Meet

Gail Tarantino

You have a particularly unique process for creating your artwork. What led you to this process and how did you know it was the right one to pursue?
Language’s rhythms, codes, and its musical quality has been an ongoing thread in my creative work. Several bodies of work have used text. Current work from the “Hand Written” series developed from an idea of writing actual letters to individuals whose work I had admired. I am deeply interested in creating forms of translation, and made the decision to step away from an alphabetic reading by translating the letters into a color dot in place of writing.
Translation is in many ways the work of any artist. How do you see these more literal translations operate as images?
There is a kind of enchantment that young children tap into when simulating the act of handwriting. I love that freedom. Conceptually, I was looking for ways to record the thought process of writing a letter and decided on rendering the fluid gesture of the circle, creating an abstract interpretation of the text. Optically, there is a color rhythm that emerges that I may not see until I stand back, seeing a random patterning.
Who are some of the individuals to whom you’ve written these “letters”?
I have written letters to Wilson Bentley, a Vermont farmer who photographed the ephemeral snowflake; Maria Mitchell, who discovered the first telescopic comet; Henrietta Leavitt, an astronomer; and Horace Benedict de Saussure, who created the cyanometer, a tool for measuring the blueness of the sky.
Slant
Conceptually, I was looking for ways to record the thought process of writing a letter and decided on rendering the fluid gesture of the circle, creating an abstract interpretation of the text. — Gail Tarantino
Do you see your works as creating or extending narratives?
The various bodies of work that I have created are essentially narrative-driven. An ongoing tilt toward narrative has taken on various forms, from the distillation of language, short narratives, braille transcriptions, and regional colloquialism plucked from a book on informal English. Plus, the sheer fun of word play.
What necessities do you require when making your art?
Natural light, which is generous in my 10’ x 14’ foot window work space. An adequate work table designed as a double-decker top and extra materials are stored under the floor in long drawers that pull out are helpful, created by my very clever partner. He is a bit of a magician with space. I like to listen to NPR as I work. During the in between time, I am a massive doodler, which is a relaxing state to be in.
How do you choose your materials?
I love working on paper and the feathery deckle edge is aesthetically important to the piece. I have been working with acrylic ink almost exclusively for the past few years, which works well on a range of surfaces, from paper to linen.
How does your choice of material inform the final piece?
Often, the palette is influenced by the content of the work and its context. A particular word may conjure up a specific color. There are people that have synesthesia. A synesthete may see words and numbers in color, but I am not one of them!
Slant
An ongoing tilt toward narrative has taken on various forms, from the distillation of language, short narratives, braille transcriptions, and regional colloquialism plucked from a book on informal english. — Gail Tarantino
How do elements of color specifically correspond to the content of your letters or message?
I might use a color that evokes a specific word. Sometimes it is literal, simply using white paint when writing the word ‘white’. Letting one color bleed into another creates a marble-like quality that is magic. Creating a rhythmic pattern within the structure is part of the process of the overall composition.
What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?
Not so much the process itself, but carving out large blocks of time to spend in the studio while maintaining creative hibernation, cultural outings, and actual face-to-face social time is the tricky balance that is part of our 21st century existence.
How has your upbringing influenced the direction of your artistic process?
My father played the bass fiddle while I was a child and he also had a voice. I have always loved singing and stringing words together and hearing the ba-boom-boom-boom of his bass fiddle strings still resonate. I am a bit of a hedgehog in my art practice. I keep digging into one big idea, vs. the fox that darts around exploring many ideas. The essay by the philosopher Isaiah Berlin, entitled “The Fox and the Hedgehog” is a favorite essay published in the 1950’s. Ricocheting from a range of media to keep the spirit of play and experimentation active seems more fox-like but to the core, I am a hedgehog.
What’s next for you?
I am flirting with a new process of creating three-dimensional forms that reference bottles and containers. I think of them as three-dimensional paintings rather than sculpture since it begins as a painting process of submerging cut paper into pools of ink.

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