Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Artist Shawna Gilmore's Woodlandia

Two years ago when I saw Shawna Gilmore's show at the Kruk Gallery in Superior I was swept away by the personality and vim she put in her paintings. This month Gilmore has an exhibition of new works on display at the Lakeside Gallery, and it's equally fun, her spunk and spirit continuing to run amok. If you get a chance, drop by during the month of August and acquaint yourself with Gilmore's work. I'm sure we'll be seeing more of her paintings around town over the coming years.

EN: Where do your ideas come from?

Shawna Gilmore: I think it wouldn't be a surprise to know I have a very active imagination and vivid dream life. I find a healthy dose of escapism through my work which gives me fortitude to walk through the challenges of life. I read a lot. I laugh a lot. I enjoy playfulness and the bizarre. I love to learn and observe. I enjoy a sense of wonder and perpetual curiosity. All of these things feed into ideas for paintings. I don't really limit myself to reality when I think of images for paintings. There are a lot of what ifs in my world which makes for limitless possibilities and scenarios.

EN: Your colors are vibrant and uplifting. Is this a reflection of your own spirit?

SG: I used to be so afraid of color. My focus in college was drawing and printmaking, color seemed scary. But color is so emotive that it became increasingly difficult to avoid my fear for much longer. So instead of running from it, I decided to try it. I've really learned a lot about color in the few years. I try to use colors I'm drawn to that have a sort of timelessness to them. I don't think I'll ever be a color expert. So much of life is facing your fears and putting aside your insecurities, for me it builds my faith and brings me much joy to overcome even something as common as using color.

I suppose the colors I use reflect my own spirit, I guess I never thought too hard about that. But I can lean towards the optimistic side of life so that makes sense. It's hard to feel glum when you recognize all the blessings you have. I want to enjoy life. I want to find the hidden treasures in it and be filled with gratitude not languish in a pit of despair. When I paint, I want to enjoy what I paint. I want to look at it for years to come and still like it. I want to paint pictures that bring joy, hope, amusement, or wonder.

EN: The word whimsical comes to mind when I look at your work. Is that a fair description of your subject matter? Or are their hidden political messages in your paintings?

SG: Hahaha, no hidden politics in my work, I think you might call me apolitical. I have enough drama and chaos in my own personal life that gives me little margin for the intense emotions of politics. My paintings are for the weary of heart, those who need a moment to breathe, dream or escape the weight of the day.

EN: For example, is that a poisonous snake you have decorated with daisies? 

SG: Well, I do enjoy a little mischief, danger and unknown outcomes in my work. Those more politically passionate might be able to draw conclusions in my work that connect with them and to me that is ok. I'm most interested in providing part of a narrative for the viewer to enter and make their own. I'm not especially fond of snakes, but one with friendly daisy flowers seemed a little less creepy.

EN: I see you have begun painting on panel substrates. Care to comment on this new direction? 

SG:  I've always preferred painting on wood. I've dabbled on plywood, hardboard, paper, never canvas, but I continually return to wood. There is something about the solid, smoothness that makes me happy. Once I discovered deep cradled wood panels, I never turned back. Framing has always been a hang up for me and cradled wood eliminates the need for a frame.

EN: Do you have any local artists whose work has inspired you? 

SG: There are so many excellent creatives in our area, but I am particularly fond of the work of Wendy Rouse, Adam Swanson and Jonathan Thunder.

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Thanks for sharing, Shawna.

EdNote: You can see more of Shawna Gilmore's paintings next door to Lakeside Gallery at the Amity Coffee Shop (have some java while you're there) and at Art on the Planet on Tower Avenue in Superior, as well as at her website.

Wendy Rouse frequently has work on display at Lizzards Gallery in Downtown Duluth, and Adam Swanson's work will be found there as well.

EdNote: TONIGHT Jonathan Thunder will be giving an Artist Talk at the Duluth Art Institute at 5:30 in conjunction with a book signing. Will I see you there?

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Meantime art goes on all around you. Get into it.

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