Gail Watson

Dominate Culture: Outside & Other
In Residence: September 8 – October 17, 2008
Learning Labs: ArtLab
Opening Reception: Thursday, October 16, 5:30 – 8:00 pm
Exhibition: continues through November 6, 2008

Creative Resident Gail Watson culminated her residency at PlatteForum with the installation of Dominant Culture: Outside & Other. Book artist Watson grew up in Queens in the 60’s and 70’s, a culturally tumultuous time in our history. As a white child in a black neighborhood, she became a part of that culture, eventually curling her hair every night so that she could have an Afro like her friends. She was a part of the black culture in her neighborhood, yet felt outside the dominant white culture in spite of being white herself. This body of work mines those memories as our contemporary culture once again engages in a dialog about race, and the feelings of being “outside.” Incorporating photos from her childhood, she reflects upon them to write about her experience. Using toner transfers on large sheets of rag paper, she excavates the memories by rubbing away the layers of pulp to reveal the story they hold. The images are incorporated into a series of artist books, with text, traditional and unusual binding, to create large sculptural book-works that rise from the floor, and hand-held books that can be intimately read. Loaded works that emerged from conversations with ArtLab youth are cast in clay, making them permanent. In casting “I made them permanent, but also burned them, taking away their power,” states Watson.

During her residency she worked with eleven ArtLab teens to explore their relationship with dominant culture, however that presents itself. Are they African-American in a still mostly white America? Chicano? Latina? Gay in a still very homophobic America? How aware are they of the historic presidential nomination of a person of color? Talking with the youth and working together at PlatteForum has been an opportunity for conversation and dialog about how we are different and yet so alike in our human condition. Gail hopes the viewer will be empowered to engage in courageous conversations about racial awareness and white privilege in our culture at this momentous time in our history.

Watson states: “Working at Platte Forum was the most intense creative challenge of my life. For six weeks I focused exclusively on a body of very personal work while engaging in dialog and artmaking with the ArtLab students. I did not expect the students would be so articulate, talented or open to the project that is inherently introspective and at times difficult and unsettling. When I think back on that first session I still tear up but through this experience I am learning to accept that, yes, I am an emotional person and that it is central to who I am and the work that I do. I believe that the students responded to my emotional nature by exposing their own, honestly and with great courage.”

About the Artist
Gail has been printing and creating artist books since 1986 when she met Elaine Peck, a letterpress printer who loved to share her knowledge and expertise. They subsequently received a Folk Arts Master/Apprentice grant from the Colorado Council on the Arts & Humanities in 1987 and completed “Circles of Gold,” an edition of 60. She acquired her first press, a Pearl treadle press built in 1887, from Bill Jackson, proprietor of the 4 Ducks Press and Professor at Wichita State University. For the next seventeen years she worked as a project manager for Vermilion Design in Boulder while taking binding workshops and making artists’ books under the name Zuni Press. Today she works full time as the proprietor of Birdwood Press in the Colorado mountains.
With support from
Mac Macsovits, Paige Merrigan, Mi-High Ceramics, Marcy Mitchell, Bruce Randolph School, Bart Spaulding, Cynthia Treadwell, Karen Saenz, Gourmet Fine Catering, Darby Donahue, owner, Owosso Graphics, Ray Tomasso, Rocky Mountain Print & Frame, Red Delicious Press, Total Beverage Company, Unisource, Xpedx
Sponsored in part by
Riverfront Park Community Foundation, SCFD Tier III, Colorado Council on the Arts
National Endowment for the Arts, St. Mary Land & Exploration Company, Social Venture Partners – Denver, Morseman Family Foundation, Denver Foundation, Friends of PlatteForum