Gaela Erwin in her Studio

Photo Credit: Andrea Hutchinson

Gaela Erwin, Artist Statement

Inspired by the rich history of traditional portraiture, I infuse my paintings with a sense of intimacy, rawness, and vulnerability, transporting the genre into the contemporary realm.

After many years of painting my own image reflected in the mirror, I have expanded my focus to include family members. Since my immediate family is small and separated by thousands of miles, direct observation painting has given way to paintings based on photography. The transition has enabled me to capitalize on fleeting and dramatic light that would not have been possible without the use of a camera.

My painting style continues to be refined through studying seventeenth century pastel portraiture in person whenever possible. Pastellists like Rosalba Carriera, and Maurice Quentin de la Tour, and the painter Caravaggio, who combined virtuoso painting with psychological profundity, have been my greatest inspirations. The spiritual dimension and psychic nuances of the sitter are as important for me as the architecture of the head and features.

My choice to paint family members exposes the scaffolding of decades of interpersonal history that literally colors the compositions with a tension that is at best compelling and sometimes disturbing. The mother/daughter, and sibling relationship fuels the structural dynamics and emotional timbre of the a way no other relationship can.