Jose Dominguez never planned to show his intricate, colorful journal pages to anyone. But, there he was, at the opening of his first solo show in years Saturday night at the Public Functionary gallery. The large, open room — equipped with a DJ and plenty of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer — was filled with admirers of his work.
The show had been in the works for about a year, when the gallery’s Co-Director Tricia Heuring first approached Dominguez.
“This work is really personal, and that’s what I love about it. He makes all of this work for himself as a way to make sense of the world,” said Heuring, curator of the show. “You can see that particularly in the drawings. The larger works were made more for of a gallery.”
On display were Dominguez’s smaller illustrations and five larger canvases. He uses bright pastels and primary colors, intermixed with handwritten uppercase text and cartoonish characters.
Dominguez took inspirations from his own life experience, children’s books, pop-culture (one of his paintings features Bert and Ernie of "Sesame Street") and his background as a graphic designer.
“Basically, what you see here is a visual diary. The 13 smaller drawings are from coffee shop sessions after 8-hour work days,” said Dominguez. “Actually, all of these drawings are on matte-boards that are scraps from my work. It’s just so easy to get from the recycling. These guys are throwing this nice stuff out, so I’m going to draw on it.”
Since he was a child, Dominguez has doodled.
“I was so thoughtless and foolish [when I was a child],” he said, smiling. “I’d be doodling in a science class and for whatever reason I’d be really excited to share with the teacher this drawing I did on the notes and they’d be like ‘You’re supposed to be doing homework, or this or that.’”
Now as an adult, doodling has taken on a much different tone. Dominguez doodles as a method of self-therapy — drawing in his diaries is soothing.
When it came time to name his show, Dominguez had a specific memory in mind.
“I was with my girlfriend at one of her family events. I was not necessarily intentionally avoiding people, but I kind of was just sitting there drawing. It just felt so natural to me,” he said. “It also happened to be one of the several hundred phrases that I put into these drawings. I just snagged that one because it meant a lot.”
As it turns out, the ideas explored within “The Art of Avoiding PPL” resonate with many.
Dominguez’s work is both timely and potent because underneath its charming children’s book exterior is an honest depiction of his struggles with anxiety and self-doubt.
“It’s so open and vulnerable. You are also being vulnerable by reading it,” said Sasha Karleuša, an architecture student at the University of Minnesota.
Karleuša was accompanied by her friend, Itzel Osuna, a student at North Hennepin Community College.
“A lot of it is relatable,” said Osuna.
Dominguez juxtaposed happy colors with melancholy phrases that delve into his personal struggles while still being broad enough to relate to the masses. “Out of touch with much,” “pretending 2B present,” and “Emocean” are just some of the phrases that can be found in his works.
“The colors themselves make me feel something … like a happy emotion. But it doesn’t seem like the content is 100 percent happy,” said Greg Johnson, who also goes by his stage name Greg Grease.
For Dominguez, having people finally see his private artistic diaries is a little scary, but mostly humbling.
“What a viewer intends or sees is always so much more magical than what I intended,” he said.
What: “The Art of Avoiding PPL”
When: Check website, publicfunctionary.org, for select hours
Where: Public Functionary, 1400 12th Ave. N.E., Minneapolis, Minnesota 55418