Full Circle: Gail Spaien & Heather Wilcoxon

October 3  –  28, 2023
Artist Talk ︎︎︎

Studio e gallery artists Gail Spaien & Heather Wilcoxon are life-long friends. Friendship between artists almost always produces extended conversations about art, about how to keep making art and what it means to be an artist. This exhibition explores how both artists intimately address these questions in their own practice and how conversations arise between their physical paintings.

Gail Spaien’s rich, mosaiced scenes of Maine are each carefully spaced and richly patterned. She speaks of how her slow painting process, akin to embroidery or quilting, and her quiet observations of the seasons, give form to her meditations. Each painting tracks the passage of time and in turn, her contemplation during its creation. “As an observer of my surroundings,” she writes, “I selectively catalog — a cottage chair from the Hadden house on Cliff island, the car ferry motoring across Casco Bay in the winter... the birds fluttering in the willow tree in my yard. I unify the subject of my work around the cycles of nature, daily activity and routine.”

In contrast to Spaien’s quiet meditations, Wilcoxon’s paintings give form to raw emotions. Ladders pile up like wreckage, jutting out of the foggy water, reminiscent of the all-too familiar dusty rubble of disaster sites. The artist talks about a sensitivity in her painting, “I have to feel deeply about something in order for it to matter to me—whether it’s political, social, environmental or personal. Without an emotional reaction, I have nothing to say.” There is a hopefulness in the works though, anonymous figures step out of the Turner-lit mist to climb ladders and reach upwards; each ladder a symbol of self-actualized change.

These two approaches to painting complement and contradict each other, like any good friendship woven through with conversation. Both artists lived on houseboats for long periods and the point where the land meets the water consistently draws them both back to the same place. A repeated meeting of old friends on the shore.

Gail Spaien (b. 1958 Hartford, CT) is an artist and educator based in Maine. Spaien received her BFA from the University of Southern Maine and her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and has been the recipient of numerous fellowships including the Varda Artist Residency Program, Millay Colony for the Arts, the Djerassi Foundation Resident Artists Program, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Solo exhibitions include Ogunquit Museum of American Art, Ogunquit, ME; Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME; Nancy Margolis Gallery, New York, NY; Taymour Grahne Projects, London, UK; and Ellen Miller Gallery in Boston, MA. Group exhibitions include the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA; Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Provincetown, MA; Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockland, ME; San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, CA; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA; the Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME; and the University of New Hampshire Museum, Durham, NH.

Heather Wilcoxon lives and works in the Bay Area, CA. She received her BFA and her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Solo exhibitions include the Fresno Art Museum, Fresno, CA; San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, CA; American University Museum, Katzen Art Center, Washington DC; Triton Art Museum, Santa Clara, CA; Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, CO; and the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, CA. Permanent collections her work resides in include The American University Museum, Washington DC; The Fine Arts Museum, Auchenbach Foundation of Graphic Arts, CA; the De Saisset Museum and Triton Museum, CA; and the Di Rosa Preserve, CA.. She has received several fellowship awards in the past including from the Pollock/Krasner Foundation and three from the Buck Foundation. She recently won the 2019 Distinguished Women in the Arts Award from the Fresno Art Museum.