Local gallery brings childhood cartoons to life

Hannah Shih

UT alumnus Daniel Aranda glides a black Micron pen across the watercolor paper in front of him, etching in the details of a famous “Simpsons” scene.

Aranda is working on a piece for “Frame That Toon,” an exhibit at local art shop Guzu Gallery that opened Feb. 26. The month-long show features 30 local artists celebrating the animations and cartoons that inspired them since childhood. Aranda said the theme suits Guzu Gallery’s unorthodox vibe of designer toy store and lowbrow art gallery.

“Popular culture is coming back full force in the illustration scene right now,” Aranda said. “This exhibit is all about the connections that each individual artist had with their favorite cartoon and sharing that passion and enthusiasm with others through Guzu.” 

Although the artists draw from similar subject matter, the exhibition varies in subject matter and medium as each artist approaches the theme in a personal way. Pieces at the exhibit range from a screen print paying homage to Acme Corporation characters like the Roadrunner, to a black metal interpretation of “Beavis and Butt-head.”  

“My projects encompasses my dissection of what people want from them and what I want to share with someone else,” Aranda said. “Someone recognizing that this is from ‘The Simpsons’ and whatever communication and discourse happens from there is what I do all of this for.” 

Gallery Director Vincent X. Torres said he gravitates toward the popular culture side of the art spectrum when selecting themes for his art shows, choosing to showcase subjects and themes that the general audience can appreciate.  

“The people who visit the gallery on a daily basis are the inspiration,” Torres said. “There is a genuine devotion to cartoons and animation within our crowd, so what we are seeing with the artwork coming in is an honest connection to the work.” 

Over the last three years, Torres said he has sought to create an inclusive environment for Austinites at Guzu Gallery. Maintaining a close relationship between the audience and the artists stems from the gallery’s core values. 

“Guzu Gallery is not your traditional art gallery,” Torres said. “You certainly do not have to be an art aficionado to have a good time at our shows.” 

Artist and UT alumna Candy Yu Yen Kuo of arts and crafts vendor Status Kuo said she agrees “Frame That Toon” carries appeal for a general audience. The moment she heard the theme for “Frame That Toon,” she knew her muse — Daria, from the 1997 animated comedy “Daria.” 

“No matter who you are, there is one animation from your life that had a big part of shaping you at some point,” Kuo said. “Daria was sarcastic, intelligent, and didn’t really care what other people thought of her. I’ve used my best friend’s face as a reference for Daria.” 

Aranda said one of the benefits of Guzu Gallery is that they not only collect diverse art, but also offer a platform for its audience and artists to mingle and form a community.

“Guzu is that fun, inspiring, creative outlet that doesn’t carry pressure,” said Aranda. “This is all for the experiences. If I want money, I’ll just go out and make it. This means so much more.”