Surrealism and Santeria with Artist Heidi Taillefer

For our most recent artist interview we connected with painter Heidi Taillefer. Heidi was born and currently lives and works in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Her life experiences and inspiration seem to have fascinatingly dream-like quality, much like the intricate, hallucinatory visions in her oils on canvas.

GR: What events lead you to become a professional artist?

HT: When I was 21 years old I did not know what I wanted to be. I went on a very adventurous trip to Dawson City in the Yukon, where I became a waitress for 2 weeks at a very popular restaurant. I lived in the woods in a tent, on Crown land, so I did not have to pay rent. I took the ferry each day to cross the Yukon river and get to work, (I showered at the laundromat, FYI). There was one waitress there who was 15 years older than I was and was a local. She was all dark from her tanning bed sessions and leathery looking, and she spoke to the customers (all men, miners mostly) with the most squeaky and babyish affected air to get more of their attention. Since there are about 8 men to 1 woman in the Yukon, a new woman coming onto the scene, especially so much younger, meant that I suddenly started to get the attention she sought from these men, as well as the kitchen staff. She hated that, and made it very hard and unpleasant for me to work there. I was called into the manager's office on numerous occasions with fictitious issues and complaints against me. That went on until one day I decided not to return to my shift anymore (which didn’t matter because I wasn’t paying rent and I'd saved my money!).

I went up the Dempster highway with a fire-fighter friend I made up there, and off into the Mackenzie Mountains, where there are 24 hours of sunlight in the Summer. I walked the mountain ridges as I contemplated this problem I had with the waitress, which I was too naive to understand. I decided I wanted to be alone and work freely for myself, and as an artist would be perfect since I was already actively producing art on my own. Back in Montreal I was told about the possibility of working as a commercial illustrator, so I set out to become one. I secured a business grant to support me for a few years to get started, and I used my paintings as portfolio pieces along the way. I also exhibited them in the US and Canada in various galleries, until I secured one gallery in Montreal which sold my work very well.

GR: Tell us about your art-making process, how did you choose oil painting?

HT: I started painting with watercolor at the age of eight, and by twenty-two years old I tried working on my style (robotic) with acrylics. It was a total disaster, since I wasn’t used to the handling of the paint, but I was strongly encouraged to try airbrushing which would really sharpen my style, and that’s mostly done with liquid acrylics. I was given an airbrush by a major Canadian illustrator and I started playing with it, and got used to acrylics, which really made my work more vivid. Then as I shared a studio with that same illustrator at the age of 27, I was strongly encouraged to try oils. I tried them in my style and it was a disaster once again, almost the opposite in handling to acrylics, but I stuck to it and got the hang of it and now it's my preferred medium. I do have to use a drying agent however to avoid the frustrations I originally experienced, since it dries so slowly and in order to make any progress I need for the paint to be dry.

GR: How would you briefly describe your current body of work?

HT: I would say it is surreal, with elements of symbolism. I am currently exploring themes found in Santeria by depicting each one of the orishas, these are also found in Candomble in Brazil which I am familiar with after travelling there. Santeria is a religion developed by slaves from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, combined with Catholicism, and is practiced in Cuba. The orishas of Santeria are shared by other pegan religions which are an amalgamation of African religions and Catholicism, and versions of these "saints" can be found in Hatian voodoo, Candomble, and various other religions.

GR: What’s been your most meaningful project or work of art so far?

HT: I would say the inkblot series, starting with the first one I painted in 2013. In 2012 I experimented with meditation a great deal, and after meditations throughout the day, I could swear I could start to feel my chakras, starting with the brow chakra (or 3rd eye). This is characterized by a week of terrible headaches as one meditates until one can feel a kind of aperture opening on the forehead, though it is a non-physical "physical" sensation--hard to describe. This was followed by the heart chakra which is super sensitive, and I felt as if I could stretch it open, which yielded a burning sensation that was not unpleasant.

Eventually, there was a kind of debilitating pain in the heart chakra area, which I had checked out by energy workers since I didn’t know where else to turn! I had all sorts of energy work done to no avail, until I even went to an institute specializing in occidental metaphysics found in Montreal, where I underwent a "chakra massage". As the practitioner sat ten feet away from me with his palm facing me, I could feel a powerful vacuuming feeling all up and down my body--arms, legs, torso, etc. Since we have chakras all over our body, I assumed this is what I was feeling. In the end, I had to stop meditating because of this heightened sensitivity I developed, which I still can't explain. The painting which came out of this is called "Starting Something You Can't Finish," because I couldn't stop what seemed to be non-physical physical sensations which were debilitatingly painful. Which, in retrospect I decided to call somatic hallucinations (hence the inkblot). Though, sitting in front of that metaphysics practitioner proved to me there was more to it than that. In any case, I decided to pursue the idea further and explore the subject of Santeria instead of chakras, after a trip I took to Havana in 2015.

