Then and Now: Gale Hart

Portrait by Joan Cusick
Paint can, 2019, by Gale Hart
Paint can, 2019, by Gale Hart

THEN. The allure and nostalgia of the circus wasn’t on Gale Hart’s mind when she curated “Circus Show and Other Atrocities” at Verge Gallery 15 years ago. Instead, she focused on the darker side of the traveling show.

“It focused on animals in transportation and how they’re treated in captivity in regards to circuses—how they would transfer them from one spot to the next in train cars and things like that. It was a huge show,” she says.

Hart sent out 100 9-by-12 panels to artists all over the world who depicted their interpretation of what it’s like to be an animal for entertainment. More than 200 artists participated in the exhibit, which included live music, games and stand-up.

As an artist for more than 45 years, Hart says she’s never stuck to one medium, whether it’s sculpture, paint or mixed media. But her storied body of work always comes with a statement.

Gale Hart
Gale Hart

“I have always done work that has a narrative to it, that has political or social issues,” she says. “That’s what my muse is or the catalyst for my work is: injustices, or things that bother me or frustrate me in some kind of way. Then, I just use that energy and try to figure out a way to manifest it in a piece of art.”

NOW. During the pandemic, Hart uses art as a distraction. She focuses on creating public art pieces and grand sculptures, such as a 5-foot-tall spraypaint can made out of industrial pipe.

“I spent my life being a studio artist, and then in 2014 I started making public art, so it was a dramatic change in not only scale but process,” she says.

One of her first public art pieces is placed in front of Golden 1 Center: a series of sculptures that includes six massive fiberglass and stainless steel darts, a dartboard and a giant pair of bronze hands, which she calls “Missing the Mark.”

"Missing the Mark," 2016, by Hart
“Missing the Mark,” 2016, by Hart

“I went from studio work that had a lot of narrative and content in it to doing that as my first big, major piece,” she says. “The controversy around the arena was should it be there or shouldn’t it be there. It’s also a commentary on sports in our culture. I had to find something that still brought me into it and the story. The way I approached it is definitely me.”