GVG Studio Tour: Blair Vaughn-Gruler

Blair Vaughn-Gruler, 2017


As a part of GVG’s on-going Studio Tour series, I visited Blair Vaughn-Gruler in her studio where she creates her abstract oil paintings.

Blair approaches the ideas of space and geometry through large-scale, monochromatic, structural paintings, which contemplate the relationship of the physical body to the painted object. Vaughn-Gruler’s images subvert rather than build upon geometry, exploring the materiality of paint and the structure of paint as it exists when applied to a surface: “My visual vocabulary includes references to structure, repetition, deconstructed geometry, and the physical qualities of the paint itself.”


Some paintings finished, some in-process


Renee: Let’s start at the beginning. Will you share a formative experience from your early life as an artist?

Blair: I found out about abstract expressionism when I was about 8 years old. My parents had the Life Magazine issue with Jackson Pollack on the cover. When I saw that article, I was completely captivated by the idea that artwork could carry meaning beyond the pictorial. I got a set of oil paints for Christmas and made myself a studio in the basement. I also attended a grade school where we had art every day, and I was encouraged to be curious and creative from a very young age.



Renee: What is your preferred medium and why?

Blair: Paint, for me, has all the delicious qualities of body lotion, whipped cream, mayo, mud, glue and a healing salve rolled into one.

Renee: What is a typical studio day for you?

Blair: I maintain a rigorous studio schedule. My studio is at our home, so I can get there first thing in the morning, without first preparing to be out in the world. Then I easily paint until late afternoon, when the light starts to change, without realizing how the hours have gone by. I have 4 or 5 studio days a week, and on those days I work for 10 hours at least. I take a break to cook something wonderful at dinnertime. Happily, my studio is near the kitchen.


Plethora | oil and mixed media on yupo on canvas | 12 x 9


Renee: What do you listen to when you are working?

Blair: I listen to NPR, which usually includes talk and news in the morning and jazz in the afternoon. If the music doesn’t suit me, I go to podcasts. News and ideas keep my mind distracted so I can paint.

Renee: What are the major career milestones for you so far?


Blair Vaughn-Gruler | Interlock | oil on canvas | 36 x 24


Blair: Going back to school, and getting my MFA in Visual Art in 2010 nearly 30 years after getting my BFA in Painting. Making a living making paintings (in the postmodern era). Painting, apparently, is not actually dead. Having the courage to make a life focused around making, thinking and writing while encouraging and engaging with other makers. I have come to view this as a satisfying pushback on the current political and corporate era we live in.



Blair Vaughn-Gruler earned an MFA in Visual Art in 2010 from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a BFA in Painting in 1979 from Northern Michigan University. She lives in Lamy, New Mexico and co-owns GVG Contemporary with her husband, Ernst Gruler.

To see more of Blair’s work visit her online gallery page, here. Or view her digital catalog below.

To read more about GVG’s artists through the GVG Studio Tour Series, click here.

All interviews have been conducted by Renee Lauzon, Gallery Manager at GVG Contemporary. If you have any questions you can email Renee at renee@gvgcontemporary.com.





Confessions From A Compulsive Organizer: An Artist’s Essay

Last month GVG Contemporary hosted a solo show of Blair Vaughn-Gruler’s paintings titled “Compulsive Organization,” showcasing all new work by this prolific painter. Before the show, Blair shared with me a confessional essay regarding her compulsive nature and how this nature informs her studio practice. I used an excerpt of the essay on the show’s promotional materials but now it has found a more permanent home here on GVG’s blog. 

Blair Vaughn-Gruler | Diction | oil, crayon, and graphite on claybord | 12 x 9


Confessions From A Compulsive Organizer

by Blair Vaughn-Gruler

If I am talking with you, and you are standing in front of a pane glass window, I will shift my stance slightly to line up the stripes on your shirt, or the edge of your glasses, with the panes in the window. If there is a tree beyond the window, I can adjust my body to line it up with the tree and the panes of glass and the stripes and the glasses. I am doing this constantly. It’s not a visual experience as much as a physical one. Proportion, distance, proximity, spatial intelligence and projective geometry all play a role in this thing I compulsively do.

When I first visited the Agnes Martin room at the Harwood Museum in Taos, New Mexico, in 2009, I had a major epiphany. I realized that her paintings were actually entering my awareness through my body more than my mind. Since that awakening, and my subsequent shift towards understanding painting in a more postmodern lexicon (thanks in part to my MFA program), I have plunged into a studio practice where I easily spend 10 or 12 hour days organizing, aligning, repeating, counting, building, inventing, and editing in paint. The process of visual alignment (both conceptual and physical) is such a visceral thing that I feel it alters my brain chemistry.

As I organize paint into shapes and marks on flat or dimensional surfaces, which I also sometimes build (organize) out of wood or cardboard, it’s not the end result I am after, but rather the process of translating my physical experience of space into objects. They are not pictures, but neither are they sculptures.

Each painting I make is a talisman, an object made of paint, imbued with the act of making, subliminally aligning, and realigning both the maker and the viewer.

Blair earned an MFA in Visual Art in 2010 from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a BFA in Painting in 1979 from Northern Michigan University. She lives in Lamy, New Mexico and co-owns GVG Contemporary with her husband, Ernst Gruler.

To view Blair’s work, please visit her artist page.