs in the first place? Justice is a complicated, historically-loaded word — one that does not necessarily get granted to those who deserve it. It gets even more complicated as the word “possession” enters the scene. What does it mean to own something? Who gives that right to whom? Who gets often excluded from this equation?
Gonzales’s practice lingers in this delicate space of tension. The artist questions the aesthetics of the 60s-70s land art / earthworks. In their archival images, the land lies helpless, decorated according to subjective decisions — with no right of its own, whatsoever. The artists of these land works seem more like cowboys or conquerors on a mission. Breaking the land into its bits and pieces, somehow uninterested in its history and habitants, they reorganize as they see fit, and never look back.
As an indigenous and nonbinary individual, Gonzales is aware of the conflicts of making land one’s own. The artist moves those two hundred and fifty quarry stones from that driveway to create sculptures, photographs, archives, and installations with them. These stones become members of a family, coming together on special occasions, getting separated at the end of a tiring day, taking breaks within the comfort of Gonzales’s home, as they hold their roles as door stops, paper holders, weights, or a firepit. Performed by the artist, they form close relations with the body. Recycled and repurposed, they build the narrative of their stories themselves, moderated by Gonzales. This dialogue requires love, care, intimacy, and an acknowledgment of one’s vulnerabilities. It is about taking less time in space and time, being mindful, asking: What do the stones want?
Gonzales never loses interest in the soil from which these stones come from. Each stone’s layers and cracks carved under their skins hold their history. Interestingly, a standard stone from the beach can be easily moved from one country to the other in a suitcase, whereas archeological fossils are kept behind polished museum vitrines. What makes it different? Whom do the stones of the earth belong to?
Inescapably, the archive of these stones built by the artist is one of disobedience. It is perverse in its way of formation, queered by the artist. What is personal makes it also emotional — characteristics that are not necessarily favored by the Western way of thinking. Built to fail eventually, according to what is regarded as normal standards, these are printed on non-archival paper or exist in a cloud, which is far away from being stable on a good day. What the audience is left with is an anti-archive, that is in-flux, protesting against its own assigned mission.
– Naz Cuguoğlu
- Stefan Leandro Gonzales: Resource Monuments, THE MOUNT ANALOGUE, Seattle WA, 2019
- While Supplies Last, Capitol Hill Art Walk, Seattle, WA, 2018
- CoCA G8 REDUX, Seattle, WA, 2016
- CoCA Gener8, Seattle, WA, 2016
- Artists Are In Tens (solo installation), The Closet Gallery, Seattle, WA, 2015
- Six Sounds, Jack Straw New Media Gallery, Seattle WA, 2015
- 360deg North (solo installation), The Closet Gallery, Seattle, WA, 2015
- While You Wake-Before You Sleep, Wheel-House Coffee, Seattle, WA
- Wide Open Studios, Signal Fire Arts, Portland OR, 2015
- CoCA Gener8 Artist Studio Space, May-July, Seattle WA, 2016
- Master of Fine Arts, University of Washington, 2020
- Bachelor of Fine Arts, Cornish College of the Arts, 2016