Pick a fantasy, any fantasy. There's something behind it, for sure, and that's just what chipper Ashland artist Gayle Gray hopes to explore through her work as she explores herself as well.




Crafting vibrant, symbolic fantasy art is a passion Gray came to at a very young age. Having busy parents, Gray often found her repose and budding identity in the natural things around her and the rich fantasies that encircled them. Now her vibrant works can be found in local galleries all around the Valley, and she also produces cards and prints and illustrates books.




Gray came to Ashland in 1985. She came to Southern Oregon a decade prior, from Miami, and lived in a commune of "professional drop-outs" helmed by a man she referred to as a "mad German" where she taught preschool. After that, she farmed for awhile and also lived in the hills with a mountain man. Ever-transitional, Gray came to Ashland to teach preschool again, ultimately starting her own progressive day care service, which she operated for a number of years.




After awhile, Gray decided to make a bold move, stepping away from the schooling and using her life savings to invest in a consummate dedication to her art. This allowed Gray to be more prolific in her production and to focus on bigger and more demanding projects.




"I just want people to know that I'm going for it," said Gray, with pride. In this pursuit, Gray admittedly became somewhat reclusive, but now she finds herself on the cusp of reemergence and reinvention.




"I enjoy people, but my own reality is a safe, peaceful, gentle and quiet place," said Gray. "Much of my life I have been a dreamer." In spite of her self-imposed reclusion, Gray is an amazingly candid conversationalist, lit with a sincerity and charm that permeates an emotive quality in her work which many fantasy-based artists miss.




The key component that brings Gray's work to life is the fantasy mythological elements which she uses to convey broader, more universal emotion. Some of her work is reminiscent of Michael Parks, though less bleak, in that she often portrays children on precipice of growth through fantasy symbolism.




"I use representational style often with some aspect of suspended logic," said Gray. "Odd juxtapositions, changes in scale, changes in gravity, symbolism and stylization are used, often with an overlay of humor. Primsacolor pencils are my favorite medium. I love the colors that layering can produce and the lack of detail possible."




"I try to do it without being heavy," said Gray. "That still keeps it fun. I guess I wish that the world was a more innocent place. One of the reasons I like children so much is that they have no facades."




While Gray loved working with children for a number of years, what ultimately frustrated her is the degree she felt she had to influence children in that capacity, rather than watching them form themselves. "Some of the things we impose on children we have to. They could not function in the world without it; they would be considered mad"&

166;" said Gray. "Perhaps that is simply what a crazy person is &

just someone that only knows their own reality. A lot of my work attempts to show an aspect of another's reality or my own."




Gray also has a habit of rescuing animals and nursing them to health. At present she has three dogs and four cats to add to the palette of her inspiration as she sallies forth with her investment in this art, which will hopefully yield limitless self-discovery for Gayle Gray.