10 months ago




Phoenix artist and Arizona native Frank Gonzales believes in the power of mythology. Specifically, he is drawn to Joseph Campbell’s idea of the hero’s journey as it pertains to his life, artwork and purpose. In Campbell’s narrative arc, the hero leaves his home and journeys through the world only to return with the lessons and wisdom gained in order to help the community that knows him. There’s a certain power to homecoming—returning—the process of always returning, always going out, that can propel people to do art and make meaning: Gonzales is one of those people. Ordinary World Gonzales was born in Mesa at what was Desert Samaritan and grew up on the Tempe/Mesa border. He was his parents’ only child in a Chicano family and struggled to learn Spanish. His friends and family teased him, and this sense of separation may have sown the initial seeds of an artist. An artist is often cultivated by isolation or feelings of isolation— especially from one’s own family. “When I was a kid my mom took me to see La Bamba,” Gonzales said. “It was funny because I felt like I related to this dude. His Spanish was terrible. I would get shit because I couldn’t speak the language very well. You kinda feel in a weird place. It helped to see that he still made it even though his Spanish sucked.” Nevertheless, Gonzales had a typical, simple childhood in Arizona. He played sports and made friends with a lot of kids. He was never fully immersed in one social circle or another and kind of made friends with everyone. In high school—before he started listening to rap— he would listen to a lot of reggae, and people would make fun of him for wearing Bob Marley shirts as a Chicano kid. In many ways, Gonzales was stepping out, stepping in to his mythology of adventure as a kid. He was calling into question what it meant to be Chicano in Arizona. He was defying his space. Gonzales would draw for kids in high school. A lot of kids would ask him to draw their names on brick walls or draw cartoons for them. He was playing sports in high school, but at a certain point he didn’t feel like doing it anymore. “During my senior year I walked into my football coach’s offi ce and told him I didn’t want to play anymore. I wanted to make art. It was the best decision I made in my life.” Gonzales didn’t have great grades by any means, so going to college wasn’t necessarily on his radar, but he knew he wanted to make art. While in high school, Gonzales had developed a love for hip hop. It was a world where it didn’t matter where you came from. It didn’t matter what you looked like. All that mattered was that you were fresh and if you could rock it. Hip hop provided Gonzales with community. He was a part of the Tempe Bronx Krew, which was a hip hop/graffi ti art collective in the ’90s. The collective would perform on Mill Avenue on Fridays and Saturdays. They would have emcee battles, b-boy battles and graffi ti writing. He was defi nitely someone who could create some good graffi ti writing. Eventually Gonzales started attending Mesa Community College and enrolled in art classes. It was there that he learned about form and fi gurative art. He also took critical reading classes and learned about Greek mythology, which was inspiring for him. His professor Jim Garrison was especially infl uential and suggested that Gonzales seek out an art degree. Up to that point, art school hadn’t seemed like a possibility to Gonzales or even something that he wanted to do necessarily. But Garrison recognized a talent in Gonzales and wanted him to develop that. Gonzales got a scholarship to Laguna College of Art + Design. His family was initially against it. They wanted him to go to Arizona State University, but he was intent on going to Laguna and developing his skills as an artist. Against his family’s wishes, he began his hero’s journey away from the home. JAVA 9 MAGAZINE

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