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WE ARE THEM Installation shots

The word ‘We’ is inclusive and creates a group that houses all of us. ‘Them’ denotes those outside of our circle. Each interaction creates an opportunity.

WE ARE THEM features mixed media portraits painted from memory, observation and imagination. The pieces are multi-layered: drawn, painted, scratched into, collaged and stenciled under and over. The figures emerge from a long history of surfaces and ghosted images. These are real people, alive and changing, vulnerable and genuine. I am telling their stories.

I work on paper because it is closer to the quality of skin than canvas. Tearing the edges of the paper creates irregularities, unique-nesses which echo the singularity of the faces. Each piece is unmeasured and shows my hand. Tacking the portraits directly to the wall makes them more accessible. There is no glass or other surface to keep the faces from the viewer. In this way, there is clarity between the viewer and the viewed. There is no hierarchy. We are them.

New paintings from the ''WE ARE THEM' series

WE ARE THEM is an ongoing series of portraits on watercolor paper using acrylic, pastel, ink, colored pencil, and torn paintings. Each panel measures approximately 22" x 10". The images are created from memory, observation and imagination. The pieces are multi-layered: drawn, painted, scratched into, collaged and stenciled under and over. The figures emerge from a long history of surfaces and ghosted images. These are real people, alive and changing, vulnerable and genuine. I am telling their stories.

There are over 265 faces to date.

Ear to the Ground

Arrows typically represent a destination or choice. When they are too numerous or point in conflicting directions confusion results. We tend toward short-lived focus with constant distractions. Filtering outside directives and paths offered or obstructed can be challenging.
In the series, Ear to the Ground, arrows are calls for sustained attention… to everyday rituals, free choice, a final breath, the power of individuals and collectives, possibilities.
These arrows are torn from decades old paintings and to-do lists, hundreds of them uniquely pointing. They are re-routings, reconfigurations, opportunities and crossed paths creating possibilities. Still tearing…

  • Urgent

    10“x8”x1.5”, acrylic, ink and torn-up old paintings on panel Urgent calls attention to rituals we overlook on a daily basis.
  • Force

    acrylic, ink, colored pencil,graphite and old torn paintings and arrows on panel 12"x12"x1.5"
  • Surround Sound

    22“x10”x1.5”, acrylic, ink, colored pencil, graphite, and torn-up old paintings on panel This painting was created following the death of a family member. In the moment of passing senses are elevated and time stands still.
  • Jarred Loose

    7“x62”x24”, acrylic, ink, colored pencil, graphite, hand-torn arrows from old paintings, glass jars This ongoing series began following the uprisings in Baltimore. The arrows represent the protest, the people standing together (though on different sides) and hundreds of potential solutions for coming together. There are over 500 unique arrows to date.
  • This

    acrylic and hand torn arrows on wooden panel 10"x8"x1.5"
  • Mr. West

    7 “x5”x1.5”, acrylic, ink and torn-up old paintings on panel This piece was made as a memorial for Tyrone West, an unarmed artist killed by police in Baltimore several years ago.
  • Both And

    acrylic and hand torn torn arrows on wooden panel 13"x6"x1.5"
  • Untitled Vortex

    6“x6”x1.5”, acrylic, ink, colored pencil, and torn-up old paintings on panel Vortex refers to a current, like schools of fish that can suddenly change direction and swim together.
  • Untitled Destination

    acrylic and torn arrow on wooden panel 10"x8"x1.5"
  • Ear to the Ground

    acrylic, ink, colored pencil, graphite, hand torn arrows, plastic sleeves, clothes pins and line size variable This piece focuses on individual choices made that together form a multitude and a less than straight path.

COLOR CODED, Solo Exhibition

COLOR CODED: a solo exhibition at CCBC, Baltimore, Maryland

Curated by Trisha Kyner and Osvaldo Mesa

Human Icons

These paintings are primarily large and segmented into multiple parts. Many of the panels are older paintings reassembled and reworked. I do this as a recycler and because the separation of panels refers to our fractured lives and the ways we are constantly piecing them back together.