GR: Do society, current events, or the nature of the art market influence what or how you create? If so, how?

HT: Right now I am very influenced by the art market and it is part of what is driving my current exploration of symmetry and the ink blot motif. I was recently approached by a gallery who expressed an interest in this style, which motivated me to produce more work like it. They are a huge corporate gallery who take a very long time to get to know an artist, and I have yet to present them with the latest body of work which I've produced, but I decided to follow their lead since they liked “Starting Something You Can't Finish,” which was also juried as best in show last year at the Baton Rouge 10th Annual Surreal Salon, juried by Ron English. After taking a bit of a break from painting and only working on commissions for a couple of years, I also found this style to be a refreshing change from what I normally produce, sort of experimental in a way, which adds energy and life to my productivity.

GR: Where can readers see your work in person?

HT: I was recently part of a group exhibition at the Halle Saint Pierre Museum of Outsider Art in Paris. I have been taking a bit of a break from painting, largely because of the cycles of energy in creativity, and of 12-15 hour paint days, I felt tapped out after 25 years. However, I am still producing and a show will be forthcoming in the mid-to-near future.

We’ll be looking forward to Heidi’s new work and next exhibition. Meanwhile, you can still catch her limited edition prints in the Gitana Rosa shop.

New Prints by David D. Oquendo - Exclusive to Gitana Rosa

We’re proud to unveil two new exclusive print offerings by a new artist to the gallery, David D. Oquendo.

David was born in Puerto Rico and currently lives and works in New Jersey. On the occasion of releasing his two new prints, which are only available from Gitana Rosa, we asked David a few questions about his background and current practice as an artist. Here’s what he had to say.

GR: When was the turning point when you committed fully to your work as an artist and pursuing it? Tell us a bit about your backstory.

DDO: My turning point is definitely attending graduate school. I attended Montclair State University, pursuing an MFA degree. During those two years, I realized, "Wow, I can really do this. I got what it takes." After my thesis show at White Box Gallery in NYC, in 2012, I hit the ground running. I used that creative momentum that came from preparing for the show to be a part of more shows, collaborations, residencies and mural projects. I have not really stopped since. I'll admit, grad school was tough. Really tough. But in retrospect I am so happy I did it.

GR: Tell us about your art-making process. What lead you to choose your current medium?

DDO: My undergrad professor and mentor Denyse Thomasos is the first person to introduce me to painting. Growing up I only drew. To be honest, pencils were pretty much the only thing I could afford. Denyse gave me a crash course in painting, color, composition, process, etc. I fell in love with paint. There is no better feeling, at least for me, than applying paint to canvas - or even better, applying paint on a wall. I still use other mediums other than paint. When customizing t-shirts I use bleach. When designing logos I'll use pen-and-ink on paper, then I'll edit it using Illustrator or Photoshop. When collaborating with sculptor Keary Rosen, Professor and Director of the Form Design Studio, I use wood and textiles.

GR: The two new prints that we are featuring are titled, “So Beautiful I Shall Never Forget It.” Tell us about this body of work.

DDO: I have developed, and continue to develop, a personal constructed script. I call this writing system, “Metaphrase”. It is a series that includes large-scale wall renderings (indoor and outdoor) and mixed media paintings. The series explores my ideas and questions of identity, language, meditation, religion and life. Each letter is a system that has been influenced by the Gothic script classification Textualis Quadrata, with hints of Eastern Kufic and Hebrew calligraphy.

GR: What’s coming up for you and what’s exciting you right now personally and artistically?

DDO: My full time job is being an art teacher at Bard Early college and I have not had a vacation in some time. So, in the first half of the summer I will paint 24/7 till mid August 2019. I am really looking forward to just painting without a particular exhibition in mind. After that I'll take a trip to Germany to check out the museums, galleries, and culture over there.

David’s prints “So Beautiful That I Shall Never Forget It” are available for purchase in our limited edition shop. Click here to view them.

Read more about David and his work on his artist page, and stay tuned for updates and new work from him and the other Gitana Rosa artists.

