Art is My Antidote: Fabian Debora

August 14, 2013

Mas Fina

By Fabian Debora

Art has kept me sane through the worst times of my life. It got me expelled when my 8th grade teacher ripped apart a drawing of mine, and reappeared as graffiti when I turned to gang life. It stopped me from killing myself. Now my vision is on murals throughout California, funded by the California Community Foundation, and sitting in the Getty Museum.

I experienced a lot of drama growing up in the projects of Boyle Heights, and at around six or seven years old I began to use art as an escape. Father Greg Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries, fostered my gift after I was expelled. He eventually introduced me to a group of muralists called the East Los Streetscapers who helped move my style away from graffiti and towards fine art. Throughout this period I struggled with addiction.

I keep creating to set an example. Chicanos shouldn’t be pigeonholed into becoming prison or community artists. When people from a background similar to mine see my work on the streets or exhibited at Homegirl Café, I want the impact to ripple. There is hope within the arts for my community, and they need to understand that.

I also draw to impact the people on the canvas. Many of my subjects are clients and trainees I’ve met while working as an addiction counselor with Homeboy Industries. For them, my work can act like a mirror. They are surprised when I tell them I want to paint them, and affected when they see themselves through my eyes. It motivates them to continue on the path to recovery. The perception of this population has been tainted by negative media coverage. Instead I focus on the divine qualities within people who have succeeded against adversity, and who have become productive members of society. I’m working to restore

El Morro

humanity to the image of those who deal with addiction, gang violence and poverty.

But it costs money to capture these stories in paint. So does feeding my kids, supporting my mother and mentoring a young artist. The Emerging Artist Fellowship has allowed me to focus on my craft. I painted a mural at LAX and worked with L.A. Magazine. This past month my work was entered into the “Liber Amicorum: Book of Friends,” a compendium of works from influential Los Angeles graffiti artists sitting in the Getty. Currently I’m in the early stages of creating an art academy, and developing my 2013 series, “The Complexity of Los Angeles.” I have a lot of weight to carry, and as I find a signature that is true to my roots it’s nice to be recognized and supported.

Fabian Debora is a California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists Emerging Artist fellow from the class of 2012.

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