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Coming Full Circle

New exhibition marks Dupont
artist’s return to painting

Straub’s ‘Circle of Life’ show
draws on religious influences

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(July 2012) – When Gigi Straub left public health nursing 15 years ago to focus on massage, she expected that her change in career would offer her more opportunities to paint. However, her successful Madison, Ind., business, Complementary Health Therapeutic Massage, quickly began taking up her time and energy. While Straub, 51, of Dupont, Ind., presented a few art shows after opening her company, for many years it seemed that life was taking her down a different road.

Gigi Straub

Photo by Lela Jane Bradshaw

Madison artist
Gigi Straub says
her art is inspired
by the Mandala.

“After 10 years I didn’t think I was going to be painting anymore,” she reflects.
Then, this past November, Straub “woke up about 2 o’clock in the morning” with her mind filled with the images that would inspire her new show. She quickly began work on three pieces that very month.
However, her painting then hit a dry spell and Straub began to fear that she would be unable to realize her plans for an exhibition. Then in April, Straub was talking with fellow artist and friend, Anne Farnsley, whose advice helped to get her back at the canvas. She recalls the thrust of their conversation as being “you just need to get out of your ego and follow spirit.”
“I’ve been painting pretty solid all through May, June,” Straub says, adding that she has been working on up to eight paintings at once during this creative period. “It’s been a fun ride!”
Straub’s exhibition, “Circle of Life,” will open with a reception on July 27 beginning at 4 p.m. as part of downtown Madison’s “Fourth Friday” series of events. The show will include 27 new works by Straub. The exhibit will mark the first show at the new Carlson Atelier Fine Art Gallery at 301 Jefferson St. in downtown. The opening will give the public a chance to meet the artist and enjoy the musical talents of John Scheckler on the dulcimer.
Straub says that the evening will be something of a block party since during the reception visitors will be invited to walk across the street to “Complementary Health,” where Cara Stillwell will be setting up with her handcrafted jewelry and offering free chair massages.
“Circle of Life” will remain open through August from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. The Carlson Atelier Fine Art Gallery marks a new venture for Kevin Carlson, who has owned Carlson Art and Sign for 26 years. As a painter and art instructor himself, Carlson said he looks forward to welcoming other artists to show their work at the gallery.
“Circle of Life” will present artworks showing variations on the Mandala form. Straub explains simply that, “Mandala just basically means circle.” She notes that those most famous for working with the Mandala are Buddhist monks who create intricate sand paintings that are a “type of art that is very prayerfully done.” She notes that her pieces are meant “to be a prayer for the earth, for nature, the animals, and humanity.”
Straub works in mixed media with her pieces incorporating “everything from acrylic, pen and ink, glitter, gels and glass beads.”
She describes the appeal of using several different mediums in one work of art saying, “It’s easier for me – if I want to get something really fine, and the smallest brush isn’t going to cut it, I’ll just use pen and ink.”
She also uses collage to add a three dimensional aspect to the pieces. This flexibility allows Straub to more accurately realize her own vision in her work. “The glitter is just fun,” she notes with a smile.
Straub believes that her work will appeal to a wide range of people. While she hopes that her pieces will inspire “anybody who considers themselves on a spiritual journey,” she also believes that the works will be appreciated by anyone with a love of color. “If they like color, they will like my show.”
Carlson described the vibrancy of Straub’s work saying, “She uses a lot of bright colors” and highlights the “metaphysical, mystic” influences behind the pieces.
Straub stresses that she is more concerned with creating an “experience for the viewer” rather than imposing her own interpretations on her paintings. To this end, no titles will be displayed on the pieces and there will be no written artist statement presented as part of the show.
While during the process of painting Straub did a great deal of research into the different symbolic meanings behind the animals and colors she includes on her canvases, she does not expect those symbols to necessarily mean the same things to her viewers as they do to her. In fact, that is part of the point of her work. She hopes that the pieces will inspire her audience to create their own meanings and stories behind the paintings.
To Straub a successful piece of art is “something that’s going to make me think and form my own story for what the art is – something that if I was to take it home, I could hold my grandchildren on my lap and tell a hundred different stories.”

• For more information on the Carlson Atelier Fine Art Gallery, call Kevin Carlson at 812-701-3993.

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