The Leaf Chronicle
September 3, 1999
UNSETTLING WORLD OF WORDS AND PAINT: ARTIST GALE GIBBS WORKS WILL TAKE YOU FOR A WALK INSIDE THE MIND
By Stacy Smith Segovia
Don’t walk into the Trahern Gallery anytime soon expecting to get a quick, colorful, 15 minute shot of culture on canvas.
If art were coffee, this ain’t no cappuccino.
Gale Gibbs work is edgy, with a harshness in its overwhelming layer upon layer information. Its not an assault of visual noise, like some late night MTV videos that rapid fire images at the viewer as if tossed like so many bullets from a machine gun. No, its not that at all. It’s more like the more you look, the more you see. The more you see, the more, you know. The more you know, the more unsettling Gibbs’ vision becomes.
TIPS FOR GETTING THE MOST OUT OF THE SHOW
First, go alone. If that isn’t possible, at least get away from your friend, mother or lover while you look at her work. Second, allow an hour, unless you’ve got all day, then allow all day. You can look at this stuff that long. Third, sit with each collage/painting for a while. Then, go up and look at it closely. Then, hold onto your liver, because weird is about to get weirder.
WORTH THE WAIT
I went to the Trahern Gallery, on the campus of Austin Peay State University, around lunchtime a few days ago. When I arrived, the intimidatingly industrial looking chain metal gate was down over the gallery’s entrance. I leaned against the gate and looked in at Gibbs’ art, wondering, “Can I write about this from a distance of 20 feet?” I thought perhaps I could.
The afternoon attendant soon arrived, raised the gate and sweetly apologized for my wait. I stepped into the gallery and into a person’s mind I was not expecting to see. I had brought with me a book written by someone I planned to interview and thought I’d look at the show, then hang out and read while waiting for unsuspecting art lovers to wonder in and talk to me for this article.
I could not look away from the collage/paintings. Count not. The book stayed stashed and forgotten in my bag as I gaped. Deadlines alond dragged me away an hour later.
My favorite among Gibbs’ works is “The New Old Dance-La Nouvielle vielle danse”.
See this-levitating bodies, perfectly horizontal and lifeless and faceless figures with out stretched arms and languid breasts, drawn in chalky outline. The overall vision is something you would imagine was drawn by an alien abductee, after that shaky return trip home. And get this there are words thinly covered in skins of paint then more words and more. It’s like seeing a person’s brain with bits of poems and scraps of thoughts poking insistently out of its creases.
Most of the works in this show are composed of papier-mache-like layering of papers on which words, scraps of words, sketches and bits of self-talk have been recorded. On top of that a painting.
WHAT SEEMS HAPHAZARD RESOLVES INTO MEANING
“ediment, ediment,” I say aloud to myself. “What can that mean?’
And then, as I sit down to have a good long look at “The New old Dance,” I see the world repeated, whole: “impediment”,
A multitude of elongated circles populate this mindscape, laid out or grouped in buches, clustered in the bellies of women. Caterpillars in a bowl, larvae, butterflies, what does this mean?
“old Girls” and “Too Late. Can’t rewind what is unwould,” I read from the painting. Suddenly, I am saddened. I see here a woman whose days of fertility are over, who never had children and now knows she never will.
“I was just a tiny opening where butterflies could land, but not one came near….kept the nectar away,” a scrap of paper in the painting says.
I would write as much about any of the works, although I didn’t feel a decoding happened with any of the others. Sometimes I was oddly frustrated having read three lines into a mini-poem, only to have the last lines obscured by heavy slurs of paint.
“Text and drawings are both line and paint to me,” Gibbs who lives in Plano, Texas writes in her artist’s statement about the show. Gibbs’ statement points out and oddity that I had not realized before. These aren’t paintings accented with words or words with a little paint around the edges. Each is elemental to the work.
If you go, expect to turn over the reins of your mind and let yourself go into the scratchy, neurotic mantra of these paint and word worlds.