Yvette Gellis could in a sense be said to be a landscape painter. But that’s only because she uses paint, and often draws inspiration from the elements of nature and the world that surrounds us. The work itself presents an imaginative, architecturally engaged hybrid of painting, sculpture, installation, and experience as she breaks out of physical and material boundaries, as well as moving beyond categories of abstraction and pictorialism. Her exhibition “Omnipresence or Chance” is currently on view at Cal State University Northridge West Gallery through September 12.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
YVETTE GELLIS: In 6th grade my teacher called me to the front of the class. She pulled down a fresh sheet of white paper covering the entire blackboard. She then opened a book to Leonardo da Vinci’s last self-portrait and asked me to copy it — very large on the entire paper while she introduced a new science lesson. I had one hour to finish it. I have always been grateful to that teacher who really defined my life.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
My work has always been about painting. Expanding the conversation, the boundaries, breaking into new territories. When my art moves into space I see it as expansive three-dimensional paintings. When my paintings look like objects in the middle of the floor, I see them as three-dimensional paintings.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
I wouldn’t be here or I’d be a monastic in the Himalayas.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
It feels like I’ve been in art school my whole life, but life keeps periodically interrupting. I did get my MFA and grad school was a great place to work through things. There is a freedom there and also a place to gain a lot of knowledge. I’ve gone to three art schools in L.A. and consider myself an L.A. artist in every sense.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I fell in love!
When was your first show?
My first solo show was of some watercolors I was doing, at a place called the Covenant Club in downtown Chicago. I must’ve been 18 years old. My first show right out of grad school was at Kim Light/Lightbox in 2008.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
Right now at CSUN West Art gallery. “Omnipresence or Chance” curated by Molly Enholm. This is some of my most personal work yet.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
Why that would be Leonardo da Vinci, of course! 🙂
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
I listen to everything…
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