Evolution of an Artist
Ask Liz Gribin if she has a favorite among all her paintings, and she’ll say, “The one on the easel, because that’s always the one that’s most interesting.”
Once off her easel and onto the walls of galleries, Gribin’s paintings are growing increasingly interesting to others as well, especially critics and buyers. The recipient of many awards — among them the Bruce Stevenson Award from the National Arts Club and the Pall Corporation Award at the Heckscher Museum — Gribin (CFA’56) is represented by galleries on both coasts, including the Gayle Willson Gallery in Southampton, New York, and the Louis Aronow Gallery in San Francisco. Critics have compared her work to such artists as Richard Diebenkorn and Fairfield Porter — which pleases Gribin, in part because she admires their art and in part because in the beginning she never expected to be recognized for what she now considers her life’s work.
“I painted for all those years,” says Gribin of her days after Boston University, “but I didn’t think about showing my work or looking to have a gallery represent me — that wasn’t really important.”
More important then was her family: Gribin married two weeks after graduating from BU and raised three children. “Being a full-time mother, it was difficult to paint,” she says. “But it was something I always knew was there. And I was definitely going to go back to it because that was what I really wanted to do.”
When her children reached school age, Gribin began to paint once or twice a week, until eventually she was painting every day. But still, even with her work on display at galleries across the country, for Gribin, “the best part of the whole thing is doing the work.”
Her style, which she has described as postabstract realism, has changed a great deal from her days at BU. Back then, she says, her art was more academic- and realism-based than her current work. “I knew how to paint something that was in front of me and make it very true to life,” she says, “but I didn’t really know how to be original. I wanted to break away from that.”
She has since learned to “think of a classical drawing in more contemporary terms,” she says, and now aims to convey emotion rather than realism. Her abstract figures often have featureless faces, and she avoids rendering too many details, preferring to let poses and gestures lend her work its emotive quality, which she doesn’t attempt to define.
“I don’t always anticipate how people are going to view them,” she says. “Someone bought a painting of two figures recently. The buyer said she saw in it the relationship between her and her mother, and that she had to have it because it reached her in that way.” Gribin remains connected to the University and to Boston. She was on campus last fall to address students at the College of Fine Arts, and her exhibition at Newbury Fine Arts opened the same weekend. In her art, however, she hopes to evolve even further from the realism of her college work. “I’m constantly trying to make my work more abstract,” she says, “and yet retain the figure so that people know what they’re looking at. But I want to get it freer and freer.”