Interview – Gino “Puffy” Mindiola – Texas, USA

puffy

You grew up in Texas, how did you get in touch with art there?

I’ve always been surrounded by a dark environment that got me into trouble (drug culture, getting arrested etc.). My brother saw the path I was going down and encouraged me to try and get accepted into college, something I never really thought twice about doing. I never was involved in any form of art until I got into college, at 21 years of age. Where I discovered what art really is and fell in love with the idea. I grew a passion for something I actually enjoyed, it kept me out trouble, it saved my life and found something I was good at. I’m very grateful for art. And if it wasn’t for my brother planting the idea of getting into college I would be in jail or dead by now for sure.

How do your art disciplines – Photography and Sculpture – go together?

  • My photography work and sculpture work have something that connects them as well separates the two. With photography I focus on documentary portraiture and construct a mask to conceal the identity of individuals I photograph. I over conceptualize the meaning of the current idea, every color is for a reason, every symbol represents something and I embrace vulnerability. I’m also very socially engaging with the community around me to create a common experience we all as humans undergo.
  • With sculpture I work more freely and let my surroundings determine what I will construct. I don’t think too much about an idea or give my self a plan of execution. I gather material and then play around with what I have, because depending on what I have access too will determine how big or small it will look. What colors will be involved or if any at all is needed. Which gives my sculpture work a voice for its own.
  • But in both my works I am constantly looking at my surroundings and dumpster diving for my materials and only rely on what my environment has to offer for me to create.

Is this your first residency as an artist? What brought you here to Belgrade?

Yes, it is. In fact, it’s the second time of my life that I left Texas that I can recall.

Why?

I wanted to get away from my personal environment in the States, I wanted to push my limits, get out of my comfort zone as well find new materials to work with. In Texas I sacrificed a lot to take this opportunity, canceling my leasing contract of my house, selling my car and left behind everything for a fresh start…

While here in Belgrade I feel I finally have a chance to focus on myself physically, mentally and spiritually. It’s been about a year since I graduated and I haven’t felt the urge to make art for myself in Texas. Now it’s the first time I’ve been able to create art for myself since then. I came to Belgrade, because they were the only ones who accepted me. I applied in various locations in the States and outside and was denied.

When you’re addressing people on the streets for your art projects, is the engagement in Serbia different to the one in Texas?

It is different, because of my language barrier. Here I station myself in various locations holding a sign waiting for individuals to interact with me. In Texas I can the action to approach individuals and explain myself. In Belgrade I have to be more patient and let people come to me.

How are you going to present your work in Belgrade? Are you going to host Exhibitions?

I am currently looking at multiple locations to be able to exhibit my works. Being able to host an exhibition is one of my driving forces to create and main goals anywhere I go. Kvaka 22 seems highly interested in showing my sculpture work, which I am truly excited for. Whereas KC Magacin and Zoom Art Café may be an option to be able to show my photography works. Which I would gladly take on both to have a solo show. I wouldn’t mind the idea of show both forms of work in one show, but it is a back and forth battle for me. Since they don’t really connect with each other as well and are stronger separately.

Are you planning other residency-stays?

Definitely! Since this is my first residency, I’m getting the urge to travel more. To Brazil, Africa, Russia, Germany, Paris and so on! Anywhere that will take me in. I’ve learned my artist practice can be created anywhere in the world. Since they are based on the idea of using the material I find in my current location. Material is everywhere and is free. People are everywhere and share common experience we all undergo.

If you could choose any place in the world, where would you go next? And why?

Honestly, I would go to Russia. Not for artistic reasons but for personal ones. Either way I would be grateful to go anywhere in the world that is willing to take me in. I am willing to continue pushing myself in order to create art with what my surroundings has to offer. Embrace the adrenaline rush of engaging with complete strangers in order to express the vulnerability we all feel.

Where do you see yourself as an artist in ten years?

I don’t plan too far ahead of myself because I don’t have that much control. I worry about what I can change in the present moment.

But when I was doing a teaching internship in Texas, I grew a passion for teaching others of all age groups. So, I have a dream that someday I will build my own Art School for those that don’t have the money to attend college. I want to teach the idea that you don’t need to buy your materials to be able to create art. That the world around you can provide what you need to create and express yourself. I want to build my own Art Gallery because I hated the idea that artist have to pay $30-$50 dollars just to send in an application and get rejected 90% of the time. So, I want to provide that outlet for artist to be able to show their work have and have the option to host a solo exhibition. I will accomplish this no matter how long it takes.

I also understand in order to teach in the U.S. I have to get my Master’s Degree and take the sacrifice to build myself more in debt, which I have accepted and need to prepare for. For now, I’m grateful I have a couple friends that will assist me when I return. Because I will be returning back to the U.S. homeless until I can get back on my feet…

Do you have a message for future resident artist in Belgrade?

Take on the challenge! It’s a beautiful place that is continuously expanding for various opportunities. The art scene is out there to showcase your art and finding the support in what you are pursuing! And if you are a sculptor using found materials, this is a place to create and find!