Gayle Gibbons Madeira is a contemporary artist who paints in the classical tradition. She lives and works in Astoria Queens, New York City. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Art from the State University of New York, College at Purchase in dance performance and choreography (1992) and pursued a career as a professional dancer and choreographer for many years, touring internationally, choreographing, and flying through the air.
Gayle has drawn and painted from a young age (see early background below) and continued while pursuing her dance career. Her artistic focus during her 20s and early 30s was mainly illustration, particularly children’s book illustration. She also studied anatomy, drawing, and painting at the Art Student’s League and the School of Visual Arts during those years. In her late 30s, she turned her eye (and brush) to classical painting in oil.
Since shifting to classical painting, Gayle’s work has been exhibited at The National Arts Club, Salmagundi Club, Williamsburg Art and Historical Center, Principle Gallery, Foundation Gallery, and the New York Hall of Science, among others. Her paintings have appeared in various magazines, books, and films and have been finalists in the Artist’s Magazine (2009, 2015), the Art Renewal Center’s juried salons (2015, 2016), and the Portrait Society of America (2016) competitions, among others. She is also a compulsive cartoonist in the Edward Gorey/New Yorker style and one of her favorite hobbies is to make bizarre faces.
“An internationally recognized professional artist and dancer who grew up on a farm in Northern Virginia, Gayle Madeira explores her fascination with the physical body through both media. In the words of the artist: ‘I am obsessed with figures and giving them the most honest representation that I can in artistic form.’ As a painter, she shows an exceptional attention to detail and applies techniques that distinguish her work. Her black and white charcoal portraits on gesso board, like those featured in the film “Prayer to a Vengeful God” possess both painterly and graphic qualities. In her highly detailed, to-scale, tightly cropped portraits, every hair and wrinkle is visible. From afar, it is possible to mistake her drawings and paintings for photographs. Upon closer inspection, the lines and shading, the trace of the hand, becomes apparent. Madeira started working in oil paint in 2009. She is also known for her animal portraits in watercolor which she creates using a unique dry-brush technique. Madeira’s work has been exhibited extensively in New York City and throughout the United States.”
–Tracy Adler, Director of Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College
EARLY BACKGROUND AND FULL HISTORY
Gayle was born in 1969 in College Station Texas. Her father William Conrad Gibbons was the Dean of Political Science at Texas A&M University up until the time when he assisted in the creation of the A&M black student league, at which point the head of the University suggested that he would probably prefer working somewhere more like Boston. Earlier in his life, Gayle’s father worked in the government. However, being a smart man, he transitioned to academia shortly thereafter.
By the time she went to Boston at the ripe age of 1, Gayle was already painting but mostly with her hands and mostly on her face. She was also very interested in sculpting at this time, with Play-Doh as her clay of choice. Sometimes the sculpture ended up in her mouth but she survived anyway.
After one year in Boston, the family moved to the Washington DC area where they started renovating a 200 year old stone farmhouse in Loudoun County, Northern Virginia. Everyone was involved in the renovation and this is where little Gayle really started working with oil paint, albeit still on walls.
Being raised on a farm in the country was wonderful. She got to spend time with with many animals and plants, and a strong work ethic began to develop from doing many chores – some requiring heavy machinery. It was sort of a do-or-die thing. Master the equipment before it masters you. It served her well later in life when she tried to figure out how to paint and how to survive in New York City.
Living just outside of Washington DC provided Gayle with a perfect blend of extremes – from going to see Porgy & Bess at the Kennedy Center to singlehandedly mucking out the entire barn (3 feet of you-know-what) at the tender age of 5 – this upbringing filled Gayle with all sorts of bizarre contradictions which endure to this day.
These extremes weren’t the only contribution to Gayle’s strange, dark sense of humor. Her favorite poet when she was young was Edgar Allen Poe. She liked to read Poe’s poem “For Annie” because the end always made her cry, which she enjoyed. Her humor persists through her quirky and sometimes unsettling cartoons and illustrations. You can see some of her latest in a little book called The Apocalypse Alphabet.
Life in this early period wasn’t all dark and strange. Her love of flying also started to become apparent, as well as a the beginnings of an odd identification with tree frogs (which manifested in later years as a frog face which she makes with impunity). Gayle was very shy when she was young, was not allowed to watch television, and spent a lot of time drawing, painting, dancing, reading, and contemplating nature and life. This made it quite difficult for her to fit in with most of her peers until she was able to find other like-minded individuals.
Junior high school was spent navigating hormones and bullies, but the companions of dance, art, nature, and the discovery of how to disappear into books helped her through this precarious time. She was also sent off in the summers to her grandmother who put her in riding school. In this stage, she mostly drew what was around her, including the view from her bedroom in the old farmhouse, and dancers from imagination in bright colors.
