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Conversations with Gabrielle Mar

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gabrielle Mar.

Hi Gabrielle, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
As an artist, I have always felt like every day is the beginning of something new to discover and learn. Life is an unpredictable journey and I’m grateful for each moment. I was born in West Hollywood and grew up in Taipei, Taiwan. As a young girl, I kept some coloring journals regularly but spent relatively much more time practicing piano. My family has both Chinese and Vietnamese background, with the latter leading me to become fluent in French – often talking with my dad, who used to work as an art dealer and metals trader in Los Angeles before moving back to Taiwan. A large part of my artistic sensibilities can be traced back to my family and cultural influences – my father Minh was interested in Chinese fortune telling, my mother Josephine was an expert in flower arrangement and cuisine, my grandpa displayed beautiful calligraphy and paintings, and my grandma collected exquisite embroidery artwork. My little sister Iggy also paints in watercolor and gouache. Living in Taiwan, there are traditional temples everywhere, filled with intricately crafted art. Our family traveled together to almost twenty countries to see natural and cultural treasures over the years.

I went through a lot of different experiences to finally arrive at my current career. I received a Master’s degree at UC Santa Barbara in East Asian Studies with a focus on Japanese art history, then enrolled in a PhD program in visual arts at UC San Diego but withdrew after completing the coursework. I relocated to NYC and enrolled in classes at the Art Student League of New York while also working at an art and fashion PR agency. This was the beginning of my focus on art as I developed my personal practice and also gained some exposure to the art industry.

Although I had already started painting regularly, it wasn’t until the pandemic arrived and I moved away from the city to be closer to family and friends that I was able to really dedicate myself to creating art as my way of life. Living for at least several months each in Colorado, Connecticut, and Taiwan, I enjoyed time outdoors immersed in nature and finding my artistic inspiration. I eventually returned to Los Angeles where I now have a dedicated studio space in Hermosa Beach.

As I’ve continued to experiment with new artistic styles and produce more work, I’ve started to have opportunities for publication and exhibition internationally. My close schoolmate friend Nicole Dai is a gallerist and has been instrumental in encouraging and supporting me. After finishing construction of my studio and beginning to work with more intensity, I got accepted into the Los Angeles Art Association and National Women Artist Association which opened more doors for me. My works were recently included in an international art exchange exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. I feel so grateful for the help of the show’s curator Ms. Julienne Johnson and chairman Katsu Shimin. In the UK, my paintings were also featured in the Artist Talk Magazine, and the same organization is also producing a digital show in Times Square NYC on June 23rd this summer.

Starting out painting artworks for family and friends, I’ve had positive reception for my work that gives me motivation to continue. Spending more time at home, art can shine a purifying light and have a powerful therapeutic effect. People have told me that the artworks I created for them were a cherished source of happiness that helped ward off the dullness of working from home.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
As an artist, there are so many things to manage at the same time in addition to producing new artwork. Journaling and time management is so critical for me because I can easily get overwhelmed by various distracting tasks that pile up. After setting up my studio earlier this year things have been going more smoothly for me, but the time leading up to that was filled with challenges.

Throughout the past several years, my Mom has been in the final stages of Parkinson’s disease and had to endure countless heartbreaking difficulties in everyday life. I’m not able to stay with her in Taiwan all the time, but her love has always been a major inspiration to me. Concern for my mom’s health has been a huge issue for me, but making new paintings to hang beside her bed was a primary motivation leading directly to creation of most of my early works.

Last year was a challenge for me due to some emergency situations. I was in the middle of planning construction of my studio when my mom’s health suddenly deteriorated and I needed to fly to Taiwan. I didn’t want to completely interrupt my work, so I filled a giant suitcase full of tools and equipment and even painted while I was in the mandatory two weeks quarantine in the hotel. I was able to work but it definitely wasn’t an ideal situation.

There have been times when I’ve experienced significant creativity blockage and just didn’t feel the right mood to start painting. Whenever this happens, it takes some effort to reset and bounce back to normal. I think as an artist, it’s vital to start listening to your true voice, so I’ve been practicing meditation and intentional mindfulness practices for focusing.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I paint delightful abstract scenery with a colorful and playful style that I hope to be somewhat dreamy and heartwarming. The ideal for my work is to create images that directly produce a feeling in the viewer at a subconscious level. I rely on my own brush stroke technique which is adapted from my past experience in Chinese calligraphy. I enjoy making colorful swirls and playfully mixing colors. I’ve been experimenting with iridescent, reflective and holographic mediums to better communicate the feelings that I’m going for in my work. Art is my outlet for manifesting dance-like movement and musical rhythm onto the canvas. It’s an emotional and exciting practice for me to condense life and nature essence onto canvas. I hope people can feel emotionally moved or related when they observe my painting. Viewers can find their own interpretations and answers from my art.

Being an artist, your uniqueness is your magic. It took me a while to figure out my own and I am still on a journey of discovery. Recently I’ve mostly painted in acrylic, but I also enjoy collage and occasionally use oil paints. I used to practice a hard edge style with geometric compositions before evolving towards abstract flower imagery drawing inspiration from the beauty and infinite variation of nature. I’m proud to draw from different cultural influences as sources of inspiration. It’s not easy to represent formless concepts so I frequently refer to spiritual wisdom to prepare my intuition to be able to better express my ideas.

What do you like and dislike about the city?
LA is my birthplace and I’ve always felt connected to it by heart. I’m drawn to the perpetually sunny days, the creativity of different industries that make this city, and the artists from all over the world who have gathered here. There is a magical vitality that LA radiates. I feel like my ability to find delicious and authentic food here is remarkably high. As an artist with Asian background, I’ve always felt very welcomed here and I like how there are such a vast amount of interesting places and events, but I seriously dislike how short distances in this city can become impossibly difficult to cross when it seems that everyone has the same idea of going places at exactly the same time. There are gems hidden all over Los Angeles; I just miss the convenience of a densely vertical metropolis and wish they were closer to each other so that it would be possible to visit more of them in a single day with less time spent traveling!

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Image Credits
Gabrielle Mar art studio

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