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  Featured Artist

Gaiil Gering

Gail Gering, at work in her studio, etching copper after giving it a ferric chloride bath.

c. Gaiil Gering

Abundance and Light, by Gail Gering

c. Gaiil Gering

Green, by Gail Gering

Featured artist:

From salvaged to sacred — The etched spaces of Gail Gering

—Oli Robbins

A couple of decades ago, Gail Gering, then living in Southern California, was inspired to undertake jury duty after watching a close friend enjoy her days serving on duty. Says Gering, “There are so many museums in downtown L.A. You could go out of the courthouse, get on a bus, go for a lunch and come back. I did it for two weeks. During that time, I decided what my future was going to be, and that I was going to be a full-time artist.”

Gering professes that she has “always been an artist, since [she] was a kid.” She remembers spending each Saturday at an art class in Santa Monica when she was in fourth or fifth grade. “My mom packed me a lunch, and I went there all day. I learned how to take an image and draw it for myself, copy it, and render it in pastel and oil.” She later took art classes in both junior high and high school, and recalls being “entranced” by a video of Picasso painting. She went on to complete her undergraduate art education at UCLA, subsequently landing a job as a technical illustrator. But for the next three decades, she put art-making on the back burner and harnessed her creativity to excel, first as an artist and eventually as a manager of entire fleets of communications and graphic teams at California defense technology companies Litton Industries and Northrop Grumman. It wasn’t until about five years before retiring that she fervently recommitted herself to art-making.

Soon after completing those auspicious two weeks of jury duty, Gering’s fate as an artist began to fall into place. Gering received what seemed to be a random flyer in the mail promoting a course offered at UCLA extension entitled “Art as Transformation.” The course consisted of six months of weekend workshops with an in-between critique session. Says Gering, “I have no idea how I got on that mailing list, but it turns out that was the thing that started me off.” The course reignited her passion as a student of the arts. She began taking class after class, learning from many working artists different techniques.

Early in her artistic career, Gering experimented with gourds, which she crafted to look like Native American pots, and later masks. She found herself immediately interested in materials, which she wanted to know intimately and push to their limits. After showing and selling her gourd art at a number of different art and craft fairs, Gering decided she wasn’t cut out for promoting her work in such a way. In an attempt to move away from the craftiness of gourd art, Gering began creating functional work out of metal. She remembers being attracted to the work of an artist in Carmel, CA, who made mirrors from salvaged metal. Rather than buying one of his mirrors, she set out to make a similar one. “That’s what I’ve always done,” says Gering. “If I couldn’t afford to buy it, I decided to make it.”

Gering had dabbled in furniture making for many years. She once enjoyed making children’s furniture for her son, so making such things as mirrors or tables from scratch didn’t seem to her an entirely daunting process. Gering found herself compelled to work with salvaged materials, to which she joyfully gives new life by transforming them into fine works of art. The materials that can be found at salvage yards are fascinating to Gering, who recognizes the beauty of metal that has been textured and colored by natural and artificial elements.

Much of the copper Gering began working with was coated in natural patinas, which Gering wanted to learn how to enhance and alter. She attended a workshop on patinas in Scottsdale, AZ, and that same week, decided to travel to Placitas to look at homes. Both events had a profound impact on her personal and professional life as Gering soon after moved to Placitas, incorporated etching and patinas into her work, and found her true niche as an artist. Says Gering, “I was so drawn to this place. Some people are just meant to be here.” The Placitas landscape has inspired Gering to move away from earth tones and embrace vibrant and bright colors.

Gering’s works harmoniously bring together several techniques, and, as such, Gering cannot simply be titled a “metal artist.” She is also an etcher, a wood-worker, a photographer and, in some ways, a mosaicist. For Gering’s current works, she begins with a photograph of a place or object that oftentimes has an interesting history. Gering then uses Photoshop to manipulate the photograph in several different ways. Gering describes the steps that went into creating her piece Sacred Space, which began with a photograph of a carved rock in Rome’s Basilica Santa Maria: “From the black-and-white image, I basically accentuated the blacks and the highlights, creating a high contrast image. Then, through a series of transformations and duplications of the shape, I selected a final image to use for the etchings.” Gering then printed the image on “pnp blue” paper and transferred it to metal that has been heated to about 375 degrees on a pancake griddle. After removing the pnp blue paper from the metal, the black image remains and, as Gering explains, “this image then acts as a resist to a two-hour bath in ferric chloride. When the black is removed with acetone, the “negative” areas have been chemically etched and can be darkened with an oxidizing process.” Finally, Gering uses glue to attach the etched metal onto a hand-made wooden substructure that has been painted and covered in canvas.

Some of Gering’s pieces include just one piece of etched metal, others are comprised of dozens of etched squares or strips, that assume interesting relationships and have been carefully joined together like glass in a tesserae mosaic. Song lyrics or poetry often appear alongside an abstracted image, imbuing her works with a mysterious narrative that the viewer must workout for his or herself. It was a long road filled with many fortuitous events that led Gering to this complex and unique process, but as the artist explains, “What I’m doing now is what I’ve always wanted to do, and I had to work my way into it.”

You can view Gering’s works and learn more about her process by visiting:

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