Gail Folwell Creates Art from the Inside Out
For the Boulder-based artist, everything is connected
Listening to Boulder-based sculptor Gail Folwell talk about her art (or about anything, really) is like sticking your head out of the window of a car—there’s so much fresh air rushing at you, it’s hard to catch a breath.
When asked to describe her creative process, for example, her mind skips effortlessly through what seem like the most disparate topics—teamwork to transcendentalism to military operations to the effects of a global pandemic. It can feel esoteric and opaque at first, yet somehow, when she comes full circle, it all makes sense.
The way she sees it, everything is connected—synapses exist between everything. “Even though physically we’re this little bit, but in the chain, our connection to everything is so enormous. Our energy is everyone’s energy. That’s the forefront of what I’m exploring.”
It’s not surprising, then, that she finds inspiration for her art literally everywhere—though she’s best known for her sports sculptures. (Anyone who’s been to Vail Village will recognize “The Edge,” a ski racer captured in mid-carve and exploding with muscular power.) Her sculptures defy the medium itself—the athletes’ muscles are sharp yet their forms are fluid, and they seem to be a blur of motion while being firmly bolted to the ground.
For Folwell, these sculptures are not about admiration for the human form—they’re about synchronicity and how humanity fits into the universe at large. A sports team moves like a school of fish because the individuals are bonded, she says, illustrating that we are all part of something bigger. “There’s so much alignment. We were taught to be tapped out, and we need to remind ourselves and learn how to tap back in. We are way more connected to each other and to something infinite than we care to admit.”
As she matures as an artist, she digs deeper inward to explore that connective tissue, making art from the “inside out,” she says. “I used to think about the finished product first. I’m now learning how to be present and really thinking about why I feel the way I feel, and why that is important. It’s not about messaging—it’s about connecting. It’s been a beautiful learning curve.”
Her newest installation, called “Project XOX,” is testament to her new and more personal direction. It is, in fact, not a sculpture at all— it’s a collaborative multimedia installation featuring clear plexiglass silhouettes, suspended from the ceiling, of people from all over the world kissing the air. The shadows the silhouettes create as they twist in the slightest disturbance are part of the art.
The “Project XOX” tagline is “Let the beauty of our difference unite us.” In her vision, her installation will eventually evolve into a movement that includes works by other artists and spans the globe in different iterations—from bumper stickers to jumbotrons to virtual reality. (You can submit your own portrait via her website.)
Her belief that energy is something communal that flows through everything is evident in her work: Everything she creates hums with the stuff. “Your blood has got to be in the bricks to make it matter,” she says. “That’s why all the ancient churches are so moving—the people who built them really wanted to touch God. Real art comes from inside, and it makes you drop to your knees.”
It’s Personal, a collaborative show and talk series from Gail Folwell and Will Day, is on view at the Center for the Arts Evergreen from April 23- May 22. The show juxtaposes similarly inspired works of art to illustrate the artists’ personal passions and how they inform the creation of their art.