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Tuesday, October 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington Voices

Gabriel Vrooman brings color, vibrancy to a gray world

Gabriel Vrooman sits with some of his March 22 in his South Hill home. (Jesse Tinsley)
Gabriel Vrooman sits with some of his March 22 in his South Hill home. (Jesse Tinsley)
Jennifer Larue

Gabriel Vrooman lives the epitome of the opposite of the American dream, or at least the dream we have been taught to strive for since we were able to handle a remote.

The white picket fence, credit cards, a full closet and refrigerator, a car, a big-screen television and tropical vacations are examples of things most of us work for – while Vrooman is content with a bicycle, a laptop, the clothes on his back, and an array of art supplies often found in a Dumpster or earned in exchange for his art.

Vrooman, though sometimes cold and hungry, is content. “I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of money,” he said, “What do we really need?” On his blog, he mentions that when confronted with a choice between comfort and art, he would choose art.

To understand a bit about Vrooman’s aspirations, one would have to look up semi-anonymous street artists Banksy (British) or JR (French), who began illegally pasting art in public places as a sort of statement of bringing art to the people. Their talent led them to fame; Banksy’s work has sold for six figures and JR was recently awarded $100,000 for a project he brought to the streets of Israel and Palestine.

Vrooman, 33, has been on his own since he was 16. On the road, he has worked odd jobs from coffee shops to a ranch in Oregon. He sang in bands and began creating art in earnest in his early 20s, getting some commercial and commission work.

He ended up in Spokane about four years ago. Currently he lives free of charge in a garage/basement in a building on the South Hill owned by friend Steve Spickard. There, Vrooman paints for hours.

“I’m no one. I paint because I have to, in order to feel like I make sense as a person. I create because it expresses more than I can even begin to understand about not only myself but the world around me,” he mused. “I do art for the people, whether they like, want or need it, to give them a feeling, if even disgust, to remind them that feelings can bless color and vibrancy in our otherwise concrete gray world.”

His work is created on scrap metal, old wood doors, canvas, cardboard or a screen printer. There are faces and figures, at peace or war, polyhedrons floating or being held, words layered over images and plenty of “oh mys.” His talent is unmistakable, his concepts unforgettable.

He has shown sparingly in Spokane but is preparing for a show at Far West Billiards, 1001 W. First Ave., in April. His goal is to make enough money to purchase a camera in order to document his future artistic endeavors.

The Verve is a weekly feature celebrating the arts.
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