The pieces are multi-layered and the figures emerge from a long history of surfaces. Some of the paintings can be in process for ten years or more. I allow the "old" images to show through, some sections visible in their entirety while other areas are largely obscured. It is important to me to keep intact the visual timeline that occurs in making each piece.

"Human Icons", ongoing series, is an attempt to visually braid images of humanity, veneration, and the sacred. The paintings attempt to make visible the transformations within the people they depict. Though the context is secular, I aim to expose or reveal each figure's divine self.

  • This Moment is Every Moment

    acrylic, charcoal and graphite on paper, "x"
  • 1000 Reasons

    acrylic, pastel, ink, and graphite on paper 67"x42"
  • Full Empty Fill

    Bowls are a symbol of giving and receiving, emptying and filling. Full Empty Fill uses pieces of old paintings to make a flattened bowl which contains the figure. The three bowls are gifts offered and replenished. Acrylic and pastel on paper, 40"x36"
  • Silked

    39"x41" acrylic, pastel, colored pencil and torn arrows on paper
  • Radiation

    "Radiation" was begun before and completed following a radiation treatment for thyroid imbalance. For me, having a visual image of a successful outcome is crucial for the healing process. Acrylic on paper, 42"x52"
  • Shield Cycle

    "Shield Cycle" honors cycles of time, the seasons, and transformation. Seeds are symbolic of both. Locusts live underground, dormant for 17 years before emerging. Acrylic, ink, pastel and torn paintings on paper, 72"x41"
  • The Space Between

    acrylic and charcoal on paper, 34"x26"
  • Hero

    A hero is a person who has overcome inconceivable odds as well as a yoga pose that demands strength and flexibility. In Hero, I combined these ideas in a figure impossibly balanced with double arms and text-covered body. Acrylic on paper,75"x41"
  • In Tension Out

    The title, "In Tension Out", is a play on words and combines two ideas. The in-tention was to shift my thyroid levels to 0.05 -2.5 (the numbers painted inside the head) and allow tension to flow out of my body. I used an image of a bird cage, a place we hold precious things captive, though the figure is clearly outside of the bars. Acrylic and pastel on paper, 27"x42"
  • 'Human Icons' installation shot

    "The Last Egg" began as a question. How many eggs have passed through my body and how would I know which one would be my last egg? This painting pays homage to eggs as a never ending symbol of hope and possibility. Acrylic, pastel, charcoal, and colored pencil on paper, 58"x52" "48 Weeks" was created during a year long period as two dear friends endured prolonged chemotherapy treatments. It was a way to imagine them held in a sacred place though their outcomes were unsure.

Statues For My Father

After my father died, my mother handed me a stack of his funeral cards and said, "Why don't you make something from these?" The cards honor his name, birth/death dates and the images and religious practice that was important to him. I wondered whether there would be a point during the alteration process when these religious figures might no longer be considered "holy".

The final pieces are mounted on wood, freestanding like statues.

Recombined / Remapped Paintings

Painting on paper lends itself to altering the size of the surfaces. Some pieces need to have an edge removed and occasionally, entire paintings are torn down. Over 30 years, I have saved all of the torn pieces regardless of size. I am also an avid list maker and these papers are eventually torn down too. The combined 'tiles' create a visual rewriting or reorganizing where nothing is lost, but instead transformed. I see this breaking down and building up as a metaphor for constantly re-mapping and recreating the process of making art and living life. The pieces become stones or mosaics and the meditation is in finding each one's perfect placement.

