Fatherhood Awakens Artist Gibbs Rounsavall

The strong geometric designs of Gibbs Rounsavall’s paintings have made his work among the most recognizable of Louisville’s younger guard of visual artists.  His work has been widely shown locally, in Zephyr Gallery, Actors Theatre of Louisville and Swanson Reed Gallery, among others, as well as afar, in group shows at Morehead State University and Brooklyn’s Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Art. But his work took a new direction and a new sense of urgency when he and his wife Sara welcomed their daughter Edie to the family in 2011.

“After 36 years, I felt pretty acquainted with who I was, my purpose, and the established routines we had as individuals and as a couple,” says Rounsavall. “A baby throws all that out the window.”

Now, Rounsavall says his new identity as “Dada” — the pater familias, not the art movement — has changed the way he sees the world around him. 

Edie is like a visitor from another planet, where everything is so foreign to her that she treats it all with the same amount of attention, whether it’s a brightly-colored toy or a simple cardboard box,” he says. ” I began to see the world differently through new eyes, almost as if for the first time.”

“I was no longer just an artist, or a teacher, or a husband, but a ‘Dada’ — and this role carried the most gravitas,” he adds.

Rounsavall’s marvel at Edie’s process of discovery and her urgency (“Even crossing a room is done in a full sprint, like her pants are on fire.”) sounds familiar to anyone who’s spent time with small children. But this experience has shaped his art as well, grounding him in the present, fine-tuning his focus and resulting in his most prolific creative period yet.

Rounsavall began working on a new series shortly after his daughter was born, a series of circular frames, ranging in diameter from 12 to 96 inches in diameter. He’s moved his attention away from sharp angles to a softer, more organic fluidity of line. His new work goes on display this week in a solo exhibit, ”Awaken,” at The Green Building Gallery

I am very conscious of making these fine edges, which require total attention and presence of mind. When viewed up close, you can see the line waver and that it is clearly man-made. I love this idea of trying to make this perfect edge, but it never really being quite perfect, always retaining this man-made quality,” he says. 

The work in “Awaken” is arranged chronologically, with an increasing complexity that mirrors, in a way, his daughter’s growing awareness of the world around her that comes through experimentation and experience.

“The first couple of pieces utilize color that radiates from a central point on the surface. Gradually, they become more complex in their structure as the space is broken, divided, twisted, stretched, spun and woven,” says Rounsavall. “Many of the pieces progress to include a spiral framework. I have always been fascinated at how prevalent a design structure the spiral is in nature. From the arrangement of sunflower seeds to the spiral galaxy, it’s all around us.”

“Awaken” opens Friday at The Green Building Gallery (732 E. Market St.) with a reception at 5 p.m. 

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