Carlos Gamez de Francisco – Gilded Age Fashion

I was born in post-revolutionary Cuba in 1987, to a Cuban-Spanish mother and a Cuban-American father. Growing up in Cuba, I was educated in an academic style that was heavily influenced by the Russian Academy. At age five, I was determined, with absolute certainty, that I would be an artist. By the time I was fifteen, I was diligently painting 8 hours a day; every day. Today, I often spend 15 hours a day painting and feel very blessed to do what I love.

My classical training was based on history and portraits. The portraits were paintings that Royalty and the very wealthy upper class would commission. Garments were exquisite, surroundings emanating wealth. It has always been my expression to paint everyday figures in this elaborate fashion; a sensibility that comes from my humble upbringing. 

In this exhibit, I am paying homage to The Gilded Age in America. The Gilded Age was a time of extreme materialism and opulence. Due to industrialization it was also a time and place where middle class could rival old money with their newly found fortunes. There was a reordering of sorts in Society which created a real battlefield. Lush and exorbitant parties were held and no expense was thought too extravagant in hopes of entering into or boosting one’s place in Society.  

In this body of work, I want you to glance around the room and see everyday figures embodied in the traditions of Royalty and the new Royals which ran wild in The Gilded Age. The enormous bouquet headdresses, the face coverings, the bunny ears, the hats, and the over-the-top-hair-art were all indicative of the costumery of the time. Nothing was too outlandish. In some paintings, it appears that the face played a very secondary role and I have nearly or completely replaced it. This does not represent insecurity but rather complete security in who the figure is.

As is my signature style, I use insects as symbolism. My flying insects represent freedom; falling insects represent chaos; and my insects lying down, well they represent balance. In this, you have an added glimpse into the emotions my figures might feel while finding their place through self-expression. An ongoing theme that I am compelled to give a voice to.