A Thoughtful Still Life: Gabrielle Garland by Jason Collins

blue shade painting

Gabrielle Garland is an American artist whose work focuses on a specific subject matter: the home. Born in 1968, Garland seemed destined to become a famous artist as both her parents were well-known artists.

At first glance, you can see exactly Garland’s subject matter: houses and interiors. This may seem simplistic and one with meaning when compared to paintings of religious scenes or epic battles. However, this is where you would need to be corrected.  

In her artworks, Garland describes the need for a home as a recurring theme:”They are at the core of our civilization and history. Humans have always had the need and drive to make a home for themselves, whatever the setting and circumstances.”

Garland’s father passed away from Covid-19 in 2020 and Garland inherited his apartment. Garland speaks about the feelings of being unsettled and the safety a home can provide. “The challenge of defining territory and making oneself a home is timeless.” This is especially true during the 2020 pandemic when the world was forced to quarantine, and people’s homes became their only point of safety. 

Untitled 156 – 2018

Garland’s oil and acrylic painting on canvas, Untitled 2018, is one of her popular artworks and was displayed at Corbett Vs. Dempsey. The painting consists of a pastel green house with a pink roof set against a swirling blue sky. Everything about the painting is moving, from the wonky walls and the textured ground to the swirling brushstrokes in the sky. Yet, there is a stillness in the sharp lines and shapes. 

Her work is similar to Chicago Imagism. This art movement was started in the 60s and consisted of bright, vivid colors with bold lines and exaggerated shapes. It was almost cartoonish in appearance. This is seen in many of Garland’s works with distorted houses and clashing colors.

One thing that many viewers have noted was the absence of any details about the inhabitants of the homes. This could have been done so that viewers could make their opinions on who lives inside the homes. 

Untitled 49 – 2011 

Garland’s 2011 painting, Untitled 49, differs from her others. Instead of the exterior of the house, we now get to see inside the building and who may be living there. Growing up, Garland used to help her mother at her decorative painting business, and this experience shines through the bright colors and patterns in her artwork. The use of red, yellows, and oranges are warm tones that are usually used to indicate feelings of happiness or to represent a warm home, like a cozy house. 

The orientation of the painting with the angle of the furniture is very similar to Van Gogh’s painting Bedroom in Arles. Garland’s painting features a pink couch that is slanted across the left of the room, and all the other furniture is positioned at a weird angle and dimension. 

Garland explains why she uses such abstract and non-traditional shapes in her paintings. “For me, space is something we experience visually and haptically, so texture and pattern are essential components of our experience.”

Jason Collins is a freelance writer, epicure, and lover of all things human expression. While he has not had the opportunity to go to the Louvre in-person he has taken more virtual tours than he would care to remember or mention. When he is not out getting lost somewhere in the desert of Nevada he spends most of his time with his two beagles Max and Sherry.

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