Art in Life Form: Exclusive with Artist Derek Gores

What inspires an artist to produce beauty, create inspiration, and still have an insatiable desire to keep learning about their craft? An authentic one who is genuinely passionate about their work and all the knowledge he has to offer. Let us introduce you to Artist Derek Gores. Derek is a collage artist whose work makes you do a double-take (sometimes triple) to take in all the diverse details and the beautiful creation and authenticity that each piece symbolizes. The process of creating something that no one has ever seen before inspires Derek.

Derek Gores recently was the first ever Artist in residence at the Hotel Bel-Air, which he was very honored to do and found it to be very inspiring. The exhibition (part of the Dorchester Collection) is a diverse mix of his work while touching upon travel, curiosity, and style (and is scheduled to extend until the end of March).

Derek Gores work style is eclectic and unique. It is also sustainable. Gores recycles magazines, maps, data, and more in his lush portraits on canvas. The balance of detail and playfulness in each piece reveals Gores’ knack for discovery and for building seemingly endless puzzles into his works. Rearranging the scraps, he can form a sort of surrealist image, where from afar, a nearly photo-realistic image comes into focus.

“Throwback Saturday”
Photo: Olivia Womack Photography

Can you describe your creative process a bit and (where does a lot of your inspiration come from?)
I slowly gather my primary reference photographs with a figure or space or object, then deconstruct them digitally, playing with added textures. I usually include song lyrics of something I’m listening to, plus schematics from an old favorite toy or guitar, or map of an ideal place. Using acrylic medium and a simple brush, I cover a canvas with magazines, pretty randomly, with colors and textures that appeal at the moment. Next, I cut up or rip the printed digital parts somewhat blindly, and glue them down for another layer. After intuitively adding more found details from magazines, I step back and assess, aiming for a sweet spot where the Art is somewhat recognizable, yet pleasantly confusing as well. Working quickly and on several pieces at once, I aim to get beyond intellectual control. When done, I add a UV protectant varnish, and it is ready to hang somewhere pretty. I usually title the Art using words found in the finished piece.

Do you typically tell a story in your work, or do you prefer that the viewer have their interpretation?
I think of it as a story I don’t know yet. It’s a zen approach where I stir up conditions where good things might happen, on the canvas, and for the viewer and me as well.

“Directory Assistance”
Olivia Womack Photography

What interests you about collage?
As a young artist, I was very tight- a typical photorealist with a pencil. Back then, I’d have the idea at the beginning, and then 99% of the time was mere execution. After being turned on to the wild possibilities of abstraction, I found collage. Each scrap I pick up brings a history with it and combines with all the others to form a new image, hinting at a new story out in front of us. Now, my work changes the whole way. A scrap at the end can change everything. I like to tease the senses, where we see one image from afar, but up close, it melts into hundreds of little glimpses, little memories. I stand on the shoulders of what the Surrealists and Dadaists did 100 years ago, embracing chance and serendipity as new inroads to the meaning and maybe the subconscious. Each piece of paper brings it’s own history and adds to this visual puzzle. I have one rule: I can’t use pictures of the subject to make the subject. So, no hair to make hair, no skin to make skin, etc. That forces me always to go somewhere new.

You’ve had some incredible commercial clients – The Kentucky Derby, Playboy, the NFL, Rinascente – Is it challenging to be yourself when working with a big brand?
I steered clear for years, knowing I needed to be myself first and find my footing. But I do love collaboration and creative symbiosis. Now, if there’s a brand with a good story and reason for engaging Art, I’m open to the possibility. I’m picky; I see if we click. Then I’m all in and can create art for advertising, live events, interactive, and experiential installations. Art is storytelling, and we live in an extraordinary moment for culture, where Art can play a translator between radically different backgrounds, and supercharge things by making a feeling tangible in a way that words cannot.

You feature the female figure a lot in your work. Is this something that has special meaning to you or particular symbolism? There are many fashion references. Also, have you always been attracted to fashion and design? I think I took a side road into an interest in manner through how the figures are complemented in photography and by the textures and shapes of the forms. The principles used to come back to the expressionist drawings of my heroes Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, at least to my eye. I aim to capture the buzzing life in a living being and to hint at elapsed time. Secondly, I bring it into today by making these figures my feminist superheroes. Strong, wise, unapologetic. I’m a feminist, and very glad to live in this moment with such sharp dialogue in the general public.