Gitana Rosa presents "Soft Stories" by Laura Jane Petelko

Gitana Rosa Gallery presents:

"Soft Stories"
An Exclusive Online Exhibition by
Laura Jane Petelko


Laura Jane Petelko  Until the Moment Comes , 2018

Laura Jane Petelko
Until the Moment Comes, 2018

"Soft Stories" will be on view online through our partner
May 15th - June 15th, 2019

Click here to view the full exhibition

Gitana Rosa is pleased to present a new artist in our lineup. Laura Jane Petelko is a Canadian artist, born and currently based in Toronto, Canada. Her work has been recognized and exhibited in Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle, Miami and New York.

“Soft Stories” is an ongoing series presented as large, plexi-mounted c-prints available in a very limited edition. Laura Jane’s work has been known for its personal and intimate subject matter, often dealing with the nature of one’s identity and times of transformation. We connected with the artist to ask her a few questions about her work and “Soft Stories” in particular, in honor of her online exhibition with Gitana Rosa.

GR: Tell us about your art-making process. Why did you choose your current medium?

LJP: Photography, like music, has always been a huge inspiration for me. I grew up around film and photography. I really lived in my imagination as a child. Music is a huge co-conspirator for me creatively.

GR: How would you briefly describe your current body of work?

LJP: My project "Soft Stories" is an ongoing photographic project and collaboration with costume designer Sara Wood. The images explore humanity’s longing to connect with nature and one another. The current work has been photographed in pristine and remote Canadian landscapes. We question whether these creatures have found belonging in their acrylic costumes. Are they attempting to replicate and commune with nature; are they finding true connection through the artificial?

We’ve been working on “Soft Stories” for the past two years. I've been collaborating with Sara to create lush and fairytale-like creature costumes. The project is inspired, in part, by a conversation about the "furry" community. It got me thinking about our desire to connect with one another and to seek our true natures. Through this project I’m thinking about the many ways, sometimes beautiful ways, we seek this connection. I’m looking at how we take this journey in a time of unprecedented loneliness and disconnection with nature.

GR: What’s been your most meaningful project or work of art so far?

LJP: I feel like all of the projects I've worked on have been so intimate and meaningful for me at the time. Many have been raw and difficult. But I have to chose the one I'm working on now because I'm so immersed. Most of my past work focused on other’s individual stories. "Soft Stories" is  more broad, and the creative scope is larger than anything I've done before. It's a bit daunting sometimes, but in a way that inspires more commitment from me than I've experienced before.

GR: Do society, current events, or the nature of the art market influence what or how you create? If so, how?

LJP: In terms of society, I think my project is really informed by this idea of disconnection. I’m wondering how we connect to each other through the plastic and artifice and trying to confront that through something of a fairytale. I'm trying not to be informed by the art market... but that may change. I'm trying to connect.

View Gitana Rosa’s online exhibition of “Soft Stories”

For more information or press inquiries please contact: 
t: 323-559-2383

Gitana Rosa presents "Outside the Box" at the Art Factory

Gitana Rosa Gallery presents:

"Outside the Box"
Fall 2018


Opening Reception:
   Saturday, October 20th, 1-4pm

The Art Factory Studios
       Silk Gallery, 2nd floor
       70 Spruce Street
       Paterson, NJ 07501

Gitana Rosa Gallery is pleased to present "Outside the Box", a group exhibition featuring mixed media works by Agent X, Andrés García-Peña, Brett Wintle, Christine Romanell, Emet Sosna, Geri Hahn, Karen Epstein, Kseniya Baranova, Nathaniel Galka, Nikolina Kovalenko, Steve Buduo, Summer Hart and Victoria Selbach.
The featured artists work across a variety of mediums and disciplines including photography, textile, installation, painting and sculpture. A key curatorial focus of the exhibition is to present works by artists whose approaches both elevate as well as engage with the industrial and historic Art Factory Paterson venue. The large-scale works presented were chosen in consideration of the scope, texture and natural light of the location, and installed throughout the Factory's second floor gallery space which includes two large viewing areas and a special project viewing room. “Outside the Box” is curated by Vanessa Liberati, founder and executive director of Gitana Rosa Gallery.

The exhibition will be located in the Silk Gallery at the Paterson Art Factory with an opening reception to be held on Saturday, October 20th from 1-4pm.  "OutsidetheBox" will be on view by appointment and open access to all Art Factory members. 

