MICHELLE GREGOR: Odalisque
multi-fired to stoneware tempratures with glazes and underglazes
15 x 17 in
Creative since she was a child, Michelle Gregor always had a vivid imagination and loved to draw and make things with her hands. Her mom encouraged her to study what she loved, so Gregor took art classes. She ultimately found her creative voice in the clay studio during her first year of college. Gregor says, “the communal aspect of the art studio felt like my spiritual home. I’ve always been drawn to creative people, they are the source of my greatest wealth, my artist family.” She had the opportunity to study with and be deeply influenced by teachers who were practicing artists: Stephen DeStaebler at SFSU, David Kuraoka at SFSU, Sheldon Kaganoff at UCSB and Sandra Johnstone at UCSC. Today, as a professor and practicing artist herself, she pursues themes that are both figurative and abstract. The figure provides a vehicle to explore form, shape, texture, color and space. Gregor feels she “will never tire of it!” Abstraction has limitless potential to describe emotional and spiritual states. “Together the two themes encompass our human existence. My work explores what it is to be inside our human containers.” For Gregor, “inspiration comes in so many forms; a poem by Mary Oliver, a canvas by Joan Mitchell, a story by Haruki Murakami… I am deeply inspired by artists of all kinds. I never lack inspiration. It surrounds me both in culture and in nature.” When she was a young girl, she spent a lot of time in her small-town library. She recalls being particularly interested in the art section and was perplexed why there were so few books on women artists. She remembers counting only three books with women’s names on the spine: O’Keeffe, Imogene Cunningham and one other. From that day on, she has relentlessly pursued finding everything she can about women artists and their creative processes. Gregor still recalls the thrill of discovering Artemisia Gentileschi. Her female role models are many and have shifted places as the years progress. Her earliest heroine was Georgia O’Keeffe followed by Anaïs Nin and Colette. Now she looks to Abstract Expressionist painters like Joan Mitchell and Lee Krasner for inspiration. Artists like Kiki Smith, Phyllida Barlow and Kara Walker also are part of her pantheon.