Curiouser and Curiouser: You posted online recently about “tiny masterpieces.” Tell me what you were thinking of. Have you thought much of Victorian eye portraits? That’s immediately what I assumed you meant.
Gabino Iglesias: Victorian eye portraits are wonderfully creepy. I wasn’t thinking about them then, but I’m definitely thinking about them now. Anyway, I was thinking about really small things that are masterpieces and we tend to more or less ignore because of their size/duration/apparent insignificance in some contexts: a superb guitar solo, a 55-word story that leaves you breathless, a piece of quartz, a really good brownie, tiny plastic dinosaurs, etc. The Big Picture is important, but if we forget to stop and be marveled by the colors and strange appendages on a bug once in a while, then we lose context and balance. Yeah, tiny masterpieces are cool.
C&C: Do you keep and collect tiny things? Do you have tiny boxes filled with tiny stones or hands from watches or human hair?
GI: The only thing I really collect is books, but I’ve also been known to pick up and bring home weird small things. Shiny rocks, dry insect carcasses, marbles, old keys, etc. I used to have a lot of random stuff and parting ways with my treasures was hard, but then I moved to the US with an old laptop, my guitar, and a few shirts and leaving stuff behind became easier. Now I pick things up and bring them home, but then get rid of it when I need space for more books.
C&C: Do you take photographs as much as you write?
GI: For a few years, I photographed much more than I wrote. I’ve worked as a photojournalist a few times and my photographic work received a prize by the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriquena many years ago and was represented by Art Connectors in Austin for a while. Now I do it for fun once in a while and write more than I shoot. I’ve been riding the bus for 7 years now, and one day it just clicked: I can share some of the stuff I see with the world using just my phone. Since then, I give folks things like awesome piles of garbage, broken things, and nature.
C&C: How do you feel about graffiti?
GI: A few years ago I thought of graffiti as either artistic expression or ugly attempts at it (depending on the quality of the work). Then I worked at a tattoo shop and the main artist was also a painter and graffiti artists. He brought books to the shop and I ended up reading about the history of graffiti in New York and things like he evolution of lettering and tagging wars. Now I always try to read graffiti as well as enjoy it. I also somewhat dislike cities or parts of cities where there is no street art.
C&C: Who was your first crush?
GI: She had no name. It was a brunette gymnast (model?) in a sportsy folder I got for school. She was perfect.
C&C: Are you afraid of any animals? Why or why not?
GI: I have a healthy respect for some animals. I’ve been too close to a shark and have seen what some snake bites can do, so I respect and don’t mess with the space between us. Every time I see a video of some idiot getting thrown into the air by a buffalo because he got too close or losing a limb to a crocodile because he or she thought they could be faster and put up a show, I giggle because stupidity should always be painful.
C&C: What exactly does that mean – “too close to a shark”?
GI: I was spearfishing near some rocks in a place called Icacos. There was a very tall reef wall. I was going around it and suddenly spotted what I’m almost sure was a blue shark. It was probably somewhere between 8 and 9 feet, but it looked more like a 20 feet monster to me. Not gonna try to guess how close we came to touch, but it was way too close for comfort. He turned right and moved away. I remember staying put as it swam away and hearing my heart pounding in my ears. I wasn’t really in the mood for more fishing that day.
C&C: Can you play any musical instruments?
GI: Literature and music are the only two constants in my life. That’s good because they’re also two of the things I care most about. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 15 or so. I love to play bongos and can do a decent job on congas. I’d love to play the piano, but that requires the kind of time I don’t have.
C&C: What do you have in your pockets?
GI: A pen, random pieces of paper, and my eye drops. Oh, and secrets.
C&C: Cake or pie? And why?
GI: Cake. Cake and a glass of milk. Folks are too damn fond of putting fruits and other assorted crap in pies. Give me fresh fruit and then cake. Keep your pie, especially your pumpkin pie. I have a thing about pumpkin-everything culture. I won’t get into that because then angry sorority girls who love their PSLs will come for my head, but yeah, cake all the way. Cake is soft and moist and you can put stuff inside and top of it. You can also cut it without crap falling out and then having to chase your dessert all over the plate. Plus, frosting. Cake wins.
Thanks for letting me talk about cake!