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.