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Meet Erika Gabriela Santos

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erika Gabriela Santos.

Erika Gabriela, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Photography and art have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. From my first camera at the age of eight and shooting only when my grandmother or mother could afford to buy me film. To my first Photoshop class in Hammock’s middle school where I learned lighting principles and how to manipulate images in software. To my senior year at Robert Morgan when I almost got suspended for taking pictures that were considered too risqué. I have always loved making art and photography. It has been the one constant thing in my life that I could always turn too. After graduation, I enrolled in the Miami Institute of Art and Design and later transferred to New World School of Arts. Pursuing Art as a career has always been a struggle for me but something, I knew at a very young age would be completely worth it. I rather feed my soul than line my pockets.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has definitely not been a smooth road. But I truly believe that’s what makes it worthwhile and sweeter. It hasn’t been easy at all. I attended three different schools before earning my degree. I had no real financial aid help so I would always start school while working a full-time job and have to stop because I couldn’t afford a semester or supplies. All while trying to balance the demands of a family who was struggling emotionally and even health wise. It has been a rough 15 years, to say the least. But I finally did graduate when I moved to Connecticut for school where I was awarded an artistic merit scholarship. I graduated at 26, which is later than expected with my Bachelors in Fine Arts but I wouldn’t change any of the struggles now because it really has informed my work and art practice today.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I have been working for the last two years on the exploration of destruction and rebuilding, in a photo project titled “DISMANTLED”. I have taken this same approach with my photography. I have decided to distress my 35 mm negatives with everyday chemicals like bleach, wine, coffee, etc. after they have been developed. Which creates these painting-like photos of abstractions as the final product. I have made several renditions of this some with wood and transparency paper, another with acrylic and now I am printing on 8 to 12 feet long silk-like fabric.

The Idea is to take something apart, only to use the pieces from that destruction to rebuild and create something new and magical is the perfect way to define the human experience. I like to think that we all share this in common, rebuilding. Life is a series of birth and growth and rebirths. An endless cycle of positive and negatives. All to create pieces of destructed and rebuilt beauty. This is a simulation of life and death, chemical paintings made to remind us that from fragments we can re-create and reassemble ourselves.

What role has luck had in your life and business?
Honestly, I am one of those really annoying people who believe you create your own luck with hard work and perseverance. Lady luck has not been on my side to often so it has always been a matter of getting creative and making way for myself. However, I have been fortunate to have people in my life who have been in a way my good luck charms.

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