Gailene McGhee St. Amand might appear at first glance to be a regional artist. In the interview below, for example, she speaks of herself as a Catholic living in a place where voodoo is practiced. Upon closer inspection, her art is relevant within a mainstream context. Artsy magazine recently emphasized the importance of a generation of transformational artists, traditionally seen as outside of the mainstream, who would no longer be denied recognition.
Although St. Amand’s art may seem to resonate with local color, it also speaks to traditional creative concerns. For starters, she emphasizes color, texture, pattern, animation and more, in her tactile, and lovingly composed art. The artist also touches upon larger ideas. Her preoccupation with fonts conveys an interest in how human beings communicate in visual terms. Finally, St. Amand lives within a sophisticated American culture. In a recent article, Business Insider described Louisiana as New France, one of the most liberal places in North America.
Welcome to artcopyblog.com. Would you like to introduce yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Gailene McGhee St.Amand , and I am a mixed media collage artist who was born in New Orleans LA. I lived in Jersey City NJ for ten years where I joined two artist groups, ProArtsnj.org and HobArt cooperative.
I am an artist; it’s what makes my soul sing.
Art Copy: Is there something that you wish to communicate with your art?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: Simply that I love color and love what I do.
Art Copy: Have you always wanted to be an artist?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: Yes, I created paper dolls, drew objects at home and always found color animation very interesting. I always noticed patterns on fabric and realized that someone had to create it from an idea. As a teenager, I would visit the galleries in the French Quarter and the museum to look at the Artwork.
I began as an oil painter, painting portraits of women on canvas. I had a small studio at the University, one day of the professors stopped to say hello and invited me to his ceramic painting class. I joined and started painting portraits on 12” x 12” bisque tiles. The same oil painting technique was applied to glazes that were opaque, semi-transparent and transparent as the properties of oil paint. I sold them all, the bisque tiles are no longer available.
Art Copy: Has your practice changed over time?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: My perspective changed from representational portraits in oils on canvas, to abstract watercolor collage, when I decided to work on my own voice in my work. Watercolor and ink on rag paper were once my painting media. That was great, but I wanted to work fabric into my collages.
I had a wonderful introduction to collage and assemblage in a workshop at Tougaloo College. I was interested in handmade and found paper. Papermaking, phototransfer, burning paper, tearing papers were techniques that I use in my work. I have since created dolls, artist books, ceramic portraits on bisque tiles and fiber wall hangings.
Art Copy: You are the first artist working in these mediums to join the group conversation. I feel lucky to have found a participant who brings another layer of meaning to the discussion.
I wonder if you employ specific themes and symbolism in your art?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: I am a Catholic living in a Catholic city, where Voodoo is practiced and employ spiritual themes in my art. The fact that color plays a large part in spiritual practices all over the world is inspirational. My work has lots of colors, patterns, and texture. I love ancient script. I find Mayan script the most interesting. At one time I thought I wanted to use these symbols in my work but after researching realized it is the many beautiful characters or fonts that man used to communicate and record its history.
Art Copy: You are also the first participating artist who explores spiritual themes.
I was wondering where you find ideas for your work?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: Usually after lots of visual stimulation of watching fashion, visiting a gallery or museum, or just going through materials that I work with such as papers, inks, paint, etc.
Art Copy: Do you identify with a particular style?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: The works of Kandinsky, Gustav Klimt, Benny Andrews, Bonnard, Edgar Degas, John T. Scott, Basquiat and Frida Kahlo.
Art Copy: I see the of influences of these artists throughout your work now that you mention it. For example, Klimt appears to have influenced your style when you were painting on tile, and so forth.
Is there anything that you would change if you could?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: I would love to work larger. I usually work small because of the space in which I work.
Art Copy: Could you please tell me about the last show that you saw. How did you like it?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: Stella Jones Gallery in New Orleans celebrated her 20th anniversary with an extraordinary show featuring 70 works by both established and contemporary artists including myself.
Art Copy: What a lovely honor.
Do you have any creative habits or rituals?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: I take small pieces of various papers and/or fabric and start assembling on my workspace. I pull out lots of materials, beads, shells, and paints and just get started.
Art Copy: What is your favorite response from viewer to your art?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: “I love it !”
Art Copy: That must be rewarding when everything comes together and the audience admires your work.
What is your favorite city for seeing art?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: Sante Fe New Mexico is culturally rich in the arts.
Art Copy: Do you suspect that future generations will recall anything in particular about the Art World today?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: I think that because of the computerized digital and virtual products will seem Primitive to the future generations. Everything is so time sensitive now, so I don’t know that they will appreciate our creative process.
Art Copy: Thank you Gailene, for the fresh direction and lovely conversation!