Gail Priday: Up Close and Underfoot
Dec. 2, 2022 - Feb. 4, 2023
About the Artist
Gail Priday is an artist living in Fairbanks, Alaska who finds inspiration from the natural world, specifically the boreal forest.
Image credit: Amazements (detail), Acrylic on canvas, 23 x 30 inches
Priday is one of six artists selected for the Alaska State Museum 2020-2023 Solo Artist Exhibition Series. The other artists are: Alison Bremner Naxshageit, Ben Huff, Sonya Kelliher-Combs, Jannah Sexton-Atkins, and Mitch Watley.
I came to Alaska two decades ago and was immediately struck by the summer vegetation. I knew I would love the mountains and expansive sky, but I did not expect to be so captivated by the underbrush, the fungus, and every tree I met. That wonderment has not left me, and the small details of the northern forest are most frequently the subjects of my work. My paintings of the Alaskan landscape acknowledge the quiet, unpretentious beauty of a land revered for its grandeur. Rather than seeking out awe-inspiring vistas and dramatic scenery, I choose to represent the ever-changing treasures up close and underfoot. The blooming and decaying forest floor, lichen, and berries consistently capture my attention. These easily overlooked features of the landscape suggest an extraordinary and active world that exists quietly beside my own.
I am interested in how the landscape changes over time and with the seasons. I get a jolt of inspiration anytime I go outside and discover that what I saw the day before is somehow different. Each of these paintings was inspired by walks in the woods near my home in Interior Alaska. The trails are in constant flux due to shifting seasons, visitors, time of day, and myriad other factors, yet they are reassuringly familiar. The trees are old friends. I know all the shortcuts and walk fearlessly in the dark. The toddlers I once carried are teenagers now, and the dog I walk with is not the one I discovered these trails with years ago. I know the snow will melt, and summer will move in, yet it seems unbelievable to me year after year.
Up Close and Underfoot is a body of work that brings attention to the miraculous details and variability of this great land. These paintings express my curiosity and love for the everyday beauty of the place I call home. They are reflections on the tenacity of an Alaskan summer, autumn’s brilliant demise, the seemingly impossible unraveling of winter, and the amazements of spring. My work emphasizes the sights, seasons, and changes we know to expect here in the North.