Gaela Erwin has lived and worked primarily in the Mid-West and Southeast United States. She received her BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design in 1973 and received her MA from the University of Louisville in 1983. In the summer of 1988 she studied with Robert Beauchamp at the Studio Art School of the Aegean in Samos, Greece. In 1989, Erwin studied with Jack Beal at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Currently she has a studio in Louisville, Kentucky.
Erwin has been the recipient of numerous awards, fellowships and artist’s residencies. Grants, to name only a few, include numerous awards from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, three Al Smith Fellowships and the Artist’s Fellowship Inc. Residency fellowships include Yaddo, Mac Dowell, Virginia Center for the Arts, Atlantic Center for the Arts and Obërfalzer Künstlerhaus in Schwandorf, Germany and The Tyrone Guthrie Center in Annaghmakerrig, County Monoghan, Ireland. The latter two resulting from competitions for international artist exchange programs. Erwin also was the recipient of the Camargo Foundation Fellowship where she was artist–in-residence in Cassis, France.
Gaela Erwin has exhibited regionally, nationally and internationally. She has exhibited with the Allan Stone Gallery in New York and most recently, the Gescheidle gallery in Chicago, among others. Her work can be found in the permanent collections in the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia and the University of Kentucky Art Museum in Lexington, Kentucky and the Evansville Museum of Arts and Sciences in Evansville, Indiana and from most of the museums listed below. Recent museum exhibitions include the La Mar Dodd Art Center in La Grange, Georgia, the Huntsville Museum of Art in Huntsville, Alabama and the Ogunquit Museum of American Art in Ogunquit, Maine. Her latest museum solo exhibition, in 2006, took place at the Speed Museum in Louisville, Kentucky in 2006. In 2009, Erwin was one of seven winners of the national Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition that resulted in exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. Her work is also on display in various corporate collections as well as private collections in the U.S., Canada and Germany.
Erwin’s work, painted from direct observation, can be described as classical realism. Her subject matter is self-portraiture. Most recently, her paintings examine self-portraiture through the guise and lore of saints. Erwin examines her subject with an acute psychological focus that is at once contemporary and, at times, startling. Dr. Christine Havice, in her essay in Erwin’s catalogue explains it best when she writes “[while this body of work forces us to ‘live in our eye’ in its unsparing spareness of subject, it also provides masterful, often intensely sensual, handling of formal elements and richly layered, yet measured, evocation of tradition. Gaela Erwin paints for us the ambivalence of the late twentieth-century gaze.”