Local artist Gillian Drier will be showcasing her artwork at a gallery beginning Oct. 5. Her work will be showcased at Black Lotus Cafe throughout the entire month. The artwork focuses on black men and how they are perceived in society, Drier said.
“One of the issues I see a lot in the black community is criticism of how gender is displayed and the hyper masculinity ideal is something that really bothers me,” Drier said.
Her critique of hyper masculinity is depicted by the juxtaposition between the men in her paintings and the stereotypical man in modern society.
In one of Drier’s paintings, for example, the subject embodies fragility, which is sensed by the use of warm colors, exposed skin and even flowers. The tender moments illustrated by Drier provide a sharp contrast to the more typical portrayals of men which embody solely strength — portrayals in which they are represented as one dimensional and incapable of emotional expression.
Her work also examines the subject of both physical and emotional growth and maturity, specifically in relation to black identity, Drier said.
She stated that her inspiration is in part drawn from the Afropunk movement. The Afropunk Fest originated in Brooklyn, New York but spread across the world to include cities like Johannesburg and Paris, drawing thousands of participants annually. Drier finds the movement beautiful and interesting.
While the paintings serve as social criticism in a way, they have also drawn critique from people questioning Drier as to why she did not feature more women in her artwork.
“I was really surprised about that,” Drier said.
But Drier is motivated by other artists who explore similar issues through various mediums.
“It’s good to have perspectives from different people,” Drier said. “Because I’m not experiencing it first hand — it’s an observation.”
For expressing these observations, Drier uses oil or water based oil paints. This allows her to make things matte or shiny. The possibilities are seemingly endless.
In addition, she uses a large canvas for many of her paintings — approximately four by three feet — which she uses to depict elements that pop and others that fade into the background. Common features in her work include broad brush strokes, minimal color scheme and subjects that make eye contact with the viewer.
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Drier likes to do paintings that have similar tones. Using the same undertone allows her to construct paintings with a cohesive appearance. Often while painting, her work in progress will spark a new idea, which is consequently realized in the form of a new project, she said.
Drier recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, specializing in painting and graphic design.
“It’s been interesting getting an education at a predominantly white university,” Drier said, explaining that even the subject of art history is comprised predominantly of European art.
Eurocentrism in art history is not a new topic of discussion. Serious efforts are underway by students and teachers alike to incorporate art from other parts of the world into curriculum. Their hope is that more art programs will include art like the sculptures created by the Toltecs or paintings from the Ming Dynasty, along with more commonly recognized art like that of the Renaissance.
Drier’s circumstances at the university pushed her to explore the issue regarding how people of color work in a fine art setting. When Drier creates her art, it’s a new experience for her to share a point of view that she’s never gotten to share with other people.
Her goal for the showcase is to encourage dialogue about the work and its meaning, Drier said. Artwork should lead to interesting conversations with people who are trying to trade off their viewpoints.
The event is sponsored by Queer Pressure, a local organization dedicated to creating accessible and inclusive spaces in Madison for people from marginalized identities.