Great Bend artist Hugo Gonzalez was asked to contribute to the Shafer Art Gallery’s exhibit, “Estamos Aqui: We are here” which is on display now through Aug. 20. The theme of the show brought to mind charcoal drawings he created over the past few years. The Half Tones series seeks to bring awareness of what happiness is by examining the missing parts in people’s lives.
“Many people in a free country like the United States complain about things, but around the world, there are people who are denied something basic, like safety,” Gonzalez said. “I thought charcoal would help people to connect what they were seeing with the feeling of what is missing.”
The importance of safety surfaces in Gonzalez’ work. It’s a topic he’s familiar with.
“Growing up in Mexico, my father travelled thousands of miles away from the family several times to work in the United States,” he said. “That left my mother to take care of us kids.”
The family lived in a large city with a population of about 1 million. Gonzalez remembers those as scary, uncertain times. When he was 15, his father moved the family to the United States in pursuit of a better life, and in 1992, Gonzalez came to Barton County.
A graphic artist for the Great Bend Tribune, Gonzalez’ first love is painting and drawing. Stories of the struggles for basic human rights by people around the world inspired many of the drawings in his charcoal series, “Half Tones.” Stories like that of a young Syrian boy who escaped across the desert with his family.
“Can you imagine what it would be like to be so young, and to be running for your life from your own government?” he said.
Stories of Congolese women who dealt with the ongoing threat of beatings and rape inspired his first piece. As a father and husband, the circumstances endured by those women touched him deeply. Foster children in the United States whose parents have failed them, leaving them vulnerable, also inspired him. He hopes his work will bring awareness of how important the basic human right of safety is to all people around the world.
“When you don’t feel safe, it’s nearly impossible to experience happiness,” he said.