Deep Expressions

By on August 1, 2018

Walking into what Pamela Gibson has drawn from the world

‘Give the buried flower a dream’ by Pamela Gibson.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Song lyrics and poetry fill Pamela Gibson’s head as she works on her art.

“For me, content is really important,” the encaustic artist said. “I have to have some ideas besides a visual idea that I’m inspired by, or I get lost.”

So while some artists don’t title their work, or give a piece a basic name denoting its place in a series, the title of Gibson’s work gives viewers insight into an integral part of her process. Gibson’s work is driven not just by the landscape, where she finds inspiration, or the material she uses to experiment with color and texture, but also the words of the writers, artists and musicians that join in her mind as she works in her studio.

Her latest show “Elemental,” which opens at Turner Fine Art on Monday, is inspired by earth, wind, fire and water, but also the words of Robert Frost, the lyrics of Bob Dylan and other poets and musicians.

The show title also gives insight into Gibson’s process and current state of mind. The show is a bit of a departure for Gibson, who usually uses the seasons to guide her work. This body of paintings is guided by the elements, including quintessence, which Gibson describes as the fifth element, one that can’t be seen, but that gives the four physical elements meaning.

“All of those ideas are just very basic and weave their way through all of these paintings,” she said. “When you live in Jackson Hole, you are sort of always in the elements. They are not outside of you; you are living in them.”

Gibson will debut 17 pieces she’s been working on since January, including several large works. Large-scale encaustic work is unusual because the paintings get so heavy, but two horizontal pieces in the show, “The answer is blowing in the wind” and “Give the buried flower a dream,” are seven-feet long. They can hang separately, but Gibson also designed them as a diptych—two pieces that can hang as one.

Gibson, who has painted professionally for about 11 years, came to art later in life. She’d always dabbled, but it wasn’t until she was in her 40s that she was brave enough to call herself an artist. Always interested in art she took a few classes at the Oregon College of Art and Craft near where she lived. She fell in love with art and went on to earn her bachelor’s degree. After school she focused on textiles.

For years, she wove tapestries on a large loom. But within a year of making the move from Portland, Oregon, to Jackson, she sold the loom and began to focus on painting. “There was something about the light that was so different here,” she said. “The wool absorbs light and encaustic reflects.”

Gibson uses hot, melted bees wax mixed with resin to harden it and pigments for color to create her encaustic paintings. She layers the paint and then goes back and scrapes, finding colors from previous layers to bring to the front.

“It’s a subtractive thing, as well as additive,” she said. “That’s what I find really, really interesting about it. I can make the colors as opaque and as transparent as I want them to be. And there is a lot of texture. I was a fiber artist for so many years, I’m drawn to texture.”

Her work, including pieces in the upcoming exhibit, is abstract. Gibson uses photographs as a visual guide when she paints, but those act as a prompt. One could never look at her photographs and match them to a painting; the work is too different than the inspiration.

“For me, I can express ideas that are very different than if I were to paint a tree,” she said. “It’s a deeper expression for me. I made it through art school, so I can draw, but I’m not a Kathryn Turner. So for me, pulling things out of the world that I see, instead of trying to represent them, is what works.”

Pamela Gibson’s “Elemental” opens Monday. A reception is 5 to 7 p.m. August 16 and the show hangs through August 31 at Turner Fine Art.

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