Art Lies, Volume 1, March 1994

CONVERSATION

110

CONVERSE aJON

Gael: When I was a student one of my
projects in a senior drawing class was to do
drawi ngs from F'inniy a s Wake.
Don: So you actually read it?
Gael: Well, I actually gave it a shot, yes. I
think that it had a great effect on me...to try
to draw sound ,in the sameway that 4Joyce -
tries to write sounds. It was a very funny
endeavor. .
The limits of language interest me, what's
unspoken and what's unheard. I think I
represent that segment of the population that
has trouble speaking up in some way. I just
did a painting that's called ffI Could 7ell You.
It's from an Auden poem: "If I could tell
you, I would."
I think that the thing is mor umpotnant
than the idea--if you had to pick one. Two
of the artists I like are Bonnard and Vuillard,
and both of them have a quality in their
paintings that is like something has just
happened...it wasn't very nice and it wasn't
very large either-it was as if someone had
just gotten their feelings hurt...I think you
could walk into a room where something like
that had just happened and you would try to
figure [it] our...So to that extent you could try
to figure out what a painting might be about. :
Don: It seems that your work is filled with
personal conflict, as opposed to th kind of
conlicts that exist in public, such politics
or war. What about your home an the
objects in it?
Gael: I'm not somebodyawho does objects
from my home. The things that recur in my
paintings come much more from language or
from art than they do from the objects in my,
My mother had cataracts and xyould ver
often writthings that you could n't read, that
didn't make~ay nse. She would also have
strange days that would compound the not
making any sense. I still have some of the
things she wrote. They"re what I have from

after she died. They appear over and over
again in my paintings and I really do just
copy the nonsense. I also have an example of
writing by a compulsive person, someone
with a compulsive disorder. It's more serious
than compulsiveness. It's a disorder where
you set up private systems, such as you cant
make a nine unless you put three S's above
it....I reproduce it in my paintings. Very often
that's what the writing is....I don't think I'm
that crazy, but it has a significance for me as
speaking for what's misunderstood. When I
[mentioned] the limits of language, what
interests me is the real effort of both by
mother and the crazy person to be clear, and
it doesn't make any sense at all...
I like the appearance of language. I was a
secretary and I used to put shorthand in my
paintings early on, and only other secretaries
could read them. I like the element of chance.
I have some Japanese writing in some of the
paintings and I sometimes wonder what I
have said. I have no idea. I'd like to know
somebody who can read Japanese. I think
that's part of letting go-I've said something.
Don: So you are really honest in your own
quest to be clear?
Gael: Yes, it's the same quest. I just hope I'm
clearer (laughs). Maybe it's the same thing,
you know-it's occurred to me-that..I'im
very earnest and I do these paintings and
people have no idea what they are. I've gone
ahead and done the same thing. I'm trying to
make the paintings clear. I'm try ing to be
clear (laugis) about it all. I think that , th
paradox of it.
One of the things that appeals to nm about
the Japanese, as opposed to the European,
Medieval tradition is the belief in gradual
enlightenment-instead of never knowing. I
see it as slightly less bleak. I think my
paintings are less bleak and more free than
they used to be. l'm learning to let go of
things-at great cost.

Don: What about enlightenment?
Gael: I don't like to talk that way. But there
are parts of it that I find comforting. I was
raised very strictly (Catholic, which gives you
such a thorny, bleak view of things. I think
Catholicism is very guilt-based. For me, it
was always a question ot giving things up. It
was never a matter of doing positive things.
Ient is one of [Catholics' fiwaorite times. I see
it as punitive and stiffening. I was someone
who was quite literal, so I believed it all. I
think it makes people stiff. Unlike the Italian
versions: they let it go.
I find [Japanese Medieval thinking] more
encouraging. It's very difficult to ever get
anything right, and that drives the cycle [of
sin, guilt and redemption] as well. One of the
things 1 still do-although not as much and
not as crazily-is always try to make a
painting better than the last one. It comes out
of a control thing. It comes out of not good
enough. One of the results is you get a better
painting (laughs). I think the effort is
warranted, but there's a negative side to it:
you're never guaranteed. I take risks with my
paintings, but with these risks I can only hurt
myself.
I had a bad back and so I took a Yoga class,
for the first time. It wasn't goofy Yoga-it
was stretching Yoga. I liked parts of it. My
fLvorite was when you put your palms up, a
sign of letting go. The yogi would say, "Let it
go," and you would just do it...quite nice.
Don: In your paintings you seem to mull
Mver stuff, which is quite different from
Icrting go.
Gael: It very much has to do with control
things. Some people have more trouble with
it than others. But I have a great deal of
trouble. There's a small part of me that would
like to be in control of everything. But then,
everything would be my fault. I understand
the flaw in being this way. You can't really be
in charge of anything. The only thing you

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Carroll, Don. Art Lies, Volume 1, March 1994. Houston, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth228034/. Accessed April 19, 2015.