Were you always attracted to the Arts? Also, how did your artistic endeavors begin? It has always been Art for me. I’d draw with my dad, sitting at the foot of our stairs, trying to make sense of the perspective of the steps, or drawing a mill while on vacation in Cape Cod. And endless hours sitting on the edge of my bed making up new Star Wars characters. Even as late as about age 18, when someone asked what I hoped to do with my future, I’d say simply: “Draw.”

Also, how did your artistic endeavors begin? It has always been Art for me. I’d draw with my dad, sitting at the foot of our stairs, trying to make sense of the perspective of the steps, or drawing a mill while on vacation in Cape Cod. And endless hours sitting on the edge of my bed making up new Star Wars characters. Even as late as about age 18, when someone asked what I hoped to do with my future, I’d say simply: “Draw.”

Do you have a specific vision, and it forms from there? Or do you change it up a lot when working? I improvise lots. I set out with some colors and an underlying sense of the figure I’m going to try to conjure, but I have no idea of the scraps of paper that will get me there. I love that things can change even with the last piece of paper.

When working, how do you decide precisely what scraps of paper to use, certain words (in the collage), as well as various details (such as color, texture, song references, and overall look)? I keep it intuitive and try to work quickly, so I can’t overthink it. I grab mostly based on color or tonal value so that I’m pleasantly surprised by the odd combinations of elements. It is a Dada or Surrealist approach.

How does Art sustain you as a person? I am fortunate to be able to create. Much of the world is about consumption, while I get a shot at making something never seen before. It is endlessly reinvigorating.

Do you require being in a studio alone, or you can work with others around? Some phases, like some digital compositional play, or the more passive parts of letting ideas percolate over months, happen alone. But once I am gluing, I enjoy being around people. I value the wash of new information and use distraction to steer me to new places.

Who are some artists that you admire? For the classics, I already mentioned Schiele, Klimt, plus there would be Warhol’s portraits, Goya’s drawings, Rube Goldberg’s absurd humor. Current artists, I’d say Cliffton Chandler, Mando Marie, and Hyland Mather.

How are you an integral part of the New Contemporary Movement? The movement tends to be described as being figurative or image-based, with the influence of sparking after the pop culture of the internet, street art, and video games. I’m able to reference a classic beauty, a calm past in a way, but with a very current technique.

Who is the Derek Gores Collector? Appreciators of beauty in chaos. Folks who believe that coincidence is a genius. Who likes harmony just on the edge of falling apart. I’ve been thrilled that my work seems to have broad appeal, but in an intimate way. In the end, it is a one on one relationship for the viewer and the artwork. And those individuals have been young and old, fancy and not.

Dream collage collaboration? Fashion, Music, Pop Culture? Aha! Well, I’ve been daydreaming about Lady Gaga surrounded by my Art, driving up the steps of the Met Gala in a pink Lamborghini. Anything close to that will do the trick.

What was your recent experience like as the first ever Artist in Residence at the Hotel Bel-Air? Firstly, I was incredibly honored to be the first Artist in Residence. As an Artist who plays in nostalgia, rendered with a modern touch, Hotel Bel-Air is infinitely inspiring. I knew it would be luxury, but I didn’t know it would be all about the simplicity of the elements. The lush surroundings as an oasis within a sprawling city. I felt the aura the strongest by the swimming pool – the pool where Marilyn had one of her last photo shoots, with such effortless glamour. Yet, in the end, it’s all about the love shown by the staff. Things are slower and moments are deeper at the Hotel Bel-Air. I soaked in every bit of it.

Artist Derek Gores

What is next on the horizon? I have pop-up shows brewing in New York, and big plans for Art Basel Miami once again. Also, watch out for some more exciting brand collaborations. I seem to be growing even more into live Art, interactive spectacles where many art forms mingle and include the audience. It is a beautiful time to be an artist.

Where can people follow you? on my website at and certainly on instagram at @derekgores

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