Gabriel Shaffer is the co-owner and curator of Mortal Machine Gallery, focusing on Contemporary Folk and Outsider, Low Brow, New Contemporary, Pop Surrealism, Erotica and Street Art in the historic French Quarter of New Orleans.
When did you first fall in love with the arts?
There have been several moments throughout my life where my love for art has deepened. However, the first time I probably fell in love with it, I was an infant in a sling watching my mom paint a large rural folk landscape. I was raised around Folk/Outsider artist studios and spaces in the south and Appalachia most of my childhood.
The power to have creative control for my work and the work of artists I believe in.
Are there any specific ways in which you feel you are influencing the New Orleans art scene?
Definitely. We feel like we are the venue folks come to, when they want to see what’s fresh with the artists in our genres and the emerging voices in our city. We feel confident we are putting on some of the most vital visual art shows in New Orleans and the Deep South. We’ve been able to create a dialogue with the larger underground movements nationally and internationally by providing a venue for artists to connect with thousands of new fans and collectors every year. We also have provided a platform for local creatives to gain exposure with that larger scene in turn.
You focus on Contemporary Folk and Outsider, Low Brow, New Contemporary, Pop Surrealism, Erotica and Street Art. Beyond these styles, are there certain qualities, aesthetic or otherwise, that you look for in the artists that you showcase?
At this point it’s really a tricky question to answer. We absolutely play to our strengths. We have been working especially hard to define our aesthetic identity to stand out on its own. We want Mortal Machine to have its own voice. Our current stable represents ideals we hold for sure. I’d say at this point we are looking for the artists who are defining the curve in the lineage of those genres. However our tastes continue to be fluid as times change and Art changes with it.
Do you predict any major shifts to occur in the art world over the next 5 years?
Yes. That we will adapt and thrive with each of them every step of the way.
Can you tell us what the name “Mortal Machine” means to you?
We kicked a lot of names around when we were forming the gallery. The one thing we all felt was that the name needed to have life and an unspoken quality. Like a great band name. Mortal Machine felt right. We just knew.
What do you find most rewarding about gallery directing and curating?
If we succeed or if we fail, it’s on us. It’s our responsibility. I’ve experienced working with dozens of gallerists in my years as an artist and I’ve experienced running a gallery for problematic ownership. I can never imagine any other circumstance other than this current one ever again. This freedom has given us the opportunity to develop a very special stable and will continue to allow us the ability to promote creative projects we truly believe in. We also love curating shows in New Orleans. The audience’s are diverse, interactive and our shows are never boring. We can get away with anything creatively here. The city has got our backs.
What are some of the challenges that you face?
COVID is the only thing challenging our gallery.
In terms of the submission process, are there any areas of improvement that artists should be aware of?
We don’t accept submissions.
Do you have any plans for Mortal Machine Gallery beyond what it is today?
Absolutely. There is a much larger creative vision for this brand beyond the gallery. If you would like to watch them unfold give us a follow at @mortalmachinegallery or join our mailing list by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org