Nestled in a secluded corner of the Heber Valley is Gloria Montgomery’s home. Her studio is located in a large section of the house, an arrangement which she loves for its convenience and seclusion. Warm light filters in from several large windows, creating ideal working conditions. The walls are covered with numerous paintings, a testament to her years of work — work that came from her inescapable enthusiasm for life and its many challenges.
As I sit down in a comfortable recliner, Gloria is immediately eager and open to share with me her portfolios containing past work. Turning the pages, I find each picture unique and different from the last, both in subject matter and style. Gloria takes one glance at a picture, and is instantly taken back to the day she created the piece, remembering small details, such as the weather and her mood.
For years Gloria has created still lifes using arranged marbles, rendering them in graphite, pencil, and oil. Gloria studies objects as if through a child’s eyes — fresh, new, and full of possibilities. Her style moves from tightly rendered pencil drawings to brightly painted flowers. The paint strokes resemble Van Gogh, a comparison that makes Gloria laugh, because she has never referenced Van Gogh but has always admired his contemporary, Toulouse-Lautrec.
After looking through the portfolios, my eyes focus on her latest works. Set upon a large easel, contained inside an organic mesh of cells, is a striking iris; its varying shades of purple catch my eye. All the tiny individually colored squares give Gloria’s work a distinct signature, which pulls the viewer in to take a closer look.
At first glance people often confuse the water-based paint she uses with mosaic tiles. It’s hard to believe the time and strict dedication each square receives. This attention to detail gives each space its own unique character. Gloria calmly states that “it soothes and quiets her mind” to paint and perfect each rectangle.
Gloria’s process is as unique and individualized as each square, matching the process to the subject matter by the feeling it reflects. To create a vibrant poppy she may begin with a watercolor wash of bold red, swirled with orange, then come back with an ink pen to draw each square. Finally, she goes into the outlined squares, filling them with an appropriate color. With the next piece, Gloria may start in an entirely different way, making a line drawing, then sketching her signature mesh over the subject, and lastly filling the squares.
Seeing the intricate designs makes me wonder how this idea came to fruition. To fully understand the artistic journey that has led her to this moment, one needs to view her past work. Looking through the volumes of pages in her portfolios, you can see how each piece contributed to her present visualization. Many of the pictures allude to the future by containing small bursts of unfinished square sections. Other pictures have one single, strongly stated square — fondly called “windows” by her granddaughter.
During a camping trip to the Uintahs, Gloria recalls, she started doodling in her sketchbook, repeating square after square. Reflecting on these, she viewed the squares as an organic connecting force to the environment and life. This thought had many meanings to her, not only about life, but the possibility of bringing her designs together.
Bringing this new idea into the studio, Gloria was determined to spend as much time as possible making her new creations. Finding that she wanted to spend more time working on her art, she resigned from her full-time job as Executive Director for the new Heber Valley Railroad. By participating in art festivals and perfecting her skills through workshops while building a steady clientele, she has been able to concentrate solely on her artistic endeavors.
Continuing to move forward, Gloria sees her artwork as becoming more intricate, focusing tightly on the subject matter, while infusing more color, and finding new ways to associate squares.
Currently, Gloria is preparing for an upcoming show in December at the Patrick Moore Gallery, which will feature artists from the Park City Professional Artists Association. The Orbit Café will also be displaying her detailed marble still lifes |5| from November thru mid December.
this article originally appeared in the November 2005 edition of 15 Bytes
Emily Chaney, after graduating in 2002 from the University of Utah with a Fine Arts degree, began writing for 15 Bytes as a way to stay connected to the Utah arts community. She is now the Gallery Manager for the Terzian Galleries on Park City’s Main Street.