The Art Factory is located in the historical district of downtown Paterson, just a few minutes stroll fromThe Paterson Great Fallsand thePaterson Museum.  We invite you to join us and spend the day in historical downtown Paterson, NJ.  The nation's first planned industrial city, thanks to Alexander Hamilton.

This will be our first collaboration with the Art Factory Paterson, a co-working concept space located in a complex of historical textile mill buildings, with a focus on art, architecture, design and craftsmanship, and the Paterson Arts Council whose mission is the revitalization of the downtown historic district of Paterson, NJ through impactful art and cultural events. 

Art Factory members have studios in historic textile mill buildings with access to metal, machine and woodworking equipment in communal shops where they can work and collaborate with other professionals.  Artists, designers, sign makers, sculptors, antique furniture re-finishers, textile designers, ceramists and craftsmen from multiple design disciplines can learn from each other in this co-working and symbiotic environment.  Filmmakers and photographers also use these shops and spaces as shooting locations and prop manufacturing areas.

Gitana Rosa Gallery represents contemporary emerging and established artists and encourages social, political and environmental messages through the arts. Gitana Rosa was founded in 2006 in the burgeoning neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn an has had locations in Chelsea and Piermont, New York. The gallery is now exclusively online and exhibits its artists via special curatorial projects and selected Art Fairs.   

Gitana Rosa has given back to the community by providing a space to stimulate dialogue, promote sustainable methods of living and inspire positive ideas. It continues to donate a portion of sales proceeds from select exhibitions to local environmental and social non-profits.

For more information or press inquiries please contact: 
t: 323-559-2383

Up coming exhibition on Friday July 1st, Mitsushige Nishiwa

Here are some of the many works of Mitsushige Nishiwaki. Each piece capturing a moment within a story that leaves you wondering. Gitana Rosa and other galleries here at Piermont NY will be open till 8pm or later on Friday July 1st.

Etching by Mitsushige Nishiwaki, Chocolat, 20.5'' x 17.5''

Etching by Mitsushige Nishiwaki, Chocolat, 20.5'' x 17.5''

Etching by Mitsushige Nishiwaki, Metro: Red, 20.5'' x 17.5''

Etching by Mitsushige Nishiwaki, Metro: Red, 20.5'' x 17.5''

Etching by Mitsushige Nishiwaki, 59 Lex Ave, 34'' x 10.5''

Etching by Mitsushige Nishiwaki, 59 Lex Ave, 34'' x 10.5''

Michele Basora's NY Arts Magazine Interview

The super talented Michele Basora was recently interviewed by NY Arts Magazine. 

Talking Mythology, Race, and Class with Michele Basora

Leah Oates: How did you become an artist and did you know early on that you would be in the arts, or did you begin as something else? Where there other artists in your family?
Michele Basora: Yes, I knew I was an artist at a very young age. My uncle was a visionary artist and encouraged me since I was 7. I should say that my uncle was a huge influence on me and my work. He was very much an eccentric, he was a monk traveling the world, living on mountain tops, and he would visit me on occasion to show me his visionary paintings. He would also tell me magical stories of experiences he had during his travels. He believed very much in the spiritual world, and I always find his influence in my paintings.

My mother also encouraged me without thinking about it, having taken me to the Met and the Frick Collection when I was very young and having intellectual conversations about art at a very young age. This was unheard of having been raised in a very tough neighborhood in the Bronx.

LO: What are the themes of your work and what inspires you to make art?
MB: My paintings are based on mythology, superstition, religion, and race. It is not necessarily a theme I set about going after, but they tend to go in that direction.

LO: Who are your influences? Teachers, artists?
MB: Michael Goldberg, Lucio Pozzi, and Marilyn Minter were teachers of mine whilst going to SVA. They were the ones I felt a close connection to. In my early years I obsessed with many of the female surrealists, including Leonor Fini.

LO: Why do you think art is important for the world and why is it important for you as an individual artist?
MB: I often think about this and think about how the average person would think it that it is a very bourgeois activity. Especially being a woman and a person of color, I often think about my roll as an artist. I began my early training in art school as an abstract painter because of the push to be one and how it was looked down upon to be a figurative painter. But, I felt I had so much to say as a woman, a person of color, and one who came from a poor working class family. So, in my third year I changed and began to make paintings which, to me, had more meaning and a subtle message that sometimes incorporates the figure.

LO: What advice would you give other artists who want to exhibit in NYC etc?
MB: My advice would be to not judge a book by its cover. Generally the ones who look the least important are the ones that are actually the most important, and have a website!

