Claes Gabriel is a Philadelphia-based artist from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Claes immigrated to the States in 1989 and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting and sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1999. His three-dimensional paintings ring with the spiritual energy of beings from folklore and his own imagined tales, capturing a deified presence in each piece. Inspired by modernists such as Frank Stella and Sam Gilliam, Claes’ work lives beyond the confines of a flat wall; he stretches and sews canvases taut over wooden armatures to construct masks and free-standing statues. After considering the natural shape of the piece, Claes uses bright acrylics to pull out patterns, eyes, lips, and personality that seem to rise to the surface of their own free will. Claes often says he knows a piece is finished when he can bow to it.
Gabriel’s first influence was his father, classically-trained painter Jacques Gabriel (1934–1988), whose lush images of peasant life in Haiti depicted the commonplace in the vibrant, modernist language of the extraordinary. Claes’ work aims to bring the sublime within reach. Claes has exhibited in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Baltimore, MD, Washington DC, and Paris, France. His work is included in the permanent collection of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, MD. He currently lives and works in West Philadelphia.