  • Heading Home

    acrylic, ink, and colored pencil on paper, 26"x42"
  • Reprogramming

    "Reprogramming" began as an attempt to refocus my thoughts. I used pieces of to-do lists and a letter from Hopi Elders that said, among other things, "We are the ones we've been waiting for." The natural form can be read as roots or the sprouting of a tree. Acrylic, pastel, and torn paintings on paper, 42"x27"
  • Face #98

    acrylic, ink, colored pencil and torn paintings on paper 21"x9"
  • Face $249

    acrylic, graphite and torn paintings on paper 21"x9"
  • Face #169

    acrylic, ink and torn paintings on paper 21"x9.5"
  • Face #248

    acrylic and torn paintings on paper 21"x10"
  • With Wings

    "With Wings" explores the unpredictable transition from youth to adulthood. Included are coins for luck and the beginnings of wings. acrylic,pastel and torn paintings on paper, 41"x24"
  • The Patriot

    "The Patriot" was begun after September 11th and completed many years later. It explores patriotism and references a human Patriot missile. acrylic, pastel, and torn paintings on paper, 69"x26"
  • 'Untitled' Flag

    'Untitled' flag questions who is represented by the American flag. The text, US THEM ME YOU acknowledges how polarized we are by the flag. acrylic on paper, 22"x32"
  • The Edges That Blur

    This painting was made with the intention of blending the US and Iraqi flags. A citizen is embedded in each flag's stripes. acrylic, pastel and torn paintings on paper


Illustrations from several projects are represented in this gallery.

'Lamentation' was inspired from a poem by Garnett Weiss. It was featured in the most recent issue of the online magazine, The Light Ekphrastic, alongside Weiss' poem.

The 'Visible Man Revealed' is a series inspired by the clear plastic Visible Man models. In these model, the organs are showcased. I wanted to use the interior spaces as a cataloging system or a series of thematic collections. In the black and white drawings, I used common male archetypes and collected images and text to describe each one.

Forgetting Memory
In November of 2012, my mother, a healthy and very active 86 year old, developed an infection which traveled to her brain. She was completely transformed, bed ridden and frail. Initially, she was only able to say a handful of phrases which, strung together, seemed meaningless: “You know”, "Wow”, and “I was thinking “. Every once in a while she had moments of startling clarity.
In the next few months, she rebounded, learning to walk with a walker. Her ability to speak returned as well. Her memory however, was dramatically impacted. She asked questions like, “Was I a good mother?” and “Was I a good wife?” though she and my father had been married for over 50 years. She could not remember the order of her 9 children unless she named them from the oldest to youngest. It was as though her memory files had been randomly ransacked and areas were deleted or mismatched.
In many ways, she’s more content because she didn't remember much of what troubled her in the past. My mother is funnier, even to herself, asking questions like, “What do you call the thing with two holes?” to which I replied, “Pants?” She calls her walker a wagon and most of the time is OK with her mix-ups. It’s a game we play of remembering and sometimes I get the answer right.
These drawings reflect the space between her mind before and after, memory and forgetting, the frustration of losing something you can’t find again, and the playful moments that sometimes happen when loss is treated like an adventure.

Annie's Tails (published by ASL Tales)
Written by Stacy Anne Murphy
Illustrated by Gina Pierleoni
Performed in American Sign Language by Crystal Schwartz

  • Lamentation

    acrylic and ink on paper 22"x30"
  • Nature Man

    Nature Man pairs images and symbols of nature with human nature. This drawing includes some of the ways we catalogue, from the Periodic Table to geographical borders. Though most of nature might be considered neutral, there are images associated with beauty, temptation and renewal. marker on paper, 16"x8"
  • Sensual Man

    Marker on paper, 16.5"x7.5" Sensual Man primarily includes that which we cannot intellectualize or hold in our hands: the unknown, our faith and emotions, the creative force, the blood coursing through our veins, music, sexual urges, nature and storytelling. Our senses are also heightened through our connections to one another and the world around us.
  • Boy Tom Man AND Responsibility Man

    Boy To Man, marker on paper, 16"x9.5" Boy to Man explores the inner dialogue of the transition from dependence (youth) to manhood. We have all uttered phrases such as "Why can't I? It wasn't my fault. I'm scared. It doesn't hurt. Real men don't cry." Using the dragonfly's profound metamorphosis as a metaphor, I include the baby and boy inside the man.
  • Power Man AND Target Man