LO: Please talk about upcoming bodies of work, shows etc that you have coming up.
MB: I am continuing my series of paintings from the influence of living on the upper east side and dealing with class, race, and the bourgeois culture. I will be part of a summer group exhibition, “Juicy” at Gitana Rosa Gallery, Chelsea, opening June 19, as well as artmrkt Hamptons, from July 10 – 13. I am also excited to announce a group exhibition that I am curating, “The New Bitch, Twilight of the Idols.” It will be open from September 4 – October 4 at Gitana Rosa Gallery, Chelsea.





Nathaniel Galka "Unbridled Muses" Show Preview

Photos from the preview for Nathaniel Galka’s solo show at the gallery on May 6th.  

For those of you that couldn't make it, below is a better peek at his work on view.  

The public reception for Unbridled Muses will be held on Thursday, May 15 from 6-8 p.m at Gitana Rosa Chelsea. 

Nathaniel Galka's new series bridges the space between childhood fantasy and adult reality. The artist compares his largest paintings to those great cultural unifiers, flat screen televisions—they’re entertaining, and designed to be the center of attention in whatever space they occupy. Featuring shimmering zoomorphic creatures and glitter bombs–they have a mass appeal. 

Galka tends to move quickly through each body of work, exhausting its potential before moving on to follow his next muse. His high-speed style produces consistently unique works that illustrate his changing interests and progression as an artist.   

The exhibition will be on view through June 7, 2014.

Gitana Rosa Gallery Chelsea Expands

For April’s First Thursdays, we proudly reopened our doors in Chelsea with an expanded exhibition of Michele Basora’s artworks on canvas and paper. The exhibition, titled Out of the Sea and Into the Woods, features new work by the artist that explores, among other topics, the spaces between places and people. Birds’ eyes twist into each other, strong, ghostly women stare out of black, void-like backgrounds, and scattered geometric shapes create a complex dialogue between shape and form.  In the front gallery space, seven large oil paintings are hung. The women depicted stare into their neighbors—and onlookers—with large, impenetrable eyes. Basora’s works on paper have been allotted their own stretch of gallery space. The cohesive effect adds an important contextualizing component to the exhibition: through their segregation, the paper and canvas works embody the show’s geographic dichotomy of sea and woods.

Michele Basora Opening

The opening brought together a diverse segment of the art-interested public: eager collectors, authors, artists and critics accompanied an ebullient general public through the doors. The opening’s inclusive atmosphere contrasted sharply with the artworks’ focus on societal exclusion and separation. Basora’s canvas works feature richly adorned women whose pale complexions reference the artist’s sense of estrangement from most of her Upper East Side neighbors. Several of Basora’s works feature deep black backgrounds that seek to consume their subjects even as the women’s ghostly features foreground their figures. In her works on paper, Basora’s emphasis on eyes remains. Much has been written about the correlation between eyes and gateways.  As guests gazed into the myriad bird and human eyes around the gallery on Thursday, several took note of this thematic consistency across the pieces. “The eyes,” one said, “and Basora’s emphasis on them, are the counterbalances to the pieces’ alienated worlds.”

Michele Basora Install

Michele Basora featured in Creem Mag

What inhabits the void? In the darkness when we close our eyes, as in the closing door of a wardrobe, there opens a passage into our psyche. The dreams we experience while our bodies rest and repair during the hours of darkness are a significant source of imagery and thought. What we see, feel and sense while navigating our dreams are like fables whose consequences are too cryptic for us to discern.

It’s easy to get lost in the vespertine dreamscapes of Michele Basora’s Out of the Sea and Into the Woods, a series of surreal oil paintings and works on paper. The hybrid flora and fauna coexist within mysterious portraiture.  Shadow figures and stylized motifs coil fingers around a gaunt porcelain dream subject in Delites Of The She, and a swan feeds a lady from their bill into her pink lips in Tea Time.

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Fedele Spadafora in CAT ART SHOW LOS ANGELES

Fedele Spadafora, represented by Gitana Rosa Gallery will be participating in "Cat Show Los Angeles" opening January 25.  Fedeles' work will be shown alongside that of globally recognized artists the Clayton Brothers, FAILE, Gary Baseman, Shepard Fairey, Tracey Emin and others.

Cat Show Los Angeles
Jan 25th - Feb 2nd, 2014
6205 Santa Monica Blvd LA, CA 90038

Read the Press Release for more information.