Defining HER

Emerging artist Hope Gerlay depicts modern femininity

An emerging artist depicts and honors women from all walks of life at The Art Avenue Gallery.  Local artist Hope Gerlay will be featured throughout the month of May. HER features work by Gerlay and  her husband Carlos Estrada-Vega. This showcase focuses on femininity and the definition of a modern woman.

HER, [is] the transitional woman from child to crone,” said Gerlay. “The feminine rising is what I wanted to portray, with all the pseudo-feminism and philosophies from around the world on being a woman.”

Unmade by Hope Gerlay

All of the artwork in HER ascribes to a certain aspect of womanhood. For example, one of her pieces,“Unmade,” illustrates the importance of self-care as represented by a bed in the painting. 

“Her collection is filled with relatable meaning to me,” said Madeline Ordonez, a marketing and art major at Concordia University. “I immediately gravitated towards the “Unmade” piece. Hearing Hope explain how it related to her self-care prompted me to examine my own.”

When asked about the focus of her work, Gerlay replied, “When I was thinking about what subject matter to paint for the show and thinking about what my life has gone through, being a female and all it entails, to becoming a new kind of woman I was inspired to call [the collection] HER.”

Gerlay’s art education began at 11 with a private art teacher. Although she started her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree, she disliked the program and decided to change course. “So I left [school] and then took random classes here and there for refreshers,” Gerlay said.

Instead of following the traditional route and finishing school, she traveled internationally. “I went soul-searching  in the Pacific North West, Paris then Jerusalem,” Gerlay said.  “[And then] everything just fell into place.”

Now, Gerlay is an up-and-coming artist in the desert Southwest with an unusual creative process, “To begin… I like to ground myself in a meditative state by techniques to relax,” Gerlay said. “I search what’s deep inside and pull it out. Whether I am attracted to my surroundings, my memories, current agenda, or what I make up from my imagination. My second step is applying my medium with a spatula and just start with no outline as a tool. In other words, I set myself up to paint, and I paint.”

Gerlay believes that this process allows her to pull from within what is HER.

American Jew by Hope Gerlay

The collection presents a range of ethnically diverse women, representation that all women in the world are one. The medley of artwork depicts a Jewish-American woman, a pregnant woman and even Gerlay’s own mother.  

“Each [piece] has told me their own tale, but the tale is for the viewer,” Gerlay said. “I think most of society’s viewpoint on modern art has to do with realism and how clear they can see the image displayed. What the majority of people perceive as skills are understood more as talent. In the contemporary art world the perception of a craft or skill if often interpreted as high art. It is difficult for a contemporary painter to present abstraction into the world which is given to perceive imagery from the cyber world.”

Using charcoal, brush and spatulas, Gerlay uses a medium patented by her husband Estrada-Vega, a renown artist made famous for his orchestrations of color incorporating magnetic individually painted cubes.

“I blend the medium with pigments to create whatever hue I want, apply with a spatula or brush depending on the thickness,” Gerlay said. “It is mainly an oil mixture with some limestone dust and it is quite a time-consuming process.”

As an emerging artist, she adheres to simple advice. “Follow your bliss-no matter what type of art you think you can do,” Gerlay said. “Don’t take the easy way, don’t listen to anybody but yourself, and if so, take opinions with a grain of salt.”

Gerlay’s collection, HER, will be displayed at The Art Avenue throughout May.

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