John Gascot moves at lightning speed. If you blink, you’ll miss him…but that’s what it’s like to be a man with a mission. I first met this energetic artist when we were showing at the Twelve Days of Dali. He had lovely make up on and stood next to his portrait of Frida Kahlo. Since then, I have run into him at several shows that he has curated. He is such a force that rather than speak for him, I have decided to let the artist speak for himself.
You currently curate Pom Pom’s, Cider Press Café, run Galleries at 5563 and were a runner up for “Best of the Bay” in Creative Loafing. You are organizing art shows for “Come OUT St. Pete” as well. Is there anything else that I need to add to this list of jobs that you maintain?
On occasion I curate shows at other spaces, such as Derek Donnelly’s COVE gallery as the opportunities present themselves. About a quarter of my time is dedicated to volunteerism. Community is very important to me and fuels my creativity. I truly believe that art can be a vehicle for social change. I am the Chair and curator for Equality Florida’s St. Pete Gala art auction. I also launched my non-profit, Diversity Arts which dedicates itself to providing safe environments for disenfranchised and multi-cultural youth to explore and express self-identity. Also to provide opportunities for cross-cultural creative collaboration.
How long have you been doing art? What got you started in this?
I have been creative all my life and I feel like I could have been happy in any one of several creative fields I studied or worked in. The cards just had painting in store for me. As a child I always drew and wrote stories. Theater was my life all through high school and I went to college in NYC for play writing and acting. Following that I worked as a makeup artist and performed as a female impersonator on stage for about a decade.
My husband and I purchased our first home in the mountains of Northeast PA. We lived in a small town where there wasn’t much of a career to be had as a makeup artist. There was, however a bit of tourism in the area so we took a stab at being gallerists in the early 2000s. I would paint while gallery sitting and eventually the works made their way on to the walls and then started going home with vacationers. I’ve been painting full time ever since.
What is your main mission, outreach, or message that you wish to impart with your art?
One of the main goals of my art is to promote diversity. I believe that art should be for EVERYbody, regardless of economical status or education level. I also think it’s important that art represent everybody (race, orientation, gender, body types etc.) Art isn’t only about the Reubenesque white ladies frolicking in forests museums are filled with. Every child that visits a museum should be able to find a face like theirs in art.
You know I have to ask this — I ask all of the creatives that I interview: what advice do you have for new artists?
Be realistic about your goals as an artist. Is it a hobby or do you want to support yourself as a creative? If the answer is the latter then don’t over-romanticize and make the time and effort to learn how to run a business because that is what full-time artists are, small businesses the same as any boutique or restaurant. Organization and time-management are crucial in building a business. Also, be humble. No one wants to do business with a diva. At the end of the day, however deep and meaningful the intentions behind our creations may be we are selling a product. Our product just happens to also often have a certain level cultural importance or relevance behind it.
So, as a small businessman selling art, what advice do you have for art collectors?
Always buy what you love, but support living, and most importantly LOCAL artists. They are creating culture and change in your immediate community and deserve to be supported. Remember that artists are small businesses and your art purchase from a local studio stimulates your local economy just as much as any other business you choose to support. And if you want to be a collector but think that you can’t afford to be, get rid of that notion altogether. EVERYONE can be an art collector. There are many price points out there. I have small works of art in my collection that cost me less than a dinner for two at McDonald’s.
A glance at his phone and it was time to wrap things up. He has just sent out acceptance notes and reminders for a show he is putting up at Pom Pom’s this weekend. With a gracious smile and a nod he arose. And then I blinked…and he was gone.