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Work Samples

#269, #231 & #280

portraits spark conversations, mixed media portraits, real people, paintings, conversations create portraits
oil, acrylic, graphite and ball point pen on paper approximately 21"x9" each

Navigating Tendrils

portraits spark conversations, mixed media portraits, real people, paintings, conversations create portraits, birds, hand-cut stamps, stencils, navigating
oil, acrylic, graphite, hand-cut stamps on paper 20"x20.5"

Gina Pierleoni: What Makes Us (Us), Creative Alliance, Baltimore

portrait, installation, series, 26 years, voices, mixed media, drawing, painting, Creative Alliance, 2018, performance
Gina Pierleoni: What Makes Us (Us) installation shot at Creative Alliance, Baltimore (photo: Joseph Hyde)

What Makes Us (Us), installation detail

portraits spark conversations, mixed media portraits, real people, paintings, conversations create portraits, installation, What Makes Us (Us), Creative Alliance, Baltimore
Each portrait has notes written on the back of the panel about the sitter or what was going on at the time the painting was made. In this installation of 241 portraits, about 15 paintings had text revealed. "#7 Self portrait, direct, matter of fact with Trane's wild 3-year old lines telling a whole other story. Collaboration is a good thing. It stretches us in unpredictable ways."

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About Gina

Baltimore City

Gina Pierleoni's picture
Gina Pierleoni uses portraiture to spark conversations about empathy and our common humanity. Portraiture is the opposite of assumption. Pierleoni’s images are acts of deep seeing that push past label and judgments; they seek to "de-separate" us.  Pierleoni's portraits spring from conversations with the sitter.  These are real people, alive, changing, vulnerable and genuine.    The Baltimore Sun described Pierleoni’s mixed media figures as “gloriously human…there's nothing... more

What Makes Us (Us)

Gina Pierleoni: What Makes Us (Us)

Exhibition Statement

Everyone deserves to be seen and heard.

Over the past 26 years, I created nearly 300 portraits of people across the spectrum of familiarity. These images push past labels and judgements as they question perception, habit, and bias in how we place ourselves in relation to others. What Makes Us (Us) is the first time nearly the entire series has been displayed in one place.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, I frequently sketched commuters and the homeless population inside Grand Central Station in New York. Sometimes I would have a conversation that resulted in the person asking to have their portrait drawn. The volunteers were almost exclusively homeless. I offered the drawing as a thank you for our time together. The more I showed up, the more people would ask me to draw them. The deeper the connection, the closer the image resembled the sitter.

During the same years, I bartended at a train station lounge. Some of the regulars were Vietnam veterans, who shared their struggles to reintegrate. Their compassion for one another regardless of rank was touching. Drawing portraits of them created conversations. I noticed parallel shame and invisibility among the homeless and veterans.

Sketching became a form of advocacy. I didn’t imagine these drawings would one day provide a gateway to my own healing, form the central philosophy for my teaching and community building, and build a platform for the art I cared about making.

When the series began, I made several drawings of my voice. The first portraits, emotionally raw unearthings, used mostly charcoal lines. The process was physical, empowering. Each year I added more portraits. The pieces were reworked over months, years until the images came alive. Using a similar scale created an absence of hierarchy. “

I use portraiture to spark conversations about empathy and our common humanity. Portrait painting demands curiosity, stillness and deep observation. My portraits are multi-layered: drawn, painted, scratched into, stamped and stenciled under, over and through the surfaces. I am painting from the inside out to convey the emotional fabric of someone, in addition to how they look. These are real people, alive, changing, genuine and vulnerable.”


  • What Makes Us (Us) installation

    oil, acrylic, ink, colored pencil, graphite, torn paintings, to-do lists, works on paper, portraits spark conversations, mixed media portraits, real people, paintings, conversations create portraits, self-portrait, contemporary art, collective, community
    What Makes Us (Us) installation at Creative Alliance featuring 241 portraits
  • What Makes Us (Us) installation detail

    oil, acrylic, ink, colored pencil, graphite, torn paintings, to-do lists, works on paper, portraits spark conversations, mixed media portraits, real people, paintings, conversations create portraits, self-portrait, contemporary art, collective, community
    What Makes Us (Us) installed at Creative Alliance detail
  • What Makes Us (Us) detail

