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, currently based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. 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 work carries a transcendent and other-worldly nature, weaving ancient spirituality and contemporary social revolutionary ideas. Her research is rooted in African diaspora, Afro-futurism, ancient puppetry practices and cultural storytelling. Tesfaye uses the body in the form of mobile puppets, as a vessel to personify ancestral, emotional, and celestial ideas, transforming ancient symbolism into contemporary languages and consciousness. Outside of puppetry installation work, her drawings strongly connect with women’s issues, and strength of humanitarian unity. 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 repicent of two Frederick R. Layton Scholarships, the Robert A. Nelson Film Scholarship, G.M.F Dorothy & Ruth Smith Fund Scholarship, and Clarice George Logan Travel Award Scholarship, which enabled her an artist in residency at the Tholpavakoothu Puppetry Theatre in Kerala, India. As an Artist-in-Residence with Artists Working in Education, and her teaching experience with high school students in Milwaukee, Tesfaye has explored the use of cultural storytelling and puppetry as community public art. Tesfaye is currently expanding to travel with her art, and create an in depth puppetry practice in the realms of audience participatory installation, animation and social justice theatre.