An Exclusive Interview With Rebecca Gabriel
Art Market|Issue #46 April 2020
Rebecca Gabriel is a prominent USA figurative artist.
JASMIN SUKARI

She holds an MFA from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and had also studied in Europe. Her painting often utilizes the Renaissance tradition of egg tempera, oil paints, and glazes, along with an acrylic pouring medium. As a result, these portraits combine traditional representations with the random and expressive effects of high-flow paint. In addition, Gabriel employs collages in various interpretations of a subject, synthesizing realism and abstraction into a cohesive, expressive whole.

Gabriel had exhibited in a variety of high-profile exhibitions, including the recent XII Florence Biennale in Italy. A one-person retrospective of her work was held at the Rogue Gallery and Art Center in Medford, Oregon.

Her work has also been exhibited at the Schneider Museum of Art, Ashland, OR; Denver Art Museum, CO; De Cordova Museum, MA; Oakland Museum, CA; Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Cornell University, NY and more.

Her art has received numerous awards. Some notable ones are the First Award, Henry Hopkins, All California Art Exhibition,; Finalist in Artist's Magazine, and the Jurors Choice award in the Human Form exhibit, Newport Visual Art Center, OR.

Gabriel's work was selected for an extended loan in the Executive Chairman's office at the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C.

Gabriel has also been awarded a Massachusetts University Fellowship, as well as a Haines Foundation grant. Her work is featured in Calyx, Studio Visit, and American Artwork magazine.

Art Market: Hello, Rebecca! It's a pleasure to have you in the magazine. We find your work fascinating; I can't wait to discuss your unique techniques and the way you've developed your style; But, first, please tell our readers about your background. What made you delve into the art field?

Rebecca Gabriel: Thank you, Jasmine. At a young age, making an image seemed like a magical power. Though I was a good student, art was always what I did best and loved most. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in painting from the University of California, I set up my first art studio in Denmark and traveled extensively in Europe to visit some great museums. I had minored in Art History, and experiencing these museums confirmed and surpassed my expectations. The art seemed to speak directly to me and appeared to be the pinnacle of humankind's achievement.

I felt personally connected in such a way that I was compelled to dedicate myself to art.

A.M.: You had studied art in both Europe and the U.S. What kinds of differences did you find studying in these two different locations? Which one did you prefer?

R.G.: Yes, as I mentioned, I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in painting and my Master of Science degree in art education in Boston, and a Master of Fine Arts in Painting in Amherst, Massachusetts. Years later, I went on to study old master painting techniques in Austria with Michael and Ernst Fuchs through the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Between my education in the United States and Europe, the emphasis and curriculum were completely different. My studies in the United States had provided me with a deep exposure and understanding, not only of art history but of contemporary art, too. Innovative perspectives and creativity were stressed, encouraging me to take risks and break the rules.

Strangely, my cutting-edge studies in America gave me the confidence and backbone to pursue my inherent interest in figurative painting, which was NOT promoted at the time. I was determined to paint the figure and knew I was not proceeding with a retrograde naivete. I returned to Europe to study in Vienna because I needed a technique. Unfortunately, the art institutions in the U.S. had given me little practical training.

Working in America, I was often frustrated technically. I struggled and felt that I had to clumsily re-invent the wheel. My studies in Austria changed all that. I am grateful for both the U.S. and European approaches. Together, they created a gestalt in me, that had continued leading me forward, opening doors of creativity. Because of this circuitous route, I am neither academically nor commercially trained and have been able to amalgamate old master techniques with my already embedded contemporary sensibility.

A.M.: Your painting often utilizes the Renaissance tradition of egg tempera, oil paints, and glazes along with an acrylic pouring medium. This is quite a unique technique, not very common by most contemporary artists. Why did you choose this technique - once used by art legends, but forgotten since - of all possibilities?

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