In high school, Gayle was finally able to crawl out of her shell of shyness. She chopped all her hair off and discovered some benefits: a) she couldn’t hide behind her hair anymore and b) everyone wanted to touch her head. She went on to investigate dressing in such a way as to make even her closest friends not recognize her from day to day which made public school more interesting and got people to talk to her. Another method she discovered during this time was to start conversations by kicking people in the shins. It always got their attention. Needless to say, she was considered a bit of a freak but was voted “most talented” in the end and her watercolor painting of a distraught child clown won 1st place in a county art show.
The transition to moving away from home after high school was very rocky for Gayle. Highlights included trying to run away from home and in the process almost getting several felonies and a collection of misdemeanors on her adult record (very fortunately avoided this fate), dating and living with a man 30 years her senior, dying her hair black, and making a lot of very psychedelic looking art with undulating squares.
Attending the conservatory at SUNY College at Purchase was also rocky in the beginning. Hitting the ground running with a lethal combination of a lot of energy and anger, the first thing Gayle did was to audition, and get into, too many dance pieces for her own good. After a period of time spent not sleeping, dancing 10 hours a day, and drinking lots of coffee, she proceeded to tear a significant amount of connective tissue in both her hip joints. Everything suddenly ground to a halt for Gayle, but it was an amazing period of time in which she dove into her psyche to figure out how she could have done this to herself. This sparked a lifelong journey of learning about herself and growing, and eventually her hips healed and she stopped dying her hair black.
The rest of Gayle’s time at SUNY Purchase was incredible. She was accepted into, and performed and toured with, the in-house dance company called the Purchase Dance Corps. She toured with them to Hong Kong, Amsterdam, and Taiwan, her first forays outside of the U.S. She was graduated cum laude with a faculty award for excellence, with many lifelong friends, and a lot of NYC dance connections. She still made some art in this time, and illustrated her final paper with little goblins which she was constantly drawing on everything.
After moving to New York City in her twenties, Gayle started taking anatomy and drawing classes at the Art Student’s League. Having come from the country, she was intensely moved by the homelessness she found in the city. She painted portraits reflecting her feelings of sadness, as well as some more goblins flying through the air.
In her twenties, Gayle also took classes at the School of Visual Arts in illustration. At this point she worked only in watercolor, gouache or pen & ink, and she toured with many dance companies. She also created a dance company of her own, producing her own shows in New York City for three years.
Like many artists and dancers in NYC, Gayle had to work at non-art jobs to make ends meet. She started temping at Goldman Sachs in 1992 when they were still using MS-DOS. She was able to work in between dance tours, at night, and on the weekends. Through time, they trained her in many other programs. She also taught herself how to do basic VBA code and over time, wrote shortcuts for her department, documented them and rolled them out to her team. She didn’t realize she was making a development environment! A tech angel finally convinced her to move to Merrill Lynch in 2005 as a consultant in a development group where she learned an immense amount about the software development life cycle and also had a blast. She was still dancing, and began dancing Argentine tango at this point, eventually giving up all other forms of dance. Her art at this point was almost entirely portraiture in watercolor of people and animals, and she started getting a lot of commissions and getting into shows. How was she able to do all this? The childhood rule of not watching tv was continued in her adulthood, and she had a lot of energy!
In 2007, Gayle had a bad feeling about the economy. She decided to take the first full-time job of her life and prepare for what she felt would be a storm. She went to work as a software tester for InterContinental Exchange. She worked there for 5 years, the last 2 of which she was manager of her team. In that time, she competed in tango, winning the U.S. tango championship twice in both stage (2008) and salon (2011) categories with partners Lexa Roséan and Sid Grant. She also discovered Grand Central Atelier and the New York Academy of Art and switched to oil painting from watercolor.
The clarion call to return to a more bohemian and art-filled lifestyle came in 2013. Gayle quit InterContinental Exchange and took a full year off in which she had a solo show at the Foundation Gallery in New Orleans. She always loved New Orleans and this was her love letter to the city. Half of the paintings in the show were oil paintings and half were drawings. Most of the portraits were of her burlesque friends. In 1992, a woman in her ballet class named Denise, who would later become a dear friend, asked if she would like to dance in the can-can which she choreographed every Bastille Day in a French restaurant called Restaurant Florent which she managed. Gayle said yes, and continued to dance in the can-can and various other burlesque shows until the restaurant closed in 2008.
In 2014, Gayle was asked to join the templates team at Microsoft. She agreed with the caveat that she could work part-time and from home so that she could focus on her art. She has been working in that department ever since, and steadily trying to increase her skills in painting and dancing in every spare moment. She teaches tango every Monday night with her boyfriend Tioma Maloratsky as well as teaching private tango and drawing/painting lessons. Lately Gayle has been really into making paintings of people flying through the air and people sitting on the subway. You can read more about her tango life at the website she has with Tioma: gayleandtioma.com