END, ALL THESE THINGS ARE RELATED: GAIL FOSTER IN CONVERSATION
by Jerry Cullum
In many ways, Gail
Foster is her own best advocate. What follows is a composite
statement extracted from several hours of conversation in which she
explained at some length her process of working and how it relates
to her overall vision of spiritual unity. Fosterís quest has
paralleled that of the great mythographers of our fast-closing
century, who also found the true depth of the human journey encoded
in the various forms of the worldís folktales (not the tidied-up
versions we learned as children); insight is much the same whether
it occurs in Europe, Japan or Egypt, recorded in elegant volumes or
recited by the fireside. Fosterís paintings form gateways for our
own entrance into those levels of insight that, in the final
analysis, are accessible within ourselves as we cease to be our own
inattentive ďselvesĒÖ when we become more or other than we
ordinarily believe ourselves to be.
Now let us allow Gail Foster to speak for herself, in words I have
done no more than arrange in the order that her vision implies.
I steer away from literal portraitureómy portraits always combine
gestures and postures of several people. I learned academic
portraiture early, and I think itís absolutely beautiful. But Iím
interested in exploring much more basic questions: ďWhat am I here
Ascension is a continual themeóthe spiritual idea of reaching up and
moving forward. That leads to the larger thought of our place as
human beings. A constant theme that I explore is ďAre we falling or
are we rising?Ē Sometimes a figure in a painting will begin as a
falling one and turn into a rising figure by the end of the process.
When I paint or draw the figure, I want the fire, the passion, and
the light of the soul to come out through the energy of the
movement. I find some of that in German Expressionism; I feel almost
a family kinship with artists like Käthe Köllwitz, Rainer Fetting
and Emil Nolde.
Dance and ritual are a never-ending interest for meóboth are about
life and movement. Iíve been inspired by many different religious
and literary traditions that deal with the movement from darkness to
light. The light remains even in the works dealing with transition
and death. Changes, passages, and choices are all part of the
I canít paint a dark figure. No matter what happens around the
figure, thereís still that light from within. Knowledge is
ultimately cellular and intuitiveóitís in our bodies. Art, if itís
to be truly good, needs to tap into that level of inner knowing,
that inner light.
The many layers of my paintings and drawings are a basic part of
that search for inner knowledge. In my drawings, I use six different
charcoalsóthe layers upon layers are a way of getting to the point
of connection where a couple of strokes finish the work. When that
happens, the link between the work and me is literally physical.
That total connection is importantóin the end, every part of a
painting has to work. The color has to seem spontaneous and
haphazard, but if you open yourself up, the corners will be as
important as the central figures. I learned long ago that the most
effortless-looking painting isnít effortless. Nevertheless, the
technique isnít what matters; itís just the means of getting there.
As some of the work in this exhibition shows, Iíve been reading the
many different versions of fairy tales and stories. They emanate
power. I want the layers of my painting or drawing to communicate
the same levels of energy and power.
I paint both male and female energies as literal gender or as forces
within a single personality. I want, though, to leave the images
open so viewers can connect with those energies on whatever level
they want. The work is much less about my experience than about
those energies. I am a woman, so I reflect human experience from
that viewpoint, but my work isnít just about genderóitís about the
shared human condition.
With the connections I make in the paintings and drawings, I hope to
compensate in some way for our lack of ritual. We race around
distracted, and forget how to see and experience the momentóand if
art is supposed to do anything, it should take us back into the