A VISIT WITH GEORGIA GERBER AT HER STUDIO ON WHIDBEY ISLAND, WA
Text by Bonnie Gangelhoff, Photos by Peter Kuhnlein
This story was featured in the September 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art September 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
What elements were important to you in designing your studio? My studio was designed around my memories of old schoolhouses and Amish barns in Pennsylvania, where I grew up. A wonderful architect eventually designed it. In my old, smaller studio, the skylights were on the south, but this time, I wanted big, long skylights on the north side, so I could get bright, indirect light. I like the north-facing skylights because, when I am working, I need to have light coming from above. When the sculpture is outside, that’s how it is viewed—with light coming down from above.
Describe the gardens surrounding your studio. Each of the planting beds is a sculpture on its own. They form soft shapes with a lot of texture made up of different varieties of shrubs. We keep the last edition of each of my pieces—I usually do editions of 15—for our own collection and put them in the garden based on what works well in terms of scale and the surrounding plants.
Do your physical surroundings influence your work in any way? Not so much for ideas, but they influence me by creating aesthetics and a sense of calm around me. I created an environment that I love to work in and one that makes me feel good. It’s very quiet; we are on a back road where there are towering cedars, firs, and alders.
What inspires you? There are a lot of representational pieces that are done by well-known artists. I always want to try to do something different. I force myself to approach a piece in different ways, such as trying to do something whimsical—something a viewer could believe could happen in nature but that never really would happen. It’s a hard line to walk in making sure I don’t cross over into something cartoonish. I don’t put clothes on animals for a whimsical approach. I want to create animals with integrity. I want viewers to think that this is a fun piece but it is also correct. When I have an idea, I start right in with clay. I can slice, dice, move, and tweak it. I use clay as my sketch pad because I can’t draw. You won’t see any sketches in my studio.
What artists have influenced you? William Lasansky, my professor in college at Bucknell University. He never told us what to sculpt, but he emphasized quality every step of the way. I guess that is what I look for in my work and other artists’ works, whatever the subject matter or style. It has to convey quality all the way to the patina.
What attracts you to animals as subject matter? Animals are a comfort to me. I grew up on a small farm in Chester Springs, PA, and used to have horses. I grew up loving animals; they were my buddies. I observed them a lot. I could see their individual personalities and the ways they might pose if they were agitated or happy. I was always asking my parents if we could get one more dog or duck or goose. Recently I tried to go without a horse or a dog, and it didn’t work. I find comfort in taking care of animals and even observing them. We have eight chickens, a dog, two cats, and two horses. I ride every day.
If your studio were on fire, what one thing would you save? My dog, Arlo. Everything else is replaceable.
Do you listen to music while you work? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. My studio is in such a beautiful spot. Sometimes I prefer the sounds of the birds and the rain.
What impresses you about other artists’ works? I am impressed when an artist steps outside the box. I admire what sculptor Sharon Spencer is doing with her pieces.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not sculpting? Riding my horse. For years I was an upper-level dressage rider. I stopped for about seven years, but I’m back at it—not at a competitive level, but training the horses.
What is one place people will never find you? They would never find me lying on the beach, even though I live on an island.
Where do you take people when they come to visit you? We have the wonderful town of Langley about seven miles from here. There are great galleries there where people can see works by most of the artists on the island. There are painters, sculptors, woodworkers, and glass artists here. The arts community is strong. I would also take them to Ebey’s Landing. There is a trail that leads to a bluff that has a panoramic view, and there’s something to see from every angle—Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, and Canada. Everyone says it’s the jewel of Whidbey Island.
Brackenwood Gallery, Langley, WA; Gallery 903, Portland, OR; Gallery Mack, Seattle, WA; Northwest by Northwest Gallery, Cannon Beach, OR; WaterWorks Gallery, Friday Harbor, WA; Whistler Village Art Gallery, Whistler, BC, Canada.
Featured in the September 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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