Detail of “Raina,” a 6-foot-by-6-foot oil painting by Rebecca Gabriel.

'A Woman's Journey'

When Rebecca Gabriel stands back and looks at the retrospective collection of figurative and self portraits, still lifes and landscapes for her new exhibit to open at the Rogue Gallery, she says it's like looking at a map of her soul.

"The exhibit is in itself a portrait," Gabriel says. "Of an artist's journey. I recognize what inspires me. It's self-reflective to see the work all in one place."

Gabriel's exhibit, "A Woman's Journey," not only celebrates the artist but the many aspects of all women's lives. It will be displayed through March — Women's History Month — at the Rogue Gallery & Art Center, 40 S. Bartlett St., Medford. A reception for Gabriel will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 29, and she will present a talk at noon Saturday, March 22, at the gallery.

"The exhibition stands with all its directness, intensity and flaws," Gabriel says. "Just as one's life is such a testimony."

Gabriel began her journey as an artist 35 years ago. She earned a master's in fine art from the University of Massachusetts in 1976, where she was granted a University Fellowship in painting. She also studied with the Arts Students League in New York City in 1986, and she studied painting with Michael Fuchs and his father, Ernst Fuchs, in 1997 in Vienna, Austria.

Painting the human figure became her passion and inspiration. The paintings are not just people or subjects, and there is a transformative exchange that occurs between the model and the artist, Gabriel says.

"I paint men and women, but the majority of my portraits are of women," she says. "I let the model's characteristics come to light, and the art happens somewhere between me and the model and presents a reality that isn't verbal."

Such as in her newest portrait, a large-scale oil painting titled "Raina."

"I feel that she is on the brink of a personal journey," Gabriel says. "She's ready for something, I don't know."

Gabriel's dedication to the psychological and physical traits of her subjects sometimes make her paintings take as long as a couple of years to finish, she says.

"It's always a surprise," Gabriel says. "The discoveries come through the work, and the artist doesn't really have any control over what the transformation will reveal. I love that."

"A Woman's Journey" reveals the technical as well as the expressive evolution of Gabriel's work.

"My early work is in acrylic," she says. "I switched to oils in the late '70s. It was while I was teaching, and I noticed that my students' works in oils held more richness and depth."

Gabriel has developed what she calls her own contemporary "old master" style of realism. Her work portrays experiences such as grief, sexuality, motherhood and aging and is informed by her perceptions and sensibilities as an artist, woman and individual, she says.

"The alchemy between myself and the model is the sum of something unique," she says.

Reach the Rogue Gallery at 772-8118.

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