Megan Gibbons discovered Richard Diebenkorn in high school and has been inspired throughout her career by the California artist’s vibrant colors, geometric lines and the visible history of process in his abstractions, landscapes and figures. At one point, Diebenkorn inspired her into a sort of mid-life crisis.
Gibbons graduated from the University of Utah with a BFA with an emphasis on painting and drawing in the late 1990s. She says she painted and exhibited her work for the next 15 years with a rather laissez-faire attitude. “I wasn’t in a hurry — I had nothing but time.”
Fast forward to 2013. For her birthday, her husband takes her to see the Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkley Years exhibit at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. “I was turning 38 years old. I was incredibly large and emotional, being in the last months of pregnancy with our third child,” she says. “Beyond being awestruck by Diebenkorn’s incredible gift for using color and abstraction I began to notice the dates these works were produced and subsequently shown. Richard Diebenkorn was in his early thirties and forties when he was having these major shows all over the country…”
That moment was a wake up call. “I came to the sad, sickening realization that we do not have infinite time to pursue our dreams and attain our goals. We have right now. I went home and started painting in earnest almost immediately. I am still painting every chance I get.”
That has been tough over the past year. “Being a work-from-home parent has produced its own set of advantages and challenges; especially now during the pandemic. I have three kids, ages 7-11, who have been schooling from home for close to a year. Our house is chaos. To say I can’t get into my studio enough to paint is a bit of an understatement. But I still do run down there even if only for an hour some days. It’s my escape — emotionally and physically. Our lives have been turned upside down and my family is among the lucky. We’re still healthy and have not lost our jobs. Not to mention the toll the pandemic has taken on the art industry. I just hope that artists and galleries can hang on through all of this.”
Gibbons is hopeful and expects things will turn around soon. “People will start to be vaccinated and stop getting sick, kids can get back to school. We can share the collective experience of viewing art with lots of other people around, strangers even. Being moved by art- either through the miracle of color and lines on canvas or by the sheer terror instilled by the realization of that our years on this planet are finite.”
During the month of February we ask Utah artists about a specific piece of art or artist, living or not, local or global, that has sparked their curiosity or influenced their work. We run their responses throughout the month.