Gwendolyn Zabicki’s masterly oil paintings bring attention to moments rarely seen on museum walls: a bathroom door pushed slightly ajar, yellow-vested construction workers laying out canvas, a window reflected in the mirror. Using soft, muted brushstrokes, the painter distills quotidian moments into introspective, conceptual meditations. She likes to include a window or doorway, not only because it’s a trope—a painting as the window to the world—but because it leads viewers to another mental space.
Her most recent oeuvre is her most introspective yet. The artist became a mother in 2019 and her relationship to time changed. Instead of leisurely days in her Mana studio, she has focused time with paid daycare. At home, her daughter keeps Zabicki busy, but there is an abundance of a new kind of time, moments of quiet entrapment while holding or feeding her child. Her mind wanders to that nice stranger who held the door, an aging woman quietly smoking, daydreams of past travels, or a pesky cartoon theme song stuck in her head. The diptych “The Best Place to Cry is in the Shower” features two doors that are ajar. One door is front-lit and the other backlit, with a sliver of light appearing from the other side. It is these moments, ones everyone has experienced, but that typically get glossed over for something more exciting, that are Zabicki’s main interest. These new paintings were displayed this winter at Heaven Gallery, and are on scheduled to be on view at Victorian House Gallery in Bourbonnais, Illinois through May 1.
Zabicki was born in Chicago, and, while she has travelled the world, she never found reason to live anywhere else. She attended the School of the Art Institute for her BFA, followed by a Master’s at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she studied with Chicago’s doyenne of close observation, Julia Fish. As a break from the isolation of the painters’ studio, Zabicki actively engages in conversation with other painters and her community. A generous and engaged colleague, she curates group shows of painters she admires. Her curatorial projects include Browne Goodwin’s collection at Illinois State Museum and her next curatorial project, “Fête Galante,” planned for September 2020 at Heaven Gallery. The latter came out of conversations in her “lady painters” group. Four times a year the artist flies to New York to join these conversations and parties organized by Jenn Dierdorf and Kelsey Shwetz, and she aims to start a Chicago chapter. (Anastasia Karpova Tinari)