Edward Cabral is a multimedia sculptor based in Brooklyn NY. His work engages American food culture, the material culture of celebration, and high craft as a foil for contemporary art. He most recently appeared on the food edition of History Channel’s Modern Marvels, The Strategist UK, and exhibits nationwide. Currently, he is the Art Director at the Jack O’Lantern Spectacular at the Minneapolis Zoo.
What was your first job in the Arts?
Officially – interning at ThreeWalls Gallery in Chicago during my sophomore year of college. Unofficially – I grew up at craft fairs where my mother sold her work.
What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
The bedrock of the art world is an extensive network of personal relationships.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
I’ve always been an artist, so pursuing a career was a natural progression. I studied arts administration in college as a pragmatic approach to making a living after my education, though I’ve maintained an art practice since my teens.
What do you do now?
For 3 months of the year I help run the Jack O’Lantern Spectacular, a seasonal show centered on elaborately carved pumpkins which runs the month of October in 4 cities in the Midwest & Northeast. Off-season I earn income from my studio art, commissions, consult, and lecture on topics relevant to my practice.
Where are you from?
I was born in Indiana and moved between there and West Texas before attending undergrad in Chicago IL in 2006. After graduating in 2011, I moved to Louisville KY for 2.5 years before returning to Chicago, and then relocated to NY in 2018.
What is the arts community like there?
In Indiana the focus of art is generally about technique rather than intention. Lots of traditional crafts, functional objects, from-life painting. In El Paso, I was exposed to the many traditional crafts of Mexico along with the murals, fashion, and music of Norteño culture. Chicago has a vibrant and supportive arts community that fostered my early career.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
Absolutely – my art practice centers on employing high craft as a form of contemporary art. Taking odd construction jobs in high school allowed me to transition to gallery preparatory work early in my career, and having a working-class background allows me to build strong relationships with the vendors that are vital in behind-the-scenes gallery and event operation.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Always go to openings.
What is one of the greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
Being invited to live/work in New York.
What has been a challenge for you?
Knowing my worth and not compromising at the negotiation table.
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?
Once I taught the Long Island Medium how to carve a jack o’lantern on morning TV.
What do you think defines a good employee? And what defines a good boss?
Good employees excel at their assigned tasks and seek further responsibility when proven dependable. Good bosses communicate, take responsibility for those they manage, and build genuine bonds with their staff which lead to mentorship.
What do you think makes a person hirable?
Real-world experience always trumps a terminal degree.
What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace? Any good tips for a giving a great interview?
To stand out: Use active voice when writing; Take ownership of your mistakes; Respond to emails immediately; Dress like your boss.
When interviewing, convey knowledge of the company’s history and how your experience correlates.
Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world?
Learn to celebrate the success of your peers instead of getting dissuaded. There is enough work for everyone.
Any other anecdotes about your working experience that you would like to share?
As an artist, seek creative opportunities outside of the gallery world to expand your repertoire and discover venues of art making that don’t rely as heavily on monetizing your studio practice, especially right out of school.
What is the best exhibition you have seen recently?
Hugh Hayden at Lisson Gallery
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
David Gilhooly, Wangechi Mutu, Rodin, Clas Oldenburg, Tony Matelli
How do you think art can play a fundamental role in the world’s recovery from Covid19?
Art allows us to mitigate the world that surrounds us – something we especially need in turbulent times.
What artwork is/was in your home office?
Edition prints, small paintings, and traditional craft objects. Most recently, I commissioned a portrait of my husband and I by Shori Sims for our anniversary.
What is/was your greatest WFH challenge? Or a WFH luxury you don’t want to lose ever again?
The greatest challenge has been finding an adequate height for my laptop so I can stand during Zoom meetings.
How has your current job adapted to the new virtual landscape? What do you think can be done better, if anything?
The pumpkin show, as we call it, is a strictly in-person affair. During 2020 we changed the trail to a drive-thru show but really it needs to be seen up close on foot. The digital world cannot replace the experience of in-person art viewing, the thrill of crowds, or the feeling of wonder it all inspires.
It can be argued that the art world has finally been forced to adopt and adapt technologies that have long been a part of other industries. Agree or Disagree?
How do you think art should be shared and/or experienced moving forward?
Remove notions of hierarchy and assume that memes are the Roman marbles of our time – embrace the context that artists chose and try to not prefer one ethos/style over another in order to learn the most.
And finally, do you think the art world should be more transparent?
Transparency is the foundation of trusting and lasting relationships.