Theresa Girard’s art speaks louder than words

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Artist Theresa Girard kicked off her exhibit at the Louisa Gould Gallery with a demonstration. — Louisa Gould

For the past 10 years Louisa Gould has hosted an all-abstract show at her Vineyard Haven gallery, and she has found that the form has become more and more popular. The addition of painter Theresa Girard to the Louisa Gould family of artists has borne that out. Since Memorial Day weekend, when the gallery owner introduced Ms. Girard’s work to the Island, she has clearly hit a chord with Vineyard art buyers. “Her palette and her work are really pleasing,” says Ms. Gould. “The first batch of her work that I received, I sold out. People are really responding to abstract with what’s going on in this digital age.”

Now Ms. Gould is hosting a solo show of Ms. Girard’s work, which kicked off with a demonstration by the Rhode Island–based artist. The work is notable for the expert use of color and a more pastel palette than one might expect from an abstract artist.

Although not representational, each of Ms. Girard’s paintings implies a scene, an image, or a mood. “I was a realistic oil painter for several years,” says the artist. “Then I became more interested in what was happening around the object than the object itself. Abstraction was sort of an organic move for me.”

In her artist’s statement Ms. Girard comments on the inspiration for her paintings: “They are often driven by the weight of current circumstances, feelings, or intentions. I am continually striving for the finished work to speak louder than I can communicate in words.”

For those who disparage abstract work as simplistic, Ms. Girard defends the genre. “It’s not just about throwing some paint on a canvas. I would suggest that anyone who believes that go to see a Pollock. When you get up close to a painting like that, there’s so much history underneath. I like to see that the artist has been there. There are many layers, which creates a history. In my work, I want to know that I’ve been there for a while.”

That history, for Ms. Girard, begins with an underdrawing. “I start off with drawing,” she explains. “Sort of intuitive drawing, expressionist drawing. It removes any distractions I might have. Then I’m able to move through the painting. Usually at that point the painting starts to speak to me a little bit.”

Much of the artist’s work is influenced by her proximity to the ocean. She has always lived close to the sea in Rhode Island, and has been coming to the Vineyard since the 1970s. “I feel that a lot of these paintings have an ocean or water feeling to them,” she says of her recent work. “That’s where I am most of the time. They might remind you more of a landscape or a seascape.”

Many of the paintings on exhibit at the Louisa Gould Gallery feature a variety of blue shades. There’s something very soothing about Ms. Girard’s work, but there’s always counterpoint. The interest is developed through punctuating patches of bright color, small fine-line linear elements, or defined drips. Her composition and combinations of interesting colors — oranges often come into play — show her expertise as an abstract painter.

Ms. Girard shares her skill through the numerous workshops and classes that she hosts across the country. Last May she held a weeklong workshop for 10 people at a private home on the Vineyard. She always offers at least one scholarship. She notes that she was blessed with some very talented mentors, including awardwinning contemporary expressionist Al Lachman. “I feel very strongly about paying it forward,” she says, “helping young artists along.”

Ms. Girard is the founder of Access to Art, a community-based fine art program. Her expressive paintings have been featured in several national publications and books, both self-published and with colleague artists. She is a member and exhibiting artist at the Providence Art Club.

Paintings by Theresa Girard at the Louisa Gould Gallery continues through Oct. 16. This will be the last show of the season for Ms. Gould, although the gallery stays open year-round.