16”x20”Gretchen Howard “The Papaya I”
Artist: Gretchen Howard
Materials: Oil Pastel Sticks, Graphite, Gesso, Acrylic,
Description: Gretchen Weller Howard was born and raised in New Orleans, LA. A self-described colorist, she employs both symbols and color to communicate the deeply personal meaning of each work. Her early focus included graphic design and decorative painting and even now, twenty years later, elements of both disciplines can still be seen in her mixed media abstracts. Over the years, she has developed a distinct vocabulary of images to describe the emotional threads that tie her work together.The vessels, or boats of sorts, “appeared” first, and initially held within them the shredded remains of paintings she had lost during Katrina. After the storm, when Gretchen and her husband returned to their home in Pass Christian, MS, all that remained standing was a huge oak on the beach. Surrounding it were the remnants of an extensive collection of paintings that neighbors had collected and placed beneath the tree. Unable to throw them away, she tore them into long strips and later incorporated them into her work. These boats held safe the memory of the past and yet celebrated the rebitrth of the entire region. Soon after, bridges appeared as Gretchen returned to her birthplace and committed to laying down her family roots in New Orleans once again. And finally, the bird. Like the others, these symbols appeared suddenly and stood upon the bridges as sentinels of possibility and a bright future, never in flight, but poised for the great leap.Today Gretchen’s work still primarily revolves around birds and boats, but the meanings have shifted and grown to take on a new, rich, and ever evolving language. They have both become vessels through which an idea is conveyed, and together with a supporting cast of symbolic characters, a story is told and a mystery unfolds.