Remembering Gail Bradford 1951 – 2010 by Diane Thodos

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I remember Gail as a slight and frail figure with very long dark curls and a shy, enigmatic expression that made her seem as though she was trying to peer beyond the substance of things. This certainly was true of her art: I witnessed her drawings as she built them up slowly, first as points and dots that were connected by thin and nervous constellations of lines that barely impressed themselves. Gradually a numinous face or figure would appear from the cloud of lines. I always was arrested by the profundity of their expressions and the listening glint that she often carefully placed in their eyes.

She joined our printmaking group at the Evanston Art Center in the mid 1990’s. I was struck by her quiet and intense working methods, and how memorable her images were compared to the works of thousands of artists I had seen as an art student in New York City and later as an art critic in Chicago. Like Giacometti and Morandi here was someone who imbedded an intense stillness of mood; she could freeze a moment of complete sincerity into each of her images. There were depths her work had, especially in how her shadowed figures mysteriously transmuted themselves to paper. Time stood still.

Many remember her as kind, generous, self effacing, and thoughtful of others. She certainly was all these things. Yet I also recall the artist and friend whose delicate line work fused the matter of her life onto paper much like the faint handwriting of Emily Dickinson’s poems bore the tides of deep and uncanny feelings onto tiny slips of paper. One year Gail sent me a card made from pearlescent paper that was folded to look like a small Japanese screen. On it was printed the Dickinson poem:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet never in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Truly Gail was this otherworldly bird. Her deep feeling was her gift – in her being, in her heart, in her art.

bird
Drawing 10 x 7.5

Picture 1
Grandfather (detail) 22 x 12

Picture 2
Eden’s Grandmother 36 x 16

Picture 3
Eden drawing 8 x 5

Picture 4
Roof of a House etching 3 x 4.5

Picture 5
Madeleines etching 3 x 4.5

Picture 6
Beyond etching 3 x 4.5

Picture 7
etching 3 x 4.5

Picture 8
Amsterdam – Lewis etching 3 x 4.5

Picture 9
Pears etching

Picture 10
Eden drawing 39 x 23

Picture 11
Eden drawing 47 x 34

Picture 12
Violin etching