By Blake Nelson
It’s 3 in the afternoon on a Saturday and Häsler Gómez is the only person in the sculpture lab. Beyond the pitter-patter of people in the hall, the lab is largely silent.
Gómez is in the lab because he just began work on his thesis, “Ghosts upon the Earth: the Return of the Poet,” the culmination of his time spent in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program.
Gómez leaves the main area of the lab, climbs a flight of stairs and arrives at “The Loft,” a smaller area above the lab that he shares with fellow students to create art and receive and give critiques.
A table well over 8 feet tall stands next to Gómez while he applies layer after layer of plastic to a battered desk chair — a ritual that has taken nearly two months. The table and the chair will be featured in his thesis exhibition this spring.
“This piece is called ‘Ode to Silence: The Way You Left Me,’” Gomez said as he described the chair. “It’s this idea of repetition and our relationship to each other and how we treat people. Lots of times we really don’t care how we treat them, we use them and discard them, kind of like what we do with objects.”
“The Loft” also has an office that Gómez shares with another student from the BFA program. The office is cluttered with photos, books and pieces of past work. His computer screen looks even more disheveled than his office.
The room and his computer kind of work as an allegory for the array of sources he draws inspiration from. Personal observations, art history, science and religion are just a few of the sources Gómez synthesizes and places into his art.
“I love consuming all these different things and using them as material,” Gómez said.
This curiosity is expressed in his studies. Gómez originally declared majors in psychology, writing and art, but later cut it down to just psychology and art with a minor in writing. When it comes down to it, he appreciates art more for allowing him to use all the things he’s interested in.
Sculpture and writing are the main mediums that Gómez explores in his art. His sculptures are usually found objects, manipulated in a way so as to express ideas of disconnection between people. Gómez also writes poems that are featured alongside his sculptures.
His work has been described as hazy and somber, due in part to the use of plastic and the overall tone of the pieces. As part of the BFA Midway show last semester, Gómez cast his foot in plaster onto a chair for one of the pieces, and he hung similarly nebulous poems in the same exhibit.
Although his art often has a sober tone, a dichotomy exists between himself and his work.
“When I’m in the studio or talking about art, it’s a very different person … but when it’s just me with my friends or with my family, it’s a different side of me,” Gómez said.
Gómez’s family is mostly Evangelical Christian, with his grandfather being a pastor and his parents preachers. Gómez is also religious, going to church and singing in his church’s youth music group — something not easily reconcilable with his art.
Gómez moved from Guatemala City, Guatemala, to Reno when he was four. His family has supported him throughout his life, allowing him to choose Christianity rather than forcing it on him and supporting his choice to pursue art.
Gomez’s first instance of disconnection was when he first went to school in the United States — he couldn’t speak English. To help learn English he would watch his classmates speak.
When it comes to his art, Gómez’s family is supportive, but “they don’t fully understand it,” Gómez said. And he’s OK with that because he doesn’t fully understand it himself. When it comes to the religious aspect of his art, Gómez thinks that his family can relate.
“I think there is still hope in my work,” said Gomez, “I also think there is hope in religion and they can connect to that. It’s like still being able to see the light while in the abyss.”
At the end of his time at UNR, which will total five and half years, Gómez will present his thesis and intends to go to graduate school to pursue art.
Blake Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @b_e_nelson.