Artists give a peek into joint portrait exhibit process (PHOTOS)

Wimmer’s “Self-Portrait as Fire” and Reeves’ “Self-Portrait: Earth. Full images shown separately at the bottom of the article. (Courtesy of the artists)

CASPER, Wyo. — Artists Gabrielle Reeves and Maria Wimmer have a joint “Elemental Portraits” exhibit now on display at Casper College.

The two gave a little peek into the process that went into sharing this work with viewers. They first met about five years ago.

“I met Gabby through my husband, Eric Wimmer, who was curating at the Nicolaysen Art Musuem at the time,” Wimmer says. “He mentioned that he had met a talented artist and thought we would probably hit it off.”

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“Portrait of Gabby as Earth” (Courtesy of Maria Wimmer)

The two met at an opening at Art 321 and “hit it off instantly, in that wonderful way that you sometimes do with people, you just know that there is something of real depth to the friendship,” Wimmer adds.

“I think we always kind of wanted to work together on a project, but I remember sitting by the river a couple of years back and really coming up with an idea that allowed us both some freedom to creatively explore.”

The two began an exercise about three years ago where they would each create daily drawings and share with each other via What’sApp.

“For three years we have been in daily conversation, creating, inspiring, and sharing,” Wimmer says. “We are both drawn to portraiture and it has been such a gift to grow together as artists.”

For Reeves, starting to focus more on drawing and eventually painting faces and figures was a challenge.

“For me, I was drawing buildings for years and years. ,” she says. “It was new for me.”

“I didn’t notice until I hung up this show that all of my portraits are of women.”

Reeves now calls Istanbul, Turkey home. She first visited there 11 years ago as part of a University of Wyoming art class led by Professor Doug Russell.

“He used to teach art and English in Turkey,” Reeves said, adding that he takes about ten students each summer to visit and explore. “After that trip I was very influenced by my experience in the country.”

Architecture there was inspiring to Reeves who decided to make it her home in 2014. Turkey has also influenced her recent work in portraiture.

Part of the reason she was surprised to notice so many of her works feature women is because Reeves says that in Turkey, it is generally easier to find men to agree to act as subjects for such art.

Her portraits attempt to show something about the personality of her subjects by pairing the figures with different background elements. The portraits are of people such as Reeves five year old niece, her grandmother and people she knows in Turkey.

“Grandma: Fire.” Acrylic Ink on Found Paper. (Courtesy of Gabrielle Reeves)
“Aunt Mary: Air” Acrylic Ink on Found Paper (Courtesy of Gabrielle Reeves)

Reeves has implemented objects she finds in Turkey into her art making process. For example, she has used rubbings taken from the texture of a large wooden door in one of her pieces.

Antique frames and other Turkish objects have also been incorporated into her work.

“Marbled paper became very big for me in Turkey,” she says.

Doing portraiture has taught her some new things about people.

“Personality can be fluid,” she says. “It’s something that I’ve come to understand.”

Reeves says that attempting to capture a likeness of the people she is painting is important.

“Likeness is key,” she says. “For me it has to be accurate.”

“Aubrey: Aether” Acrylic on Paper (Courtesy of Gabrielle Reeves)

Reeves says that she notices differences between her and Wimmer’s work.

“I would say our styles are quite different,” Reeves adds. “Our process is different.”

While Reeves was surprised to notice she’d selected a lot of women as the figures in her work, Wimmer made this decision more consciously.

“First and foremost I feel most comfortable approaching women about portraiture in a general sense,” Wimmer says “I can confidently approach women and ask if they would be interested in modeling for me and feel safe about the encounter.”

“I also believe that there is a certain baseline of shared experiences that most women have and it is easier for me to feel a deep waters kind of connection with other women.”

She has included two portraits of men in her work, one of her husband and another of a close friend.

“I asked each of my models to tell me what element they felt most reflected their personality,” Wimmer adds. “I always had an idea of what I had thought they would say (earth, air, fire, water, aether) was their element.”

“While I had my own ideas about the individual, I wanted these portraits to show them as they see themselves. Sometimes I was right in my guess about their element and other times I was surprised by their choice and it felt like I was learning something new about this person.”

She says that painting her “Annie as Earth” portrait was particularly enjoyable.

“Portrait of Annie as Earth” (Courtesy of Maria Wimmer)

“She told me her choice and reason for making earth her element,” Wimmer says. “Without sharing private details about her life I wanted to reflect both restriction and growth in her portrait so I had her body bound by vines.”

Wimmer is a professional artist and art historian.

“A year ago my family was forced to relocate to New Mexico, after nine very happy years in Casper,” she says. “Since moving I have been working to build  new connections and create new work.”

“I have been inspired by our  environment and have been working to create a body of work that reflects this new season of life.”

Wimmer hopes that viewers will feel inspired and suggests four different relationships for viewers to consider:

  • between artist and viewer
  • between viewer and subject
  • between artist and subject
  • between artist and artist

Wimmer and Reeves will both deliver artist talks beginning at noon on Monday, Sept. 9 in Room 102 of the Goodstein Visual Arts Center.

Reeves says she has been thinking about what she’ll talk about. She’s already taken a few people to look at the show and shared some insights into her process with them.

“Both of us have a desire to grow together as artists every day,” she says of her collaboration with Wimmer.

Wimmer has done joint exhibits in the past, but working with Reeves has been unique.

“Working with Gabby is different, because we have such a close relationship,” she says. “When I have worked with other artists in the past we have been friendly, of course, but Gabby is more like family. It felt natural to share and grow with her.”

“We created our work individually, but we were in constant communication throughout the process. I suppose it feels collaborative even though we never touched each other’s work nor saw the work in person until this summer.”

Reeves will return to Turkey to resume her work as an artist and teaching are classes at “NADAS Istanbul,” which she says offers artist residencies in November and May.

Wimmer plans to expand on the work that has grown out of her relationship with Reeves.

“It doesn’t feel like this show is an ending, but rather a beginning,” she says.

“Elemental Portraits” will be on display at the Goodstein Visual Arts Center at Casper College until Oct. 3.

“Self Portrait: Earth.” Acrylic Ink on Found Materials. (Courtesy of Gabrielle Reeves)
“Self-Portrait as Earth” (Courtesy of Maria Wimmer)