press release

Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Gaela Erwin (b. 1951) creates incisive self-portraits inspired by realism and Old Master paintings. Her upcoming solo exhibition celebrates her meticulous and emotionally impactful work in pastel. The Speed Art Museum has commissioned Erwin to create a series of pastels pieces inspired by the eighteenth-century and twentieth-century pastels from the Speed collection. The exhibition will highlight Erwin’s practice and demonstrate her relationship to her artistic predecessors. The artist explains: “I borrow from the great portraitists of the past to first seduce and then challenge contemporary viewers to catch a glimpse of their own anxieties mirrored in my work.”

Born in Franklin, Indiana, Erwin received her B.F.A. from the Columbus College of Art and Design in 1973 and her M.A. from the University of Louisville in 1983. Her 2006 Speed exhibition, Gaela Erwin: Facing the Subject, featured Erwin’s self-portraits in the guise of saints and martyrs, shown together with paintings from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and artwork by contemporary artists Cindy Sherman and Kiki Smith. Erwin’s work is included in the Speed collection, as well in the collections of 21c Museum Hotels, the Columbus College of Art and Design, the Huntsville Museum of Art and the Evansville Museum of Arts and Science, among others.