An Interview with Gail Vollrath



Tumble by Gail Vollrath was a stop-in-my-tracks-and-stare painting for me at Artomatic. Dense blacks and brown-black (made with tar, I learned after talking with her) sank in deeply. The three light blue lines owned a kind of middle ground, and china marker poked out here and there. The piece offered a playful tension between things solid and ethereal. 

I was captivated.

When I came for air, I asked her if I could interview her. I was delighted that she said yes and not "Please stop breathing on my painting." Go see it in person at the 11th floor, space 265.

What's the one thing you'd like people who aren't familiar with you/your work to know about you? 

People may be surprised that I consider my work to be minimal.  Though the final work may look very complex, most of the movements take place in my head.  No matter the size, it can take a very long time for one piece to come to fruition for that reason.  I let each piece lead me.

Do you paint intuitively, with a hardcore plan, or somewhere in between? 

Well I don’t live my life by a hard core plan, so it seems natural that I don’t work that way.  Everyone works according to their individual temperament.  I have learned that when I trust my thinking (and intuition as you say), things turn out more genuine.  Typically I keep notes in a very small notebook that I carry around.  Some of what I write down is notes on things I hear or see or words or groups of words that sometime become titles for paintings.  Sketching has never been particularly useful for me.

Who is your biggest influence and why? 

I don’t know if I have one big influence.  Living my day tells me what to do and how it needs to be done.  My formal art education was fairly academic and comprehensive and I do try to keep up with what is going on today.  As far as what I tend to look at in galleries, I look at everything: ancient, contemporary, conceptual, drawing, performance, and film.  Reading a variety of books from popular fiction to nonfiction, as well as current periodicals can be hugely influential.  Recently after reading the book and seeing the very popular film, Hunger Games, I have been thinking about the lethal, fabricated dogs that were invented to terrorize the characters and thinking of how elements of those dogs can work as a metaphor for many things that are happening in our world today.  People make up all kinds of things to inflict on others for whatever reason, real or imagined.
A lot of artists have that one piece in their studio that they would never ever sell. Tell us about yours.

Nothing is that precious.  There are pieces that I am a little closer to and I wonder why others have sold before they have, but I am always happy for someone to take something home.  If it can move them in some way, then they should have it.

Thanks, Gail! I'm so glad I saw your work at Artomatic.

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