If you’ve driven around St. Petersburg lately, you’ve probably seen artist John Gascot’s recent work.
Gascot was one of 17 artists chosen to create a letter for the Black Lives Matter street mural at 2240 9th Ave. S. in June. He was commissioned, with artist James Hartzel, by the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area to paint the Diversity in Democracy mural at 556 Central Ave., encouraging people to vote. Next up, the self-described Latin Pop artist will have a solo show, Americano, at the Graphi-ko Gallery, at 669 Central Ave., from October 15 to November 15. He also curated LatinxPresente, a simultaneous exhibit at Ekeko Gallery, Graphi-ko’s sister gallery, at 290 Dr. MLK Jr. St. N. that explores the Latinx experience in America.
“My work has always focused on promoting diversity and representing all shades, sizes and communities. For the last decade or so it’s become more political in nature,” says Gascot. “I often use satire to initiate discussions on social and cultural topics.”
The Diversity in Democracy mural goes a step beyond encouraging people to vote. There are chips embedded in each of the “Voted” stickers worn by a diverse group of characters. Using the Pixelstix app, people can scan the chips to access various voting resources. There is also a selfie space under an “I Vote” sign. Visitors are invited to post a selfie on Instagram with the hashtag #ivote.
“The League of Women Voters were extremely supportive every step of the way,” says Gascot. “I am proud of this piece and honored to help spread the message of the importance of voting. We’re living in a pivotal time in history and this mural makes me feel a part of it.”
Gascot spent the first 12 years of his life in Puerto Rico, to which he attributes his love of bold color. He combines elements of pop, cubism and folk mixed with a Latin/global sensibility. The figures in his work are often large and curvaceous, which Gascot says speaks more to strength and presence than size.
“I use my imagery to challenge culturally and socially dictated gender roles. I enjoy inciting conversations on current issues through my art,” he says. “Being part of more than one disenfranchised community, LGBTQ and Latino, the challenges I face opened my eyes to the struggles of others. It is because of this that I am an ally to BLM, immigrant and women’s rights. My work is informed by and speaks to all those issues.”
In addition, Gascot is part of Studios at 5663 at 5663 Park Blvd in Pinellas Park, an eclectic art gallery of 11 individual art studios that offers classes, social activities and events.
“I long for the day when LGBTQ, Black, POC and women put differences aside and come together in activism and politically. We’re beginning to see some of that now but still have far to go,” says Gascot. “We truly have the power to reach equity for all if we work together toward that common goal. I believe art can be an effective vehicle for social change.”