    Power Man, marker on paper, 16"x8" Power Man explores the tipping points between healthy, ambiguous and addictive power. Power can be industrial, political, environmental, social, corporate, personal. It can involve natural resources, the justice system, manpower and our individual consciences. Power can be influenced by trust as well as the need to control and it is colored by our own perceptions. Target Man, marker on paper, 16"x7.5" Target Man was the first drawing in the series. He is inspired by history's vacillating "enemy" model.
  • Bird Watching

    acrylic, ink and photograph on paper 5"x14"
  • Making Faces

    acrylic, ink, fabric and thread on paper 5"x14"
  • Un-Packing

    acrylic, graphite and ink on paper 5"x7"
  • 'Annie's Tails', Page 1

    acrylic and ink on paper, 11"x8.5"
  • 'Annie's Tails', Pages 4 and 5

    acrylic and ink on paper, 11"x17"

Sewn Figures

In the winter, when the weather turns cold, I make work that is smaller and can be moved closer to the wood stove. Though the materials are textile based, this way of working always brings energy back to my paintings.

The sewn figures echo the process used in making more traditional work … the stitching becomes drawing, the fabric is the paint and the attached objects form additional layers. Through collecting, cataloguing, repurposing and obsessively working, these figures are born. Like the paintings, it's a process of putting pieces back together to make something whole again.

Each sewn figure is made entirely from discarded materials with the exception of thread and paint used for the faces. Some materials include: electric toothbrush rings and other things with holes in them, shoelaces, broken costume jewelry, old bead and buttons, graduation tassels, sequins, leather scraps, fabric and yarn. Everything is attached with a simple looping stitch.

Painting Rag Shirts

I have saved my painting rags for 30 years. It was difficult to part with them because the colors and patterns on the cut up T-shirts were remnants of the paintings I'd created, A number of years ago, I hung the rags on the wall, then sorted the fabric into short and long sleeves, bottom edges, necklines and middle sections. It seemed natural to sew pieces back together. The process became a way to reference the figure and my own history as a painter. In addition, this ongoing series transforms the rags into "paintings" in their own right.

  • M

    In the process of making my paintings, I clean my brushes and stencils on rags made from old cut up T-shirts. The combination of colors and patterns that appear on the scraps is not replicated in any of the rags. Though I didn't realize it would be, sewing the shirts back together is very much like making a painting or sculpture. It is a balancing act, a push and pull, and then, after days, weeks, months, you know it's done. Painting rags reassembled and sewn back together, acrylic and thread on cotton fabric
  • One of the Last Shirts

    2 weeks before my father died, it became difficult to get T-shirts over his head and my mother cut the fronts for easier access. In this shirt, I created something to honor his transition, using a stone wall to describe his dying process. Stones are laid strong and firm. They protect us and mark where we are. Over time, stones fall down changing the shape of the wall. There is also an image of a lion on the front of the shirt.
  • The D

    Painting rags reassembled and sewn back together, acrylic, buttons, and thread on cotton fabric
  • Fur Shirt

    As an avid collector and recycler, it is difficult to throw away the littlest scraps, especially when they are so beautiful. The Fur Shirt was created by individually and obsessively sewing hundreds of strands of painting rags onto a shirt made of reassembled painting rags. The shirt refers to fur because the many layers create a thick, billowing effect. Painting rags reassembled and sewn back together, acrylic and thread on cotton fabric
  • Painting Rag Shirt

    Painting rags reassembled and sewn back together, acrylic and thread on cotton fabric
  • Painting Rag Shirt with Spots

    Painting rags reassembled and sewn back together, acrylic and thread on cotton fabric
  • UK

    Painting rags reassembled and sewn back together, acrylic and thread on cotton fabric
  • Mystic

    Painting rags reassembled and sewn back together, acrylic and thread on cotton fabric
  • 3 Painting Rag Shirts

    Painting rags reassembled and sewn back together, acrylic and thread on cotton fabric
  • Painting Rag Shirts

    Painting rags reassembled and sewn back together, acrylic and thread on cotton fabric


About Gina

Gina Pierleoni is a mixed media artist who uses portraiture to spark conversations about empathy and our common humanity.  WE ARE THEM, her interactive portrait installation, questions perception, habit and bias around where we place ourselves in relation to others. Portraiture is the opposite of... more

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