Dear Diary: Gala Bent
Seattle artist Gala Bent has a painter’s hand and a poet’s heart.
Her works on paper often read like otherworldly landscapes, with areas of geometric abstraction and dense gestural marks. They’ve reminded me of the work of early abstractionists like Vasily Kandinsky and Sonia Delaunay. Corresponding titles read like poems, rich with figurative language, pathetic fallacy, and the stretch of perception and imagination: I am focusing all my attention; Cataclysmic Ornamental; Everythingallatonceforever; The Illusion of Depth and the Four-chambered Heart; Heavy, Honey; (Over) Reactive Volcano; Flowering Fossil Bed; All Your Thoughts are in Another Head; I moved my head and lost a star; Wrestler (The Impossibility of a single dimension in the mind of someone who lives in several).
This last year has been a busy one for Bent. In the fall, she took on a full-time position at Cornish College of the Arts, teaching art, design, film, and media students. Before that, she worked on two memorable collaborations with recent UW photomedia graduate Nicholas Strobelt, creating first a stage of color fields and shadows for the event Strange Coupling and then a dark chamber that played with the reflection and refraction of light against Mylar (and made for some excellent snapshots) for the annual Nepo 5K Don’t Run.
For her new show A Chorus for the Multiverse, opening this coming Thursday, March 5, at the G. Gibson Gallery in Pioneer Square, she’s drawn on her recent work with biochemist Ben McFarland, folding in string theory, multiple worlds and selves, and the hexagonal units of fossilized coral. It’s beguiling painting (and poetry).
Gala recorded a day in pictures and words for all us Art Nerds. Enjoy!
These images do not do justice to the chaos that is every morning getting three boys ready for school. But they were watching Curious George eating oatmeal, so they were temporarily at rest.
I teach full time at Cornish College of the Arts, but I have Tuesdays open for research. In my case, of course, that means a studio day. After the boys go to school, things feel really, blessedly quiet. I work as much from home as from the studio proper. Today, I am starting at home and then travelling down to SODO later.
I take out the notes that get written when I’m waiting at a traffic light or between classes or meetings at school. I have sketchbooks, but a lot of my notes get written in a dash between things. Most of my thinking has to be done in between things, so that when I have a studio day, I can hit the ground running.
I’ve been looking a lot at the Petoskey stone that my husband Zack brought home with him from a residency in Michigan. I grew up in Michigan, where the Petoskey is the state stone. It is a lovely combination of biology, geology, and mathematics in its form, so it fits the territories that are inspiring me lately.
I realize I need to finish editing an image for press, so I pop into the bedroom/office.
The Petoskey piece starts to get some color. I use mostly gouache, but sometimes watercolor or ink on paper.
Off to the SODO studio. I’m glad it’s raining, because our studio has no windows and it makes me sad to go there when it’s sunny.
I get all the way to the studio and realize I forgot the key. I evoke Pollyanna and try to use the extra driving for more pre-thinking. I’ve been wanting to start another piece that is less symmetrical than others I have going for the exhibition I’m working on.
Back to the studio finally.
My side of the studio…
…and Zack’s, which I’ve taken over with a big piece of wood over sawhorses to get a big drawing surface. You can see how his architectural sculpture is an influence on my work.
Piles of gouache that I have collected over the years. I’m no limited palette purist, that’s for sure. But I do have a favorite brand: M.Graham, made in Oregon with a binder made from honey. What could be better?
I have big drawings tacked up to look at…
…but I usually work horizontally so that I can go back and forth from drawing to water-based painting.
The blank sheet! I have a picture in my mind of a mirrored set of figures that are also reminiscent of geological forms. They will meet at the crowns of their heads.
Fast forward four or five hours, and the piece is beginning to emerge.
These are the mirrored faces. (Later these were buried in a piece that is now called “BioGeo” in A Chorus for the Multiverse at G.Gibson Gallery, opening on March 5th!)
When I leave the studio, it is dark, and still rainy, though there is a section of clear sky in a deep blue. The air smells like the Puget Sound (which is behind the buildings) and taco trucks—a little dank, but also familiar and refreshing after being inside all day.
This is the only photo that was shot on a different day. I don’t often take self-portraits, but here’s a half-me back at the home studio. Cheers!