“This is who I am, and this is what I’m leaving,” said local artist Gail Grice, referring to the body of art that she hopes will someday serve as a legacy for her daughter. Grice is the featured artist in the upcoming showing of works by members of the Visual Artists Alliance of LaGrange at the LaGrange Art Museum.
The showing is the museum’s third annual Celebrate Summer show featuring the works of the Visual Artist Alliance of LaGrange and sponsored by 3 Points Frame Shop, Higgins Funeral Home and Splash Kitchens & Bath. It will run from Friday to Oct. 4 at the LaGrange Art Museum, with an opening reception on Friday from 5 to 7 p.m.
The mission of Visual Artists Alliance of LaGrange (VAAL) is to bring together LaGrange area artists to form a more cohesive and supportive artist community, foster their activities and to amplify their visibility and voice in the wider community.
Grice has created an 18-inch by 24-inch oil on panel titled “Hydrangea,” to be sold by silent auction during the opening reception on Friday. All proceeds from the sale of “Hydrangea” will support the Campaign for Creative Learning that will enable the adaptive re-use and rehabilitation of the Center for Creative Learning into a vibrant, mixed-use multi-art space.
Grice grew up in Valdosta, where her family farmed tobacco and cattle. She has always loved art, and one of her most fond memories is of having her painting of cardinals chosen for display by her third grade teacher.
She attended the University of Georgia where she pursued a fine arts degree. Later, she received her teaching certification and taught school for many years in Atlanta.
While in Atlanta, Gail assisted several interior designers, most notable Jill Kirr, with providing art work, creating and painting murals, faux finishes on walls and specialty furniture.
When her daughter Shelby was born, Grice cherished the opportunity to stay at home with her child, and it was during those years that she began to polish her art skills. A friend requested that she do a “faux finish” on some walls in her home.
Grice happily complied and the work was seen by a designer who contacted Gail about the possibility of their working together on future jobs. The schedule allowed ample time for raising Shelby, and the work was a wonderful outlet for her artistic expression.
Grice came to LaGrange in 2003 when her husband Perry took a job at Callaway Gardens. The couple searched for just the right place to live, and when they pulled into the drive of a tumble down old home on several acres in the western part of the county, they were curious, but concerned about the condition of the house.
The property was in foreclosure and had fallen into disrepair. Wood was rotten, rooms were oddly laid out, and the land was overgrown. The way into the house from the garage was through the master bedroom closet. Where most people would have hopped right back into their cars and screeched out of the driveway toward a nice, well-kept home without a secret passageway through the bedroom closet, Grice and her husband looked at one another and knew that they had found their new home.
It took years of spending their spare time ripping out walls and rearranging floor plans, planting and mowing and painting, but the couple turned the little farm into their dream home.
Once again, serendipity played a part in Grice’s artistic career when a neighbor suggested she consider taking over a teaching position at Artists in Residence, an artists’ cooperative in LaGrange. She was nervous and thrilled, and spent months studying and painting and learning everything she could about teaching art to adult students.
She has taught at Artists in Residence for about two and a half years, and is thrilled that the group will soon be moving into the Center for Creative Learning at the LaGrange Art Museum. The space is undergoing major renovations, and each artist will have a separate studio. Grice will continue teaching, and hopes to be able to offer another class or two when she moves to the museum.
Grice’s work in oils reflects her love of nature. Her style, which floats easily between realism and impressionism with an abstract or two thrown in for flavor, is vibrant and colorful. Her brush strokes capture her subjects masterfully, just as she sees them.
“Sometimes I look at something and I want to do it really, really tight, with intricate details, and sometimes, I want to do it really loose and flowing,” she said.
Grice views her artwork as a process of ongoing growth through the challenge of expressing details and beauty she sees in everyday life.
Her own lovely gardens often serve as inspiration for her paintings of flowers and wildlife. To her, painting is therapy. It relieves tension and keeps her grounded.
“It’s totally about the process, about the true seeing of something,” she said about her passion for painting. “I don’t think you see the true beauty of a subject, the colors and details, until you start to paint it.”
Her love of teaching drives Grice to continuously work to improve her own painting skills, and her passion is in giving new students the opportunity to find an outlet for creativity.
“If you have ever wanted to paint, just try it!” she exclaimed brightly.