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Gagnon, Rene (1971- )
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The following is Rene Gagnon's bio, quoted directly, in his own words as it appears on his Website,

I was born in 1971 and raised in the city of Fall River, Massachusetts, a mill town rich in culture located about 45 minutes south of Boston. Myself and a few fellow artists' (SEEK & ONE) were some of the first artists from the area to be inspired by graffiti artists, and desired to follow in their footsteps. I started tagging in 1985, which led to painting larger production pieces in 1986. I was considered to be the most widely recognized graffiti artist / tagger in the area, under the alias, SNO. I believed I gained this recognition because I always had a thirst for taking aspects of my life to the Nth degree and it came through in my work.

Throughout my teenage life I embodied everything the Hip-Hop culture had to offer. I was a member of several local break dancing crews, rap groups, and graffiti crews. In 1988, two close friends from the neighborhood, along with myself, formed a rap group called UNIQUE. UNIQUE, was widely recognized in the New England area from 1988 to 1990. Our greatest accolade was winning the "National All-Star Talent Contest", and performing at Town Hall, on Broadway, in New York City, in front of a full house. That show was really special, we were 3 blonde-haired rappers performing in front of 3,500 people, at a time when the only other white rap groups out there were the Beastie Boys and 3rd Bass. Needless to say it was something I'll never forget and I met a ton of rap artists. As a result of our successes, Unique signed a recording contract in 1989. But, due to poor management and not being given enough studio time, the deal ended up a wash about a year or so later, and we had to start legal proceedings to get out of the contract. Not soon after this point a vital member of the group was killed in a car accident, the group was then finished. (R.I.P. Mike Luv)

During the tribulations of our rap group, I was also dedicating considerable time to my graffiti art. I consider my most infamous years to be 1986-93. These were great years to be a graffiti artist and live in a city untainted by spray paint. After 1993 the consequences of what I was doing were becoming too great. I had everything tagged in Fall River and the surrounding cities and towns, during a time when only a few artists were really bombing . . . but I knew something had to change.

I grew up in small three bedroom apartment with my parents and 5 brothers and sisters in the south end of Fall River. My family was poor, so the finer things in life, like buying paint rather than racking it, needed to be achieved some how. I knew to be able to do what I loved, which was to create, I would need a career. I didn't want to work in a machine shop my whole life so I decided on college. In 1992 after run-ins with the law, hefty fines, and court appearances due to my graffiti, I decided to retire my markers and spray cans, and enroll in a community college to further my education in the arts. After community college I decided to major in illustration at the Massachusetts College of Art, in Boston. Even though I still at that time preferred to work on larger abstract paintings, I felt that an illustration degree would make me more marketable.

After graduating from MASSART in 1999, I worked as a successful freelance illustrator for a few years, before I decided to get into teaching art. Teaching, offered me time to pursue my work while earning a steady income.

The year 2000 was a fitting year for redefining oneself. The start of this new decade brought about a dramatic turnaround in my work. A culmination of learning and life experience melted together to be, what I believed, was the revealing of my soul through the use of color, form, and pure expression. I had been working in my studio one afternoon on a series of tropical Hawaiian landscapes - under the delusion that this was something that would sell - when I decided to do a piece for fun. I had just finished my illustration degree and was used to doing the traditional representational works that comprised of my degree requirements. I needed to do a carefree abstract, which I loved doing in college when I had the chance because it not only brought the element of spray paint back into my work, but also expressed the genuine underlying desire that I had to free myself of the confines of representational work and let my "voice" be heard. When I finished my attack on the canvas, something truly clicked, its cliché, but it all made perfect sense. Why had I forced myself to paint in a manner that didn't suit me? I knew it wasn't "me". It was time for me to be true to myself. Since that day, that canvas, I have never taken a brush stroke in the opposite direction. Gone are the days of representational work, and gone is the notion of painting to sell. I am a true expressionist that is feeding off my experience as an urban graffiti artist.

Something clicked that day. Everyone has these moments at least once in their lives, a monumental revelation that defines who and what they are. When I finished the painting, I got the kind of chills you get when you hear a great song for the first time. I knew I stumbled onto my true calling as an abstract painter. The aspect alone of using graffiti again was liberating and it was enough for me to realize that I had something to say to the world through the medium. The notion of melting the graffiti artist in me with the abstract expressionist produced an original take on two major art forms that are now the backbone of my work.

As a kid I dreamt of being a gallery artist. The question was what I would be creating to get there. I knew I had to develop something original, but for so long I wondered how "my" ideas, "my" emotions could translate into something someone could appreciate visually that was in keeping with who I was. I knew I loved throwing paint around but during my teens I didn't fully understand what was behind abstract works. I have come to realize that to fulfill my dreams I must do what makes me the most happy, and that's going completely crazy with paint.

I am currently a high school visual design instructor and adjunct faculty member for a community college. When I'm not teaching I feverishly pursue my painting. Just like many graffiti artists that grew up in the eighties, I am trying to bridge the gap between graffiti and stereotypical "gallery art". At first glance my work may seem to be an attempt at traditional expressionism but with further inspection the layers of the paintings reveal a saturation of tagging hand styles, and pure bombing.


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