Artist Statement

Gisela Griffith

"Suspending Disbelief"

Inspired by current tensions between religion and politics my body of work explores religiosity, particularly how religious doctrine is internalized. This has been and underlying concept in my work but the rise of religious fundamentalism pervading the political landscape on a global scale compelled me to openly examine the effects of religious indoctrination by challenging dogma as truth and the willful disregard for science and reality. The assemblages that I have created reflect the Bible’s composition as an assemblage of texts and oral traditions. My process involved the deconstruction of a Bible integrating collectible objects and repurposing them into assemblages that reflect a personal perspective.

"Nowhere to go"

The ethereal paintings in this body of work were inspired by the Hubble Space Telescope images of the universe. Known as the icon of space, the Hubble Space Telescope has produced humbling images of stunning beauty that invoke the same reverence that religious icons call upon, sanctity, unity, and awe, in this context awe of creation. I address my own and collective anxiety on the effects of climate change on the earth, searching for a relationship between art and science that offers hope and possibilities for future generations.

“Secrets of Nature” Birch Bark Icons

Observing nature and exploring the relationship between plants and humans has been a significant concept in my work. In its tenth year ’Secrets of Nature’ birch bark icons continues to evolve, drawing me back to nature and calling on the symbolism of the birch to explore European folklore and personal history.

While hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire a harmonious relationship with nature becomes an integral part of the hiking experience. These birch bark constructions found on the forest floor began as nature's 'litterfall'. Determined to make its distinction, birch defies nature’s cycle of decay, while the inner tree decomposes the outer bark remains strong and firm leaving a shell that is enchanting in its form. Acknowledging an awareness of art history I use the traditional method of applying metallic leaf, 23K gold, 12K gold or copper to the interior of the bark producing a radiating light from within transforming the birch into an icon of the forest. 

"Secrets of Nature" Collaborative Needlework Project (archived)

The ‘Secrets of Nature’ needlework project was a collaborative enterprise involving patients at the Boston Medical Center who were under treatment for cancer. The inspiration for this project came to me while I was working on a series of paintings after my own experience with chemotherapy.

In reading drug facts I learned that many drugs used in cancer treatment are derived from plants and I was fascinated to discover that some of these plants we see in our city parks and tend to in our own gardens. My interest in the beauty of botanical prints inspired me to artistically document plants that contain anti cancer compounds. While experiencing an artistic block I began to embroider the plant Taxus brevifolia to give me time and space away from painting. Through this meditative process of stitching I came to realize that sharing this with patients who were going through cancer treatment might be a welcome opportunity for them to embrace their healing journey through the art of embroidery.

I designed twenty-five botanical drawings which were transferred onto linen or vintage damask napkins for patients to embroider as a means to reflect on their personal experience through the therapeutic and meditative practice of needlework. This project gave me the opportunity to express my gratitude to the Boston Medical Center and medical science that gave me life and to the wisdom of the natural world that sustains us each and every day.

The finished pieces were exhibited at:

The Boston Medical Center, Shapiro Center Lobby, September 2012- January 2013.

Massachusetts General Hospital, “Illuminations”, 2014.

Massachusetts General Hospital Danvers, “Illuminations” 2015

At the conclusion of the exhibit the embroidered pieces were offered to be returned, with my sincere appreciation to the patients who stitched them.