Upon first glance, most people may think Gary Gee is your typical Black man. Behind his quiet, yet regal demeanor and signature full beard, lies an artist who uses every day life and personal thoughts to create masterpieces.
His artwork is said to tap into the subconscious mind and is founded in hip-hop, art history, society and his personal life. He does this using various mediums, “loud, aggressive, vibrant, rifts poured from his heart and soul communicated visually.”
The Recorder sat down with the up-and-coming artist to find out his artistic style, his newest show at Project 5547, and how he approaches his growing success.
Indianapolis Recorder: Tell me your journey to becoming an artist.
Gary Gee: I’ve been drawing all of my life. In kindergarten, I couldn’t color inside the lines, but I could redraw Green Eggs and Ham. When I was in the sixth grade, my mom bought me an art kit that had oil paints, acrylics and pastels. No one taught me, I just began using it. By the time I got to Harshman Middle School, I’d go to Saturday classes at Herron School of Art. Then around 1984, I was the first Black kid to attend this summer program at Indiana University in Bloomington. That opened my mind up to more, but then I got side tracked. I still kept sketching and drawing but eventually I became more serious. Then all of a sudden, things began to take off and now I’m doing serious art shows.
How would you describe your art?
With my art, I tap into my subconscious. A lot of my art is wild. It’s my thoughts. Its loose. Sometimes I incorporate history and social commentary and sometimes it’s just there. I’ve taken a few different styles and meshed them together, like Salvador Dali mixed with Gordon Parks mixed with Aaron McGruder. I also do a lot of mixed media work and conceptual things. I do a little bit of everything. If I feel like doing an oil painting, I will. If I feel like doing acrylic, I do it. Right now, I’m into wood.
What inspires you?
A lot of my stuff comes out of divine chaos. Sometimes I have a plan and other times, it doesn’t work out how I expected. Music helps. At times I become inspired by something on the news and other times, it’s something positive that happened to me during the day. Some pieces take me months to finish, while others take me a few days.
Being that you work with so many artistic genres, does your concept determine the medium used or vice versa?
I let the idea guide me. Sometimes I begin by saying ‘I’m going to use spray paint’ for example. But I find the line isn’t right or the texture doesn’t fit what I want to evoke. So I’ll grab a brush or a pen.
What’s it like being a Black artist in Indianapolis?
For Black artists, it’s limited. You have shows like Meet the Artist, which I got to do this year. And then there’s the Flava Fresh art exhibit. Black art is usually celebrated in February so you’re kind of pigeon-holed. I’m not trying to be that. I just began trying other shows and was able to do shows like Raw, which is funky and off the grid. Now I’m with Project 5547. There are some people who are trying to change stereotypical approaches to art and the divide between Black shows and white shows.
Though you tap into creative places to come up with pieces and are now showing your art in more places, you’re still a student of the craft. Explain this approach.
I went to Ivy Tech to get an associate’s degree in graphic design and another in fine arts. I’d also like to pursue a bachelor’s and master’s in fine arts. When you have your paperwork in order, it’s hard for people to take things from you. It shows I’m serious. I feel that if God gave me this gift, I want to explore all possibilities and capabilities. Plus the business side of art can be intimidating. School doesn’t totally prepare you, but it helps.
Your artwork will be on display at 5547 Project until the end of November. What can people expect from this showing?
They’ll see some of my bigger paintings and pieces on birch and oak wood. “Half Past Midnight” and “I Spy” were on display at Clowes Hall so I decided to bring those in. I also have silk-screen prints and other items folks might like.
What are your future plans?
I’m entering shows out of state now. I want to see what the world thinks of Gary Gee.
For more information, visit artbygarygee.com.
What is the 5547 Project?
The 5547 Project is a community-based organization focused on presenting art to the public and supporting local artist as an alternative art studio/gallery. It is located on 5547 Bonna Ave., just south of Washington Street in the Irvington neighborhood of Indianapolis.
There are open, reoccurring events each Friday and special one-time events. See their Facebook page for current happenings at facebook.com/5547Project.
Art around town
Indianapolis may be known for sports, however there is a burgeoning art scene happening. To house these local works of art, there are also numerous galleries.
Here is a list of several galleries around Indianapolis where one can find a wide variety of art.
- Arch @ Chatham
- Big Car Gallery
- Domont Studio Gallery
- Harrison Center for the Arts
- Indianapolis Art Center
- Kuaba Gallery
- Park Place Arts
- Stutz Art Space Gallery
- The Murphy Arts Center