An Art Activist
By Hailey Stangebye
Photos courtesy of Gaye Reissland
When Gaye Reissland created art early in her career, she focused on achieving a beautiful aesthetic. Now, she strives for beauty imbued with a more meaningful message.
“I consider myself an art activist,” Gaye says. “Most of my artwork generally has something to do with social justice. Now that I’m a grandmother and on the other side of 50, I feel like I have an obligation to make a difference in the world.”
“Most of my artwork generally has something to do with social justice. Now that I’m a grandmother and on the other side of 50, I feel like I have an obligation to make a difference in the world.”
Before, Gaye says the people used to pass her work and make comments such as ‘Oh, that’s pretty.’ Now, she strives for art that makes the viewer pause and think, ‘Okay, this is beautiful. But, there’s also more to it.’
For the show in the The Gallery at the Gateway Film Center, Gaye chose a piece that she feels speaks to the essence of the Harlem Renaissance called “Wakanda Warrior Woman.” This Black Panther-inspired painting is also the perfect fit for a movie theatre setting.
“When I saw that movie, it really affected me in a positive way,” Gaye says. “At the movie premiere in Columbus, it reminded me of a time in the Harlem Renaissance where they highlighted black art and black writers. It was such a positive experience, and people were just bursting with pride. It reminded me of how they celebrated black art in the Harlem Renaissance.”
“It was such a positive experience, and people were just bursting with pride. It reminded me of how they celebrated black art in the Harlem Renaissance.”
Gaye’s painting features one of the Wakanda warriors. She was drawn to this subject because she says she often chooses to feature people who wouldn’t normally be featured.
“I feature women of color, generally. Or older people with wrinkles. I love wrinkles, not so much on myself, but in my artwork,” Gaye says. “Wrinkles are a road map that show the story of what people have been through.”
One look at “Wakanda Warrior Woman,” and it’s clear that Gaye’s work captures the strength of women of color. The piece is beautiful, yet strikingly fierce.
“I’m really excited that we’ve celebrated the Harlem Renaissance this year. It has given artists of color in the Columbus area opportunities and venues that we probably wouldn’t have access to otherwise,” Gaye says. “So It’s been a wonderful experience, and hopefully it’s just the beginning, not the end.”