Meet the Artist…

Name: Brenda Gehl (2009 ODACA Artist)
Address: 1007 South Main St.
Alma, WI 54610
Mediums: Fabric, Fibers, Clay, Wood, Glass, Metal
Workshops Available
Phone: 608.685.4214
Fax: n/a
Web Site: n/a
Notes: n/a


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Figurative Sculptor and Storyteller

I am intrigued by the beauty, strength and complexity of the human body and fascinated by the souls and stories contained in each being. My artistic search for the essence of humanity is what inspires my creations.

Puppets and marionettes have always enchanted and mesmerized me as they came to life by the hands and talents of a hidden source. As a child, I played with dolls, imagining their adventures and telling them my deepest secrets. I believed that in the dark of night they could come to life and move about freely. Sometimes I would wake up and was sure that I had seen them scurrying back into place, just were they had been left.

Many years passed before I thought of dolls again. I attended UW-Milwaukee in pursuit of a Fine Arts education, but my time as a formal student was shortened and was followed by a real life education where my art had its place. It was then that I began making simple dolls for my three small children, fondly remembering my own dolls and how important they were to me as a child. 

My understanding of dolls changed profoundly after having attended a folk art exhibit in New Mexico. The room was full with miniature human forms and amidst the silent and still displays I could almost hear whispers and bits of the secret stories that each doll knew. I read the small paragraph of information that accompanied each display, but I desired to know more. When I returned home I began researching the history of dolls, and again I became enchanted.

My first efforts were to replicate the simplest dolls, those made of cloth.  Eventually, I began using different types of clay to sculpt the heads, hands and feet. I worked with wood and wire armatures to hold my dolls posses. In creating their costumes I experimented with an assortment of paints, dyes, and embellishments, and when they were finished there was a story to tell.

As my knowledge of dolls grew so did my interest in the artistry of doll making.  At first, I struggled with the idea of the doll as art, but then I realized that perhaps my true struggle was with a greater question, "What is Art?" Upon examining this craft I found my art. I am inspired by the limitations of cloth and I am passionate to create. It is in pursuit of human understanding that I make my art. I am a figurative sculptor primarily working with fibers.  I include woodcarving, clay, metal, and glass into my sculptures and wall pieces. Fabric itself is a creation of the human imagination and its malleable characteristics make it the perfect covering for the human body with textures and colors to stimulate the senses. In my efforts to capture the essence of what it means to be human it seems natural to work with fibers and fabric.

Working with fabric presents unique challenges. Sculpturally it requires working in both a subtractive and additive manner. While constructing the figure, seams produced become surface lines, which visually suggest strength and movement. The figures I make are not about motion but rather suspended in a moment, their poses heighten the viewer's anticipatory sense of possibility. It is my intention to convey feeling without facial expression. I rely on formal composition and color theory to tell the story when I am not present as the storyteller.

My figures do not attempt to communicate with the viewer. They are content in their silent worlds and keep the secrets and stories of their maker. They wear costumes that assist in the telling of those stories, but underneath their adornments, they are naked and true. I will continue to explore and navigate my way to full understanding and mastery of my subject and my medium. My imagination is abundant and well, and if I can dream it, I believe it is possible.

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