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Gabriel Sosa on Law, Location and Language

January 25, 2024

Written by Anna Welsh

Deseos. Gabriel Sosa, a Cuban-American artist, has fulfilled his desire to practice art in every facet of his life.

Growing up in Miami and then heading north to attend Boston University, Sosa pursued an undergraduate degree in philosophy, yet always felt a true connection to the arts. Years later, these passions pushed Sosa to attend graduate school at Tufts’ School of the Museum of Fine Arts.

“Artists aren't just makers. They are researchers and archivists and innovators”, said Sosa, a firm believer in creating art that sparks dialogue. Through Sosa’s deep connection to the ideas of law, location and language, his works have done just that – start a conversation.

Law. Sosa’s work as a court interpreter and translator first fostered his interest in the law. He witnessed a plethora of injustices in the court system, often perpetuated through the lens of language and its ambiguities. Considering these limitations and shortcomings, Sosa chose to address the legal system through his art. One of these pieces is Do You Understand What I’m Saying? Displayed in Somerville, Massachusetts in 2018, this piece responded to the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s entrance into the United States Supreme Court system. Featuring big, red, bolded letters, the piece grabbed attention and directed it towards themes of power, emotion, connection and language.

Influenced by his work in court, Sosa is also inspired by recent Supreme Court decisions, including those of Bruens, Dobbs, and Vega. “Taking a step back from the court system, things became clearer”, Sosa offered, who hasn’t worked in the system since 2021.

To this day, Sosa has maintained a deep interest in law and the functioning of the legal process. Participating in The Art & Law residency program in New York, NY, Sosa has extensively studied the intersection of the two fields.

In 2022 at his first solo show at the Fitchburg Art Museum, Sosa exhibited No Vehicles in the Park, a series of pieces that engaged the medium of colored pencil and graphite. This exhibition examined how the meaning of language can be manipulated through the lens of a common legal question – what is the finite definition of a vehicle? These pieces were thought-provoking, featuring mainly words and phrases that connected to law and its inconsistencies.

Location. In all of his artistic endeavors, Sosa has a deep consideration for the geographic location of his pieces; the community and context are crucial components of the work itself. “I don’t believe in plop art… I want to learn more about the community [and] develop a personal relationship there”, Sosa said. One of his most recent projects, La Bodega de Mis Sueños, intertwines this passion for community and site-specific art with his long-standing interest in language.

Language. On display until Spring of 2025, La Bodega spans the facade of the Fitchburg Art Museum, a museum with a history that piqued Sosa’s interest.

The building used to contain a commercial storefront space up until the 1980s, its absence impacting the surrounding community. Sosa has reimagined the storefront space into a semi-permanent bodega, which peddles in everything from dulces to dreams, mariscos to desires.

“I wanted to tap into ideas of language… placing the unexpected within the expected”, Sosa shared. He felt compelled to confront the glamor of the American Dream in this community while offering hope and inspiration.

The area surrounding the museum houses a growing Spanish-speaking community, fueling his desire to use language as a tool for connection and communication. With deseos as one of the goods “for sale”, alongside dulces and sandwiches, the storefront is more than representational; it is interactive. The storefront’s working phone number allows viewers to engage with the piece and leave a message about their own dreams and aspirations.

Today, Sosa also works as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) and Deputy Director at the Essex Art Center, sharing his art practice with the next generation.

After experiencing firsthand how art can play a pivotal role in society, he has fostered this community of learners, creators and collaborators. He encourages his students to dive into their own art and interests. “Art is an opportunity for people to come together, to seek solidarity and comfort in one another”, Sosa urged.

Everyone has deseos and, through Sosa’s work, we are reminded that they are all within reach.

“Everybody is an expert in something”, Sosa emphasized. “Everyone has something to share. People forget that”.

To view Gabriel Sosa’s portfolio of past and current pieces, or to see his art in your community, explore his personal website and gallery. To interact with one of his pieces in-person, La Bodega de Mis Sueños is on display at the Fitchburg Art Museum until Spring of 2025.

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