Visual Arts

Studio Visit: Angel Cabrales

Angel Cabrales lives and works in alternate realities.

While driving through Cabrales' neighborhood in east Mesa, you find that the cliché of suburban mass production -- identical two-story floor plans inhabited by 2.something kids, canines and/or cats -- ends at Cabrales' property.

Save for the unkempt lawn that hasn't been tended to in more than a month, the exterior of his home is like all the others. But once the 30-year-old sculptor and painter originally from the outskirts of El Paso, Texas, invites you into his domain, you've stepped into a different world entirely.

Most dominant is the mixed-media artwork hanging on Cabrales' living room walls, anime paintings he's done that combine bright, fluorescent colors with electric cables and condoms. Dozens of sci-fi and Japanimation videos rest on top of the 1970s TV console. The makeshift bar he bought for $30 from a local thrift shop stores the artist's liquor, a tightly packed row of a dozen bottles of rum, vodka and tequila.

An easel sits near the front door, which doubles as Cabrales' painting studio; the upstairs loft holds little else than his drawing table; and he molds most of his sculptures in his dimly lighted garage.

"My mind is pretty fragmented, which is why you see everything in sections," says Cabrales, whose boyish face, skater bangs, shaggy goatee and baggy jeans reveal a rave-hopping twentysomething at heart. "I've been told that I seem a lot younger than I am. But all I can say is that you're as old as you feel.

"So, yeah, I love going clubbing, and I love cartoons."

He also loves iridescent purple, rabbits, mushrooms, and all things Alice in Wonderland, as evidenced by the mushroom-shaped aluminum barbecue grill he built himself in the backyard, the Alice cookie jar on the kitchen counter, and the copy of the book Insanely Twisted Rabbits on the workbench in his garage.

All provide the best explanation for Cabrales' latest work -- "Rabid Rabbits and the Disgruntled Desins of Desolation" -- an exhibition of sculptures currently on display alongside the work of his fellow sculptor and friend Gabriel Marquez at Studio Hub.

"We both like rabbits," Cabrales says. "They're just cute rodents."

Included in the show are large- and small-scale bunnies, many treated with patina, which causes a chemical reaction that leaves a wave of metallic purples, greens, yellows and blues in its wake. Many are hybrid creatures, like the "Bunguana" and "Octobunny," both Cabrales' own versions of the fabled "jackalope."

Also in "Rabid Rabbits" is a sculpture Cabrales had sitting in his front yard until he moved it downtown to Studio Hub, called Definition of Self, an eight-foot-tall creation of 80 different pieces (he also has a love for the number 8) of purple steel and aluminum cast spikes.

Cabrales' next work, which he's hoping will be shown sometime in May, is an eight-foot-tall, five-foot-wide sculpture of the Aztec god of creation Quetzalcoatl, a feathered serpent times four Cabrales is molding into one massive piece.

"It's very important to me to express my heritage," he says. "I don't want to just be known for crazy bunnies and mushrooms."

One more thing you need to know about Angel Cabrales, revealed inside the artist's studio/home: The guy loves milk.

"When I was a kid, I drank a ton of milk. I still drink a ton of milk," he says, opening the refrigerator door to reveal two gallons of whole milk, some corn tortillas, asadero cheese, chorizo, and fresh eggs from his parents' chicken coop in Anthony, Texas.

"When I was younger, I thought that milk would help me grow wings like an angel. And I swear that after drinking so much, I built this calcium deposit on my shoulder blade.

"Even now, I think about buying some feather wings, or even sculpting some out of steel," he explains. "But then I realized those might be a little too heavy."

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