You may already know Heather Gabel, the Detroit based artist behind hundreds of t-shirts and logos for bands like Alkaline Trio, Green Day, and Garbage. Experienced in many mediums, Gabel is also an accomplished collage artist, combining xerox copies with painting, watercolor paper, and photography into her work with a feminine edge. Finding a magic in things past, Gabel aims to capture a timelessness in her work, where femininity, she says, is a result of her personal reverence for the strength that she correlates with women.
“The woman of the past is much more attractive to me in her more solemn and stoic state, like the calm surface of still water concealing unknown depths and endless possibilities, there’s a mystery there that today’s general depiction of vacant smiling women lacks for me. I also revel in breathing new lives into these women, now deceased, putting them in a context that they surely wouldn’t ever have imagined,” Gabel explained.
Gabel’s women are placed in fantastic and impossible situations where in recent works, she confronts ideas about gender and representation. In her 2015 solo show, “Silenced Prayers,” Gabel reimagined iconic women of Christian scenes and figures, particularly the Madonna. Using found sample lithograph prints from the 1920s and a combination of xerox papers, she re-contextualized the original images by giving them new objects, faces, and figures with the goal of replacing the components that are historically and traditionally restrictive.
Now with her upcoming solo at SP Projects in Philadelphia, Gabel poses new questions about traditional femininity. Titled “Wandering Nocturnal”, her new body of work features a continued use of contrasting classical imagery from collected vintage and xerox papers with new visual elements. Images like “Pedestal” of a woman’s legs confront us with the evolution of female body image in media, while others like “Last Hiss”, using the symbol of Ouroboros which symbolizes self-awareness, can be seen as a command for recognition. But Gabel is quick to point out that her work is not intentionally “feminist”: “The images I choose, that I go back to, are the ones that I am attracted to over and over for their power, mystery, beauty.”