Meet Artist Gab Bois: Finding Bodily Grace And Elegance In A Post Internet World
In a digitally focused society that seems to demand we look at everything at once, visual artist Gab Bois is pulling back the layers and focusing on the beauty of details. Bois uses Instagram as a platform to share her photography, and on her feed, you’ll see a large collection of close-ups of the human body, generally coupled with unexpected objects and piercings. The result is striking, original and for some, a bit disturbing. Here, Bois reminisces on her childhood art projects, questions the role of an artist in today’s society and expresses her disdain of being referred to as an “Instagram artist.”
How did your journey as a visual artist initially begin?
I studied visual arts for two years, but oddly enough, I was more interested in the Fine Arts department at that time. I was really into clay sculpting and absolutely hated my photography and photoshop classes because I thought they were so boring and useless. These classes were actually what gave me all of my basic knowledge related to photography and even though I consider myself mostly self-taught, these two years of art school were super important for all the technical stuff that I would have never had the patience to learn on my own. My parents also played a huge role in the development of my interest for art. They took me to museums from a very young age, and my dad was always painting around the house or in the yard as I was growing up, so I guess I was always exposed to different artistic visions and that definitely had an influence on my own process.
Some of the most successful creatives we talk to tell us that they’re doing what they loved doing at seven years old. So, how would the seven-year-old you feel about where you are now?
I’ve always been a crafty girl. It’s funny because my mom is really the sporty type and never wanted to sit down and draw or paint with me, but she loved doing crafts with me. We had this children’s book with the most crazy ideas in it. Every summer, when we went down to the beach, we would pick up shells and make little humans or necklaces. I remember making dollhouses with sponges and little ladies with garbage ties and string. I always loved to play outside and do snail races or make houses for the neighbourhood cats. I also recall a period of time where I would make jewelry out of branches and leaves and wear them to school, some kids hated it but most of them loved it. I’ve always kind of been doing my own thing, and I don’t really think that my seven-year-old self would have much interest in what I’m doing now. I think she’d just like to go lift some rocks and pick up dirt worms just for the sake of looking at them.
You have a very unique, easy-to-spot style. How did you come up with it?
I don’t think I really came up with anything. I think my cheap camera played a big role in that because I was really limited in what I could do with it. It recently broke, and I’m now on the hunt for a new one so I feel like that might have an impact on my style too. Shooting close-ups of my own body or environment is very convenient because the way I do it doesn’t require any big set-ups, and it makes it easy and quick to transfer an idea to a picture.
Many of your images seem to be randomly placed objects, mixed with the human body. It may seem easy, for the untrained eye. What’s hiding behind that, what is your process, how do you achieve this mix?
I can say without shame that some of my pictures are actually easy. Like I said before, I use photography to transfer ideas to something tangible that I can look at. All of my ideas can’t be at the same level of complexity and can’t be all meaningful to me in the same way. Some of my images don’t have any meaning to me; I just find them aesthetically pleasing. Of course, these images are not the ones I’m most attached to or that I will want to submit to magazines or exhibits. I always try to at least to do a little play-on-words or double meaning in every picture even when I don’t feel them being as significant as others. I find that Instagram is a very random diffusion platform when it comes to that because I will often get the most positive reactions from people on pictures that were either super easy to make or not that meaningful to me. Then again, everyone has their way of interpreting things, and I’m glad if people find meaning in things where I sometimes don’t.
And why did you choose the human body to become your primary canvas?
It’s really what’s most convenient for me because of my equipment and the space I have. It’s also something that everyone can relate to. I find that creating concepts around the human body makes it easy to create discomfort for the viewer too in a way that is not as detached as it would be if I was working with objects, which is something I love to play with.
Are you generally satisfied with your finished work or do you constantly pressure yourself to create something “better”?
I am someone who is never ever completely satisfied by my work, in art and in life in general. I am capable of identifying my strengths and talents, but I always know that I could do better; that’s what I’m constantly trying to do. I’ve always worked better under pressure or during emotional crisis, so I try to push myself the more I can—for better and for worse.
For your macro shots of the human body, you are your own model, correct? Have you ever considered collaborating with another model for your art?
I really enjoy being my own model because I’m the only one to blame if I’m not happy with the result. I sometimes work with my close friends as well, when I need more than one person in the shot. I don’t feel the need for working with professional models for the type of work I do. I feel like I would be wasting their time. Also, since my ideas are sometimes very specific and hard to put into words, it makes it a lot easier to work by myself.
There are a lot of people looking to break into the creative field. How do you manage to create fresh content in an environment that’s so saturated?
I have idea books full of concepts I want to try. When I’m bored, I just pick one and do it. My work has been criticized for being too similar to others’, and the concept-focused photography world on Instagram is a pretty small one, so that’s bound to happen. I’ve had some creatives do work that’s really close to mine too, so I understand the frustration. But I think as long as you have a vision of your own and you stick to it, people will respect you for it.
What do you believe is the role of an artist in society today?
Funny you should ask that because I’ve been questioning myself a lot on that lately. I’ve recently been confronted with realities that I had not had to deal with in a long time, and it put a lot of things in persepective, including my creative process. Like « yes, I make pictures, but does it change anything? ». I am often labeled as an « Instagram artist » and it’s a term that I find pretty condescending and reductive of my work. I use the social media platform to share my work, but I don’t think my artist identity or artistic vision should be reduced to one virtual platform. It feels disrespectful to the work and time I’ve put into my work. Anyways, I don’t really know how to answer that question for now, I’m still debating it with myself all the time.
And your favorite fellow Instagram artists to follow?
What would you advise other young artists to do (or not do!) in order to evolve and get the best out of their creative selves?
Do your own thing, don’t base your creative content only on your inspirations. Don’t aim too high, embrace constructive criticism and block out negative people and energy of your creative process.
What can your audience expect to come from you in the future?
I’m currently working on so many things at the same time, and it’s been really hard to coordinate art stuff with work, commission projects and a decent social life. I will soon launch a lot of new merchandise of much better quality than what I’ve been offering so far. I’m also working on a multidisciplinary solo show for the end of the summer, which I’m super excited about.