Houston-area artists Gael Stack and David McGee shared their work as well as their influences with members of the McGovern Medical School community this week. Their presentation was chronicled in Scoop by Jonathan Garris.
Gael Stack and David McGee, two Houston-area painters, talked at length about their art and their influences as part of month’s edition of the ongoing Arts & Resilience Program – a series of events designed to link the arts and humanities with medicine at McGovern Medical School.
Stack served as the director of the University of Houston’s school of art from 2004 to 2005 and has been on the faculty there for 40 years. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Her art, which often uses fragments of words and numbers, and is considered a leader within the feminist art movement. She showcased parts of her work organized into categories that shared similar themes or elements, such as words, numbers, or fragmented figures.
“When I was younger I went to a Catholic school, and I was the one who spent a lot of time drawing praying hands on the board a lot,” Stack said.
McGee, a Louisiana-born artist who grew up in Detroit, has had his featured in places like The Menil Collection, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and Harvard University Museums among others. He showcased several paintings and spoke in detail about the intersection between literature and the development of his art from his childhood. Two of his pieces drew upon Frankenstein by Mary Shelly and Moby Dick by Herman Melville.
McGee said he began to truly connect words and images around the age of 7 while reading a series of encyclopedias and how his neighborhood on the East Side of Detroit and its mixed ethnicities were “crucial” to how he navigated the world. Speaking to the audience, he shared his views on the place of an artist in society.
“You guys are in a field where tech plays a key role in how you deal with people, but at the same time it can pull you away from people,” McGee said. “Creative people have some kind of a spiritual quest to help be the connectors to a barely curious society.”
He also elaborated on the disconnect some people have from art and the meanings behind it.
“We always want to know what things are,” McGee said. “I see people going into museums and wanting to be told what to see. They go straight to the headphones and they don’t allow themselves to have a real, visceral experience.”
While he has drawn on parts of his life and the challenges of growing up as a black male in modern America, he said he avoids being a topical painting, particularly because there is “too much insanity” for him to keep up with. Stack said they both pull from visceral experiences and views but in different ways.
“I think we’re both motivated by internalities,” Stack said. “I think artists have different driving forces, and of course we are separated by gender and generations, but I think what makes painting interesting are those differences.”
The next event in the Arts & Resilience Program will be held at noon Wednesday, June 20 in MSB 5.001. It will feature Molly Glentzer, a senior writer and art critic for the Houston Chronicle, who will offer an overview of the modern Houston arts scene. The program is sponsored by the Dean’s Office in collaboration with the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics. For more information, visit the program’s website here.