Gabrielle Tesfaye is an interdisciplinary artist versed in painting, animation, film, puppetry and interactive installation. Tesfaye is raised in America as a first-generation, to an Ethiopian father and mixed-heritage Jamaican mother. Her extensive international travel and exposure to multiculturalism in her life, echoes itself in her mixed media approach to art making and cross-cultural content.
Her research is rooted in African diaspora, Afro-futurism, ancient puppetry practices and cultural storytelling. Tesfaye uses the body as a vessel to personify ancestral culture, transforming ancient symbolism into contemporary languages. Tesfaye puts herself into her work, often creating self portraits which navigate her own identity and place within the diaspora. Outside of exhibiting 2d works, she uses these puppets in the animation studio, creating personal and cultural narrative films.
Her background in film started at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, and continued at the Mahidol University International College in Bangkok, Thailand. Tesfaye obtained her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Peck School of the Arts, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Heavily involved in the exhibition installation process of her work, she masters the alchemy of turning the traditional art gallery space into an otherworldly experience for viewers to experience her work beyond the physical. Tesfaye has been internationally recognized in online and printed publications such as Majestic Disorder Magazine (UK) and Vogue (USA). Tesfaye has exhibited at The Crypt Gallery (London), Gallery X (Dublin), Thapae East Venue for Creative Arts (Thailand), Stony Island Arts Bank (Chicago), and Aaron Davis Hall City College (New York).
She is the recipient of a series of scholarships and awards, including two Frederick R. Layton Scholarships, the Robert A. Nelson Film Scholarship, G.M.F Dorothy & Ruth Smith Fund Scholarship, Brico Forward Fund, Cream City Cinema College Filmmaker Award, and Mary Nohl Suitcase Export Fund. Tesfaye has participated in multiple artist residencies including Tholpavakoothu Puppetry Theatre in Kerala, India, Art Residency Thailand in Chiang Mai, and Artists Working in Education, in Milwaukee. Within her teaching experience, Tesfaye has explored the use of cultural storytelling and puppetry as community public art. Tesfaye is currently expanding with her art through international travel, film and guest speaking at schools, universities and artistic organizations.