Saturday, January 28, 2023     Volume: 23, Issue: 48

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on May 26th, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 22, Issue 13 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 22, Issue 13

Currently featured at SLOMA and soon-to-be showcased at the Santa Maria Airport, Denise Gimbel discusses her latest abstract paintings


Brush hour
Find out more about Denise Gimbel and her artwork at Gimbel’s paintings are currently on display in Finding Spaces at SLOMA through May 31 and will also be featured in an upcoming Valley Art Gallery exhibit at the Santa Maria Airport, starting on June 8.

What usually gets abstract artist Denise Gimbel inspired to paint is simply whatever is surrounding her at the moment, even when said surroundings are shifting at a rapid pace—outside her car window on the highway for example.

“I started noticing all the lovely barns along my recent drives up and down the coast and appreciated the sense of shelter and safety they represented,” said Gimbel, explaining the story behind her recent painting series, Shape of Shelter. “Abstracting the profile, or roof shape, was a start, then I decided to combine the patterns of quilts or tile to increase the sense of home and shelter.”

Orcutt-based artist Denise Gimbel poses next to four of her recent paintings, currently featured in SLOMA’s group show, Finding Spaces. On display from left to right, top to bottom: Rosy Outlook Morro Rock, Safe and Secure, Rosy Outlook Pismo Beach, and All Tucked In.

Gimbel said she chose to use warm colors in the “red family” for the interior of her abstract barn shapes and cooler blues and grays for the exterior in order to illustrate “the contrast of danger and peril outside and safety and shelter inside” in her latest works.

“I’m sure this series reflects the ambivalence I feel as we come out of our COVID-19 hibernation and brave the social world and the idea of travel,” Gimbel said.

Gimbel has completed three paintings in her Shape of Shelter series so far, Wolf at the Door, Batten the Hatches, and Random Storms, which will be on display at her next public exhibit in Santa Maria, alongside several of her other most recent paintings, including pieces from her Manzanita Morning series, Giant Kelp Dreams series, and Flight of Spring series.

A diverse collection of Denise Gimbel’s abstract nature paintings will be on display at her upcoming exhibit at the Santa Maria Airport, including Welcome (pictured) and other pieces from her Giant Kelp Dreams series.

Hosted by Orcutt’s Valley Art Gallery, the new showcase will premiere on June 8 at the Santa Maria Airport, where the gallery currently displays its exhibitions. The show is scheduled to remain up through July. Local fans of Gimbel’s work can also catch four of her paintings (Rosy Outlook Morro Rock, Safe and Secure, Rosy Outlook Pismo Beach, and All Tucked In) featured in one of the San Luis Obispo Museum of Modern Art’s (SLOMA) current group shows, Finding Spaces

Although the SLOMA exhibit has been available to view virtually since its debut in April, the public will get a brief opportunity to see it in person following the museum’s grand reopening on May 29, albeit for two days only as the show comes to a close on May 31.

But whichever route prospective viewers choose to take, virtually or in person, Gimbel said one of her favorite parts of exhibiting in either format is getting feedback on her work.

“I love to hear from viewers about how they feel when they enter my artistic world,” Gimbel said. “An artist really pours emotion and soul into a piece, and the hope is that it will speak to a viewer and cause a similar emotion.”

Selections from Denise Gimbel’s Flight of Spring series will also be included in the Santa Maria Airport showcase, hosted by the Valley Art Gallery, including Waft (pictured). The exhibit will debut in June.

In that respect, it’s fair to say Gimbel enjoys entering the artistic worlds of others during her painting process, as she almost always puts music on in the background while she paints.

“Music has been an important part of my entire life, so having it as a backdrop to my painting just feels natural,” said Gimbel, who usually likes to put on the eclectic mix of jazz and world music found on KCBX’s Morning Cup program, before switching to classical with KUSC in the afternoon.

Listening to music also lends itself to Gimbel’s process of intuitive mark making, which allows her hand to “dance” over the canvas, she explained, with an occasional break here and there for dance in the more traditional sense.

“The music ends up being a background ‘white noise’ as I concentrate on my painting, breaking through as I come up for a stretch or stand back and survey my progress—sometimes eliciting a wiggle or a full-out dance to shake it out before I dive back in,” Gimbel said.

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood wrote this with music in the background. Send comments to

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