I am a perceptual painter. What I see before me in the mirror is what I paint. Though my methods and techniques have not changed drastically from those artists who lived centuries before me, I am an artist of my own time. I borrow from the great portraitists of the past to first seduce and then challenge contemporary viewers to catch a glimpse of their own anxieties mirrored in my work.
For ten years themes of self-portraits as saints emerged sporadically and eventually dominated exclusively all of my oil paintings. Why self-portraits as saints? Using my own image virtually guaranteed a contemporary point of view in my interpretation of the saint as subject matter. The death of a spouse, moreover, encouraged the exploration of the timeless theme of suffering death and redemption. Finally, there are the considerations of economy and availability in being your own model.
My latest work has been a series of self-portraits in pastel on paper ranging from paintings based on historical portrait paintings of the 18th century to a contemporary series of individual self-portrait heads with blue eye-shadow to self-portraits that include portraits of my mother. Thematically, though, the pastels and the oils have a commonality in consistently exploring the painful gap in our psyche that is the unbidden place where we hoard that sense of loss, suppress thoughts of mortality and deny reflections of our sexuality. The motif may be my face and body but if any are to be judged successful, they will have transcended my own life and physical particularities.
— Gaela Erwin