Interview: 4X4CLT Artist Gabrielle Wolfe

Artist Gabrielle Wolfe is a woman on the move, but not in the clichéd, can’t-sit-still way. She likes settling in to a new place. She and her partner have just moved from Charlotte to Park City, Utah, for several months—maybe more—of seasonal work in the skiing and hospitality industry. They’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors, taking in the crisp air and iconic sights, even eating Thanksgiving dinner in an authentic, Western-style saloon.

Gabrielle is intrigued by the concepts of place and permanence, and she often experiments with them in her work. Her medium of choice is oil on canvas, and her abstract paintings are collages of images and figures, geometric shapes, and swatches of color – all seeming to be in motion, in close proximity to one another.

As a viewer, I get a sense of standing on the corner of a busy city street, or being deep in conversation with the artist on a moving train. It’s the contradiction, the frenetic stillness, that draws me in.

Gabrielle acknowledges that her work is very personal, though she wants people to be able to access a larger meaning.

“I’m still ironing out the dialogue I want to have with viewers,” she says. “I like to think introspectively about history and time, so in that sense my work is very intimate. I try to reflect how I feel about the spaces I’ve been in,” thinking of her canvas as an “abstract landscape,” where she can explore the significance of her experiences and surroundings.

“I find elements, shapes I love, then I use them as a scaffolding for my compositions.” This may involve painting something from a sketch, line work of something more representative than abstract, or using brushstrokes to capture emotions sparked by a particular place. She refers to the latter as “gestures of spaces.”

She uses moving out of her home in Charlotte as an example of how we can inhabit a place, but how it can also inhabit us. As she was putting things into boxes, she thought about how she was systematically dissembling the life she had built there and enjoyed. Soon, she would be putting a new life together, piece-by-piece.

“I had to think about what would come with me and what I’d leave behind,” she says. “Now that I’ve moved, I look around at what I brought, and I’m intrigued by my choices. Why do these particular objects mean something to me?”

Gabrielle feels spaces are imbued with “accumulated fragments of those who live in them.” In her art, especially in the collaging process, she says she works through the “implications” of these “echoes and remnants of what’s left behind.”

She’s grateful to her mom for being her first champion and collector. “My mom calls herself a patron of the arts, and she is. She’s always been there for me, supportive in every way.” When Gabrielle was growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, the best shopping trips were to the art supply store, when her mom would let her get fresh paints, brushes and scrapbooking materials.

Gabrielle knew early on what she wanted to do and attended an arts middle and high school, before heading to college at Winthrop University. In 2015, she earned her BFA with concentrations in painting and printmaking, then moved to Charlotte to begin working in a print shop and as a studio artist. She also went on to start her own art consultancy, curating shows of local artists at area businesses, such as Petra’s and Not Just Coffee at Atherton Mill.

When asked about what it means to have her artwork paired with the words of Beth Ann Fennelly in the 4x4CLT project, Gabrielle says she welcomes the connection: “I love reading books, writing, and incorporating text into my paintings.”

When people see Fennelly’s words near the work of the artists, Gabrielle hopes the readers will have a visual context to consider; in turn, she says, the writer’s words will “create a literary bridge to the art.”

Gabrielle Wolfe is one of two featured artists chosen for Charlotte Lit’s 4X4CLT Series 2 Number 4 posters, released in December 2017. Her work, along with that of artist Scott Partridge, accompanies the words of Beth Ann Fennelly, writer and Poet Laureate of Mississippi. Look for the 4X4CLT posters to be displayed at over 50 host locations throughout Charlotte.

You can find Gabrielle’s work on her website, and on Instagram @gabwolfie.