Torn to Pieces


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Late in life, Henri Matisse famously turned from oil painting to scissoring bright paper (and applying gouache) to make his celebrated “cut-outs,” works both large and small that mimic the master’s lithe trademark figurations. Last spring, Baltimore-based abstract-expressionist painter Gina Skelton—at 66, a seasoned pro with a number of national shows under her belt—shifted her focus (at least temporarily) from her own wildly colorful and chaotic landscape paintings to collage. When visiting her Ruxton home studio, the phrase “painting with paper” comes to mind.
Skelton’s end collage result—her finished pieces contain as many as 80 7-inch by 7-inch “paintings”—seems to effortlessly continue the conversation with her earlier works, which, for Skelton, discuss the line of human history as well as the profundity of the individual.
That said, tearing into the paper project did not feel so effortless at first.
“I had no idea at all what I was going to do, only that it was time for a new body of work,” Skelton says. “In the absence of further clarity, I decided to just begin and see what would happen. Over many weeks, I learned to love the not-knowing…”
Why the dramatic materials shift? “Really it’s just an extension of my work over time,” she says. “My process is the same, what I’m after is the same and my commitment to speaking my truth is certainly the same. In the end, the method doesn’t matter as long as it lends itself to my hand and my voice.” —Betsy Boyd

> The artist and her husband, Claude Skelton, own and operate Skelton Design.

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