Gabrielle Beniston is a multi-media artist who thrives off using a combination of mediums, while being particularly inspired by photography. She often incorporates images from her personal collection of photographs into her work, while others are vintage or specifically chosen for a custom artwork.
Each finished canvas entails around 12 days of hands-on work through the accumulation of printing, a long process of transferring the ink to the canvas, & applying paint to the surface of the transferred image. Gabrielle’s work stays true to the relationship between one’s hands & the power of the artwork that can be created between them.
Californian-born and of Belgian/Mexican heritage, Gabrielle moved to Portland with her family when she was young, but couldn’t wait to escape back to the state of her birth. After bouncing between San Diego and San Francisco for a few years while going to school, she ended up in Sacramento, where she is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s in both Photography and Art Studio at Sacramento State.
While studying at the Community College of San Francisco (CCSF), Gabrielle was posed with the question: “Is photography art?” She answered in the affirmative (as you would too, seeing her work!) and the people who disagreed with her positive answer gave her the determination to transform her already existent photographic skills into a true art form.
Since that day, she has educated herself in multiple forms of photography and photographic techniques, including learning how to turn images into gel transfers and applying them to a canvas, where she can then enhance them through the use of paint.
Many of the images Gabrielle incorporates into her work are photographs she has taken. Black and white film is her medium of choice, as film allows for easier distortions and manipulations in the developing process—giving them the vintage appeal that she is drawn to.
When she’s not using her own, hand-created vintage-like photographs, she works with actual vintage photos she comes across in her own family’s and other families’ photographic archives. When choosing an image to incorporate into an art piece, she tends to select ones that not only uphold a vintage, mysterious, or ironic look but ones that seem like they have a story or a history to tell to the viewer.
As color plays a large role in her work, Gabrielle is also drawn to images that have colors she wants to enhance, or a lack of color that she can visualize and apply to the image to help tell the story or enhance the subject matter of the image. She tends to use images with a series of repetition in them, in either the subject matter or the colors of the image.
Gabrielle comes from a family of artists—on both her mother’s and father’s side—for generations back. Her grandmother on her father’s side, Francoise Beniston, herself a wonderful artist and photographer, has always been a great inspiration and supporter of Gabrielle’s artistic talents. To this day, Francoise devotes a huge dresser drawer to art supplies for her grandchildren, encouraging them to use them. She says: “A child will never understand their true capabilities as an artist if they are not provided with good, high-quality art supplies,” and makes a point to have only the finest supplies on hand.
Both Gabrielle’s grandfathers are artists themselves and true artistic inspirations for Gabrielle. Her late Papi Michael loved photography and gifted her with her first film camera, spurring her passion for capturing images. Her grandpa Gabriel is a talented sculptor and painter and influences her work ethic as an artist—from him, Gabrielle has learned to work hard in life and twice as hard as an artist.
Gabrielle enjoys doing custom work for families and individuals, and her imagination thrives off the history of the photographs they entrust her with. She brings their old photographs back to life and takes pleasure in hearing the true stories behind the photographs with which she is working.
For example, “Parachute Gown” (left) shows a very strong woman who was a nurse in Guam during WWII. She had the opportunity to dress up for an evening, & decided to make her gown from a soldier’s old parachute. Stories like these, that may have one day been forgotten, stay alive in Gabrielle’s artwork.
Artist Collaborative Gallery
Gabrielle is closely involved with the Artist Collaborative Gallery (ACG), a collaboration of roughly 30 artists who help run and maintain a gallery in Old Sacramento. It has given Gabrielle the opportunity to show her artwork consistently while allowing locals and travelers to become familiar with her style of artwork. ACG only shows local Sacramento artwork, while mainly exhibiting one-of-a-kind pieces. It is a great way for locals and tourists to be able to stay familiar with the growing art scene Sacramento provides.
Along with finishing her art education, Gabrielle works as a mainstream photographer doing portraits, weddings, equestrian events, and much more, including graphic design. She says: “I do my best to stay determined and work hard in life while balancing my education with my photography and art careers. I hope that people will continue to see the beauty and stories in my artwork that I do.”
Finally, she muses: “The best lesson I have ever learned as an artist is to be yourself, to dig deep into your own style, your likes and dislikes, only then will you stand out above all others.”