2017-03-16 / Arts & Entertainment News

Gabriele Childs’ ‘transformational’ art goes on display

Florida Weekly Correspondent

Gabriele Childs with her pictograph “Language of Color.” 
NANETTE CRIST / COURTESY PHOTO Gabriele Childs with her pictograph “Language of Color.” NANETTE CRIST / COURTESY PHOTO All artists are masters of the transformative process. They take a blank canvas or a piece of clay and, through creativity and hard work, convert it into art. It’s just what happens.

But Gabriele Childs has embraced the concept with intention in her latest creations. The result is 12 works collectively entitled “Transformations.”

“It’s a series I’ve been working toward for years,” Ms. Childs said.

To appreciate Ms. Childs’ creative progression, a retrospective of her work is required.

“Texture,” Ms. Childs said, “is the basis of everything I do.”

Her landscape paintings give credence to this statement. From across the room, it is evident Ms. Childs has used more than paint to create the striking works. A close look reveals an image constructed from a multitude of materials. Their varied textures make running your hand across the painting’s surface seem a necessary part of the viewing experience.

Gabriele Childs’ “Over the Moon” is from her pictograph series. 
COURTESY PHOTOS Gabriele Childs’ “Over the Moon” is from her pictograph series. COURTESY PHOTOS “Each work in this series started with an organic item,” she explained. “Then I built on it to come up with the right combination of texture, color and composition.”

Ms. Childs began her diptych “Landscape #5” with dried remnants from a plant whose name she has long forgotten. Other materials include bits from a palm tree, cloth and newspaper. She incorporated chips of enamel paint from a table that didn’t take well to outdoor living. She painted paper and peeled off strips to create additional depth.

The result is a rustic village emerging from a hilltop in a vast countryside.

Ms. Childs invites viewers to create the stories behind her landscapes by numbering them rather than using descriptive titles.

Detail from Landscape #5 by Gabriele Childs. Detail from Landscape #5 by Gabriele Childs. “Each observer interprets a work of art in light of her own visions and memories,” Ms. Childs said.

She shared that even her own interpretations of her work shift over time.

Textures and transformations

“When I first painted ‘Landscape #5,’ I just saw little houses,” she said. “They were in no particular location.”

A subsequent trip to China imbued the work — for her — with a distinctly Asian feel. She attributes this refinement to her memories of the red bridges seen during her travels.

Ms. Childs continued her exploration of texture in her pictograph series. Pictographs are visual representations of words or phrases carved into rocks. This means of communication originated in Egypt and Mesopotamia circa 3000 BC. They differ from petroglyphs, which are painted symbols.

“Danae” is a work in Gabriele Childs’ Transformations series “Danae” is a work in Gabriele Childs’ Transformations series Ms. Childs’ homage to this tradition began with a series of sketches. Her vision emphasized recurring shapes she later realized mimicked the lines of ancient Egyptian buildings.

When the time came to put paint to canvas, she elected to use a gel medium. She massaged sand into the paint to introduce texture. She composed the patterns populating her shapes using paint and other elements.

In the work’s negative space, Ms. Childs scratched or combed in designs. She says human faces or animals would sometimes “emerge” as she worked. She embraced their appearance, making the images more pronounced.

The end result is a series of complex paintings with texture embedded in their surfaces rather than built out.

At first glance, Ms. Childs’ “Transformations” seems a departure from her earlier work. Their scale is much more intimate. And while the “frames” are highly textured, the central images are smooth and glossy.

But viewed on the continuum of Ms. Childs’ work, these collage-based works seem a natural evolution. Fragments of painted rice paper frequently appear in Ms. Childs’ landscapes and pictographs. The ingrained texture of the plant-based papers speaks to her.

Eventually, Ms. Childs began painting entire works using rice paper as her canvas. But there was an issue.

Answering a need

Rice paper paintings require protective covering due to their fragility. Ms. Childs didn’t, however, like the distance a traditional frame with glass creates between the viewer and the painting. She set the work aside, confident a solution would present itself with time.

She turned to a new concept — a series of works derived from existing images. With the original image scanned onto her computer, Ms. Childs could use the wonder of Photoshop to manipulate the picture and strip away its parts extraneous to her vision. The next step would be collaging what remained onto rice paper painted to establish the desired mood.

But the issue still remained of how to display the work. The “aha” moment came when she realized she could mount the work on a birch box and encase it in polymer. The resulting tile-like surface would need no protective glass. As a bonus, she could create textural contrast by framing out the painting with an artist’s version of mud.

Works such as Ms. Childs’ “Danae” are the result of this multi-step process. Gustav Klimt’s painting by the same name served as her starting point. But don’t expect to find Klimt’s sleeping woman nestled in Ms. Childs’ piece.

Instead, the viewer’s first impression is one of color, as bursts of purple, orange and gold beckon the eye. A careful look reveals Danae’s bare breast and a few strands of auburn hair. But Klimt himself might not recognize his work in the transformed image.

Other works in the series incorporate existing images in a more wholesale manner. A picture of a warrior-like woman Ms. Childs found in a magazine inspired her “Solange.” Ms. Childs’ use of burnt orange, rust and black enforces the sense of strength emanating from the woman.

The creation of her new series prompted her to consider the broader way in which art can transform life.

“Whether music, visual art or written word, art speaks to us and gives an answer to our needs,” Ms. Childs said.

She hopes her “Transformations” will speak to viewers in just this way. ¦

>> What: Gabriele Childs presents “Transformations” >> When: March 24 through April 30
>> Where: Gabriele Childs Studio & Gallery,
251 E. Olympia Ave., Punta Gorda
>> Cost: Free
>> Info: 575-1711 or 916-3558

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