As the pandemic has changed and challenged all of us, few experienced the hardships of separation and disconnection quite like America’s teachers and educators. But an Atlanta high school art teacher managed to extract some beauty and meaning from the ordeal and shares his vision in a new solo art exhibition, “Bridges: Through the Pandemic.” Teacher and artist George Galbreath’s paintings are currently on view at the P2 Gallery through Oct. 24. He joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes to talk about his artistic response to the pandemic, and how art education plays a critical role in helping teachers and students through hard times.
“I actually feel bad for anyone that does not have an outlet, especially educators at the moment. There’s a lot of depression…. For me, art has been a complete outlet,” said Galbreath, whose experience of the pandemic brought him to new realms of artistic expression. “I’ve never been as direct with expressing my feelings and my emotions in my artwork; typically it’s fairly subliminal and symbolic. I focus more on structures and bridges, and things of that nature. So there is a component of me in there, but now I’ve literally incorporated myself, the figure, into the works.”
“Bridges: Through the Pandemic” focuses on Galbreath’s collections of vibrant paintings in which bridges represent both connection, disconnection, and crossing through difficult terrain. “I have always been fascinated by bridges, just as monumental as they are, ever since I was a little kid…. For me, representing structure and representing the actual bridge definitely speaks to bringing communities together; definitely speaks to, in some instances, separating communities. But in this instance, it’s more about the journey. We are all on this journey together, even though we are all on our own personal journey. But that bridge represents all the different stages of that journey as we cross this pandemic,” he said.
Galbreath continued, “I’ve been a big fan of Fauvism, a historic art style, working with not only the use of strong vibrant color, but also structure in terms of the strokes and style and whatnot. But with this work, I was forced to stay ‘in,’ a bit. I really do appreciate a ‘plein air’ type of creation where I’m out amongst the… landscapes and things of that nature, but with us being inside, I had to look inward a bit.”
The P2 Gallery opening for Galbreath’s exhibition on Oct. 8 featured a dance performance by Lindsay Renea, with original choreography inspired by Galbreath’s own paintings. The experience of the art even spilled into an outdoor tent, with dancers performing in front of video-projected images of Galbreath’s artwork on the tent’s walls. Also included was the surprise talent of one of Galbreath’s high school students, whose eye for photography so impressed Galbreath that he had the student take all the reference photos for his paintings. “Bridges: Through the Pandemic” displays these reference photos as part of the exhibition.
Galbreath, in addition to his own artistic pursuits, expressed great dedication to nurturing the artist in each of his students. He shared his hope that education will remain intact with technology and distance now such a big part of the experience. “I know that education is, kind of, this continuing cycle of reinventing yourself. As students and the world changes, we have to pivot. But this was the gigantic pivot – I think everyone can agree with that.”
“Bridges: Through the Pandemic” is on view at P2 Gallery, located at 249 Peters St. SW, through Oct. 24. There will be an artist talk on Oct. 24 as well. More information about Galbreath and his artwork is available at www.georgegalbreath.com