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Painter creates a dialogue through art
By Lee Litas | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 12/9/2008 12:06 AM

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"In a movie you have a lot of images in which to tell a story. I think a successful painting is one that tells a long story with only one shot," notes David Gista, a French painter transplanted to Chicago whose current exhibition "Fictions" is on display through Dec. 15 at the Robert T. Wright Community Gallery of Art inside the College of Lake County in Grayslake.

Gista's work is layered, literally and figuratively, with brush strokes and recyclable materials, words and people, meaning and memory; invoking images that are at once haunting and familiar.

The 20-some pieces on display at the CLC are part of a larger collection in which Gista places his subjects inside of libraries and surrounds them with imposing shelves that labor under the burden of myriad books.

His human subjects who find themselves in these confining spaces help to further illustrate the idea of isolation and alienation. Gista portrays many of them with their backs to the viewer, an aspect the artist finds endlessly fascinating as it holds for him a connection between "being and not being, invisible and visible, presence and absence, being here and going away;" a feeling that he wanted to explore further.

Since early childhood, visions of books piled up in stacks had been a vivid memory for Gista and, to date, he has created more than 100 paintings with the library theme.

"I grew up in books; books filled with stories and people. They were always a striking influence in my life," said Gista noting he named his show "Fictions" in homage to one of his favorite Argentine authors, Jorge Luis Borges, whose most famous anthology of short stories is called 'Ficciones' and some of whose fictional work actually takes place in libraries.

"David Gista's exhibition fits like a glove in the College of Lake County's gallery space. The artist's paintings and works on paper depict images of library interiors with towering shelves of books. Exhibiting them in a gallery that resides within a library is the perfect venue," said Art Gallery Curator Steven Jones.

This collection is made up not only of paintings, but also of collage work made from recycled paper scraps and cardboard boxes. Gista used those materials as sediment on top of the canvass to add texture so that, as he painted, some of the writing would remain visible between the strokes.

In this way, just like the tenuous thread of a memory that sometimes rushes forth very much in focus and at other times is vague and intangible, so too does Gista's work, with its roots based squarely in surrealism, create visual images seemingly of the collective unconscious.

"The goal of using that sediment was to create that sense of memory underneath; a feeling that there is a story there like a metaphor for books or culture that are made of many layers," Gista said.

Memory, notes the artists, is a vital element to his work. "I try playing up aspects of the past and present together within both personal and collective history. I like to think that there is not only one degree but that you can unravel and open up different doors into a subject."

Through his work, Gista hopes to create a sort of dialogue which would enable people to interact with his paintings. "So far I believe I have been successful. People get in front of (a painting) and then slowly they start to find out about it. It's not obvious," he said.

For more information on the exhibit contact the College of Lake County at: 847-543-2240 or go to