Gabriel González: From Silence to Vivid Expression

Dora Aguero
June 3, 2024

Gabriel González, currently the Vice-Minister of Culture in Panama, stands as a symbol of inspiration and resilience. Born in 1978, his journey from early childhood to becoming a prominent artist and influential cultural leader is a testament to his indomitable spirit and profound creative vision.

Early Life and Adversity

Gabriel González’s life changed dramatically at the age of three when he contracted meningitis, leading to the loss of his hearing. This sudden and profound change would shape the course of his life, pushing him to find new means of expression and communication. Despite this challenge, his early years were filled with vibrant inspiration, thanks to his father’s extensive collection of Panamanian and Latin American art.

Inspiration from a Colorful Legacy

González’s artistic journey was deeply influenced by his father’s art collection. The vibrant colors and diverse styles that adorned his home provided a constant source of inspiration. It was amidst these vivid canvases that young Gabriel found solace and motivation, igniting his passion for art. He began painting at the age of 12, and although he delayed the start of his artistic career to complete his university studies, he had his first exhibition in an art gallery at the age of 24.

Education and Early Career

Gabriel pursued his higher education at Gallaudet University, where he studied painting and interior design architecture. Artistically known as Gaboo, he developed a unique style that would later define his work. His artistic vocation was forged growing up among the paintings of Panamanian artists, and it was among these collections that Gabriel learned to love painting even before he began to study it formally.

Artistic Process and Style

Gabriel González’s work is renowned for its rich textures and dynamic color palettes, which predominantly feature blues, greens, and reds, with occasional surprising splashes of other hues. His artistic process is both meticulous and spontaneous, reminiscent of the techniques used by German artist Gerhard Richter, yet firmly rooted in the tradition of Abstract Expressionism.

Gabriel González: From Silence To Vivid Expression
Gabriel Gonzalez in his Studio
Gabriel González: From Silence To Vivid Expression
Gabriel Gonzalez working on one of his paintings

González begins his paintings by layering acrylic paint in multiple colors. Using a squeegee and various other tools, he then manipulates these layers, removing and redistributing the paint to create complex textures and intricate patterns. This method allows him to explore the interplay of colors and the emotional impact of abstract forms. He prefers to work on large canvases, often on the floor or a wall, allowing him to engage with his work from all angles.

A Distinguished Artistic Career

As a plastic artist, González has held more than a hundred solo exhibitions, primarily in Panama but also in international venues such as the Czech Republic, Italy, and Austria. His work is celebrated for its depth and emotional resonance, attracting admirers from around the globe.

A Vision for Inclusivity

Beyond his artistic achievements, Gabriel González’s role as Vice-Minister of Culture has been marked by his dedication to inclusivity. Appointed on August 19, 2019, he became the first Deaf person in the world to assume a high-responsibility government position using Sign Language. His personal experiences with disability have driven him to advocate for a more welcoming and accessible cultural environment in Panama.

Gabriel González: From Silence To Vivid Expression
Gabriel Gonzalez presiding at “The Blind Exhibition”, an exhibition curated to showcase the work of artists with visual impairment.

González has spearheaded numerous initiatives aimed at supporting artists with disabilities, ensuring that cultural institutions and events are accessible to all. His efforts have significantly contributed to raising awareness about the challenges faced by people with disabilities and promoting a culture of empathy and support.

Gabriel Gonzalez’s Passion for Culture and Advocacy

Gabriel’s commitment to culture and inclusivity extends beyond his art. He strongly believes in strengthening Panamanian identity through its gastronomy, folklore, and typical clothing. He encourages everyone to learn Panamanian Sign Language, fostering a more inclusive society. At public events, Gabriel is often seen making the famous “I Love You” sign, symbolizing his dedication to inclusivity and love for his community.

Gabriel González: From Silence To Vivid Expression
Gabriel Gonzalez doing the “I Love You Sign” next to Panamanian band ‘Los Rabanes’

His slogan, “there is no culture without inclusion,” underscores his mission to create an environment where everyone, regardless of their abilities, can participate and thrive. His work in the Ministry of Culture involves supporting, coordinating, and collaborating on various cultural initiatives, ensuring that the rich cultural heritage of Panama is accessible to all.

From his early struggles with hearing loss to his current role as a cultural leader, González has consistently used his talents and experiences to enrich the world around him. His vibrant paintings and unwavering commitment to inclusivity continue to inspire and uplift, proving that even in the face of silence, a powerful voice can emerge through the strokes of a brush.

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