BostonFan Mail

Fan Mail: Giordanne Salley

For this edition of Fan Mail, Giordanne Salley of Boston, MA has been selected from our worthy reader submissions. Two artists are featured each month—the next one could be you! If you would like to be considered, please submit your website link to with ‘Fan Mail’ in the subject line.


Years ago, my friend Jessie was talking to me on camera while I lay in a bathtub in Pittsburg. We were there on a high school field trip, and were making a video called “art in the world,” looking at whatever we found along the way, especially bridges, sculpture, trashed tvs, etc. Jessie told me how it made her kinda sad that you can make-out in just about any movie. I said, “I wonder why? Cause some movies are so bad, you just have to make out? That you lose interest in them so much?”

Jessie replied, “Well, it’s not even that the film is bad, cause I think that you can make out in almost any film, but the point is that sex will always beat art, like, it doesn’t matter, sex will always kick art’s butt.”

Trina and the Moon Jellies, 2012, oil and mixed paper on canvas, 76in x 50in

Giordanne Salley, Trina and the Moon Jellies, 2012. Oil and mixed paper on canvas. 76in x 50in

Visual art doesn’t usually cause physical excitement in the viewer; no one claps or makes noise at the museum. People gasp in movies and music gets people to move and dance, but visual art is often taken in as a solitary observation with a stillness and gaze.

At gallery openings, I find that most people don’t talk about the art so much. Maybe they point out a few things they like and provide a few remarks to justify or explain why. Sometimes I’ll see a couple walk from piece to piece interpreting meanings and making observations. There is something about their intimacy that allows for this type of walk, a freedom of expression that permits insight to be constructed. People seem to pair off when it is mutually beneficial, and at least for a while, this can be blissful before power dynamics begin to develop. To gain insight in a conversation with a stranger can be euphoria.

Giordanne Salley, Promise? Promise., 2011. Oil on canvas. 18in x 24in

Looking at Giordanne’s paintings this morning, I think about love, being alone in the studio and remembering someone, being pulled toward the other person. It is easy to become obsessed with love, a need for connection, to be present with another. Alone in the studio is a vacuous but elated feeling. We are very social beings, but often art is created in a space isolated from others. We experience loneliness deeply, yearning for the other, but we also seek to be alone in order to find ourself.

Artists often works in solitude, creating from memory as Giordanne does. Making art puts you in a vulnerable state. Love and friendship are fundamental to the human experience, but the art-making experience can be uniquely anti-social. Despite this notion, sociality and human interaction remain at the core of Giordanne’s recent paintings.

Giordanne Salley, untitled (white painting), 2012. Oil on canvas. 16in x 16in

Alone in a gallery (or now viewing a webpage), I seek out the other, the artist’s whose work is before me. If I like the work, the artist has spoken to me, we have engaged in one-way communication. I feel like I know this other person for a moment. I like it when I write to the artist and we begin a conversation about their work that comes from a shared vision—their images somehow succeed to communicate.

“My most recent work is about being in love, and how it feels to think about those feelings while I am alone on my studio. I think the experience of being in love with people and places and things is a very big and overwhelming feeling in both good and bad ways. I am trying to use pictorial tension with the flattening and bulging of the space to create a similar feeling for the viewer.”

Crowded Boat, 2012, oil and mixed paper on canvas, 60in x 48in

Giordanne Salley, Crowded Boat, 2012. Oil and mixed paper on canvas. 60in x 48in.

I said to Giordanne that she flattens spaces and brings together specific fields of color and patterning. Characters don’t seem to lack anonymity even though you can’t see the face. Diving/falling reminds me of succumbing to fate or “going with the flow” but making an active choice to do so, showing the moment of decision, and following others.

Giordanne has affection for her media and treats her subjects with delicate lines and big regions of color. A record of the quotidian. Characters and narrative are produced with a quickness, capturing memory with an elegance that conveys emotion. Her paintings show intimacy and explore the everyday beauty that surround us.

Giordanne Salley, Night Swim, 2012. Oil and mixed paper on canvas. 38in x 48in.

Almost every painting shows water. Life around the water, fishing birds, boats, and swimming are her favorite subject matter. She seems to love outdoor adventuring and the bounty of nature, depicting buckets of collected mussels in her Boat Painting, and other excursions.

Giordanne says of her work: “All of my work is about memory, love and loss. The people and places in them are very specific to places I have been.”

Boat Painting, 2012, oil and mixed paper on canvas, 96in x 78in

Giordanne Salley, Boat Painting, 2012. Oil and mixed paper on canvas. 96in x 78in.

Giordanne is an MFA painting candidate at Boston University. Her work will appear in the upcoming northeast edition of New American Paintings #104. In 2012, she exhibited in several university spaces including the Boston University Sherman Gallery, Boston University 808 Gallery, and Boston University Commonwealth Gallery. In 2011, she had a solo show at Vermont Studio Center, Gallery II, Johnson, VT.