To explore the recent works of Michelle Gagliano is to explore both the artist’s profound connection to nature and the commitment to her practice.
Born in upstate New York, Gagliano often recalls the farm on which she was raised, and to which she credits her admiration of the natural world. Farm life provided an early understanding and appreciation of the ever-changing qualities of the landscape that have played the leading role in Gagliano’s art throughout her career.
Gagliano’s formal art training is extensive, with various academic environments exposing the artist to a cadre of sophisticated teachers, peers, and practices. She began her undergraduate education at the University of Texas Austin before transferring to University of Texas Denton to study with the famed painter and teacher Vernon Fisher. Gagliano then completed her Bachelor of Arts degree from Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire, graduating summa cum laude with a major in painting and a minor in art history. Almost two decades later, Gagliano once again turned to an academic setting to augment her practice and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from American University in Washington, D.C. Her resume also includes completed residencies at the prestigious Chautauqua School of Art and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.
For the last ten years, Gagliano has practiced from her studio in central Virginia. Here, she remains deep in production mode. According to the artist, “the place I want to be most is in the studio.” Always working on several paintings at a time, Gagliano stays in the thought process, and finds herself in a constant state of inspiration. Surrounding farmland echos the farm of her childhood, with the four seasons of Virginia showcasing the transient quality of nature that drives Gagliano’s continuous experimentation and dedication to her art.
Beyond her home state of Virginia, Gagliano has permeated the American art scene with solo exhibitions and curated group shows throughout Texas, Louisiana, California, and New Mexico. She has also reached an international audience through numerous exhibitions as well as gallery representation in Italy. Gagliano’s accolades are extensive, including the coveted Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship and innovative, collaborative projects with symphonic musicians and published authors. Her works continue to be curated into major private and corporate collections, both within the United States and abroad.
Over her career of almost three decades, Michelle Gagliano has developed a portfolio of museum-quality works that establish both her keen observation of nature and her sophisticated approach to painting.
An exceptionally gifted observer, the artist captures in her carefully composed paintings the ephemeral and emotional qualities of the landscape. While Gagliano’s earlier work presents a more realistic approach to nature with visible tree branches, accentuated leaves, and delineated horizon lines, she has transitioned to a more abstract approach as demonstrated in her recent work.
To spend time with one of Gagliano’s paintings is to see surface alchemy at play. The paint is applied methodically and carefully through brush, sponge, and knife in a manner which can be defined as both free and loose. Elements of interrupted edges overlap and merge into each other while textures and shapes rise and fall. The palette is both muted and saturated while the relationship between background and foreground is consistently explored. The end result is the magical effect of nature’s color, movement, and light.
This effect is intensified through Gagliano’s beautifully refined use of metallics. Gold, in particular, is one of the key elements that provides the works their enduring power. Gagliano is fascinated in how the light catches the gold, veiling her works with this precious metal and its glowing, atmospheric affects. In addition to its visual qualities, she is drawn to gold for its esteemed role in art history as its universal reverence inspired works across eras and art movements, from Mayan and Egyptian to Italian Renaissance and Art Nouveau.
Another component of her recent works that links Gagliano to the Master painters who came before her is the thoughtful use of materials. In the summer of 2018, Gagliano eliminated all toxic materials from her practice, introducing instead ground pigments, oils and solvents based in nuts and lavender, and handmade gessoes. It is not lost on her that this replicates what Leonardo DaVinci, Raphael, and other Masters used in their time. It is also not lost that this choice underscores the lifestyle of sustainability to which Gagliano became accustomed as a child on a farm. When asked about her decision to paint with environmentally-friendly and sustainable materials only, the artist acknowledges both the Masters and an understanding that polluting the world does not go hand-in-hand with the beauty of the world that she has dedicated her life’s work to capturing.
2017 – VMFA Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Visual Arts Fellowship
2014 – Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Artists Residency Fellow
2007 – The Painted Violin. Original Musical Composition inspired by
the "Painted Violin" artwork by Michelle Gagliano. Composition performed by
the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra, Santa Fe, NM