Reception: SAT AUG 25 | 6 – 8pm | FREE
On view: AUG 25 – SEP 29
Making Conversation Gallery Talk & Performance: SAT Sep 15 | 6 – 7:30pm | FREE
In 1992, artist and educator, Gina Pierleoni began a series of mixed media “faces” that expressed the perspective that everyone deserves to be seen and heard. During the intervening 25+ years, Pierleoni created nearly 300 portraits of people across the spectrum of familiarity. Whether friends or strangers, these images push past labels and judgements as they question perception, habit, and bias in how we place ourselves in relation to others. What Makes Us (Us) is the first time most of this series of mixed media pieces have been displayed in one place.
The exhibit is on view in Creative Alliance’s main gallery from August 25 - September 29, 2018.
As a college student in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Pierleoni frequently sketched the commuters and homeless population of Grand Central Station in New York City. If she was spotted by someone, she would often be drawn into a conversation that sometimes resulted in the person asking to have their portrait drawn. Several evenings a week, she bartended at a train station lounge where construction workers and Vietnam veterans were patrons along with commuters awaiting trains. Drawing portraits of the drinkers formed a way to create conversations. These two scenarios provided context to the array of changing faces she would encounter day and night. The longer each interaction lasted, the more complicated and like the subject the portraits became. Even when she was away from her subjects, Pierleoni spent time recalling and interpreting their faces into new works of art.
“I didn’t realize at the time that these drawings were forms of advocacy,” she writes. “I was just beginning to notice parallels of shame and invisibility between the homeless and veteran populations…. I certainly couldn’t have imagined these drawings would one day provide a gateway to my own healing, form the central philosophy for my teaching and community building, and build an unshakable tether for making art.”
The artist continues to use portraiture to spark conversations about empathy and our common humanity, using the memory and quality of these interactions to inform the tone of the new body of work. According to Pierleoni, “Portrait painting demands curiosity, stillness, and deep observation.” With the common platform of watercolor paper, and measuring roughly 22 x 10 inches each, the portraits are multi-layered: drawn, painted, scratched into, stamped and stenciled over and through the surfaces. Collage elements made from torn older paintings and ‘to-do’ lists are sometimes adhered to the surfaces. “Rather than capturing a single moment, my portraits use narrative as a vehicle. I am painting from the inside out to show the emotional fabric of someone, in addition to how they look.”
Gina Pierleoni earned her MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Mount Royal School of Painting in 1985, and her BFA from the College of New Rochelle, New York in 1981. Pierleoni has been an Adjunct Professor at Harford Community College (HCC) since 1996 (Painting, Drawing and Mixed Media). From 2007-2013, Pierleoni served as an Adjunct at TAI Sophia Institute of Transformative Leadership and Social Change (now MUIH) in Laurel, MD. She leads traveling Cultivating Creativity workshops, making the creative process accessible to audiences beyond the art community. As a mixed media artist, she has been exhibiting professionally for more than 35 years, earning numerous awards including three Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council, one from the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, and two nominations to participate in The Florence Biennale, Italy. In 2011, she was recognized as a ‘Hero in the MICA Community’ by MICA. Pierleoni also received a Recognition of Scholarly and Creative Publications from HCC in 2017, 2015, 2013 & 2011. In addition to exhibitions, Pierleoni is involved as a creative consultant (venues include Baltimore’s Contemporary Museum and 14kt. Cabaret), a curator, a book illustrator, and arts activist. Pierleoni's artwork is represented in more than 150 public and private collections in the U.S., Canada and Germany, including Golden Artist Colors.