    oil, acrylic, ink, colored pencil, graphite, torn paintings, to-do lists, works on paper, portraits spark conversations, mixed media portraits, real people, paintings, conversations create portraits, self-portrait, contemporary art
    Each portrait in the installation has notes written on the reverse side. They reference the sitter, the process or what was going on at the time the painting was made. In this installation of 241 portraits, about 15 paintings had text revealed. #115 Another Saturday painting Jenn in her butterfly dress, sitting so calmly, no boys, no noise. I added ‘hydrogen’, the first element to Jenn’s portrait. Her home life was, from the telling of it, a time bomb… highly flammable like hydrogen. Somehow she balanced those realities… the calm, the ticking bomb, and the butterfly.
  • What Makes Us (Us) detail

    oil, acrylic, ink, colored pencil, graphite, torn paintings, to-do lists, works on paper, portraits spark conversations, mixed media portraits, real people, paintings, conversations create portraits, self-portrait, contemporary art, collective, community
    Each portrait in the installation has notes written on the reverse side. They reference the sitter, the process or what was going on at the time the painting was made. In this installation of 241 portraits, about 15 paintings had text revealed. "#7 Self portrait, direct, matter of fact with Trane's wild 3-year old lines telling a whole other story. Collaboration is a good thing. It stretches us in unpredictable ways."
  • Interview with Gina Pierleoni

    Video interview of Gina Pierleoni at the opening of What Makes Us (Us) at Creative Alliance.
  • What Makes Us (Us) detail

    oil, acrylic, ink, colored pencil, graphite, torn paintings, to-do lists, works on paper, portraits spark conversations, mixed media portraits, real people, paintings, conversations create portraits, self-portrait, contemporary art, collective, community
    Each portrait in the installation has notes written on the reverse side. They reference the sitter, the process or what was going on at the time the painting was made. In this installation of 241 portraits, about 15 paintings had text revealed. "#275 This painting came from thinking about thinking, what the mind looks like engaged, overstimulated and then perfectly still, satisfied."
  • What Makes Us (Us) detail

    oil, acrylic, ink, colored pencil, graphite, torn paintings, to-do lists, works on paper, portraits spark conversations, mixed media portraits, real people, paintings, conversations create portraits, self-portrait, contemporary art, collective, community
    Each portrait in the installation has notes written on the reverse side. They reference the sitter, the process or what was going on at the time the painting was made. In this installation of 241 portraits, about 15 paintings had text revealed. #287 The background triangles were made in 1980 at CNR in NY, part of a larger painting. I added Steve in 2002 then tore him in half in 2016. Trust: above triangles Control: below triangles Washed over like water in 2018
  • detail of What Makes Us (Us)

    Each portrait in the installation has notes written on the reverse side. They reference the sitter, the process or what was going on at the time the painting was made. In this installation of 241 portraits, about 15 paintings had text revealed. #257. A student (from another class) wandered into my painting class. He had a fire orange mohawk. I stopped the lesson and everyone painted him, including me! This moment is every moment.
  • What Makes Us (Us) detail

    oil, acrylic, ink, colored pencil, graphite, torn paintings, to-do lists, works on paper, portraits spark conversations, mixed media portraits, real people, paintings, conversations create portraits, self-portrait, contemporary art, collective, community
    Each portrait in the installation has notes written on the reverse side. They reference the sitter, the process or what was going on at the time the painting was made. In this installation of 241 portraits, about 15 paintings had text revealed. #28 From the collection of Mary Alice McGurrin (Rest in Peace). Mary Alice bought 10 raffle tickets in 1999 helping me to raise money to go to Florence, Italy where I was part of the Florence Biennale. Her ticket was a winner and she chose this painting. The piece came back to me after she died.

Mixed Media Portraits

These mixed media paintings are created over weeks, months and years, each lovingly realized. I start with a model, paying close attention to impressions and our conversations. Both form the heart of the piece. After our time together, I continue alone recalling as much as possible about the sitter and our time together. The remainder of what happens is intuited. I draw, paint, scratch into, collage. Hand-made stencils and stamps create additional layers. Gender, race and age sometimes blur. Figures emerge from long histories of surfaces and ghosted images.

  • Navigating Tendrils

    portraits spark conversations, mixed media portraits, real people, paintings, conversations create portraits, birds, hand-cut stamps, stencils, navigating
    The stuff of life: hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, beauty / The words we say to ourselves and others / Birds nesting, fledging, holding on, letting go 'Navigating Tendrils' is the first in a series of artist inspired pieces. View the project, Exquisite Fantastic, at: www.thelightekphrastic.com oil, acrylic, graphite and hand-cut stamps on paper, 21"x21.5"
  • Meet Carla

    portraits spark conversations, mixed media portraits, real people, paintings, conversations create portraits, painting, five elements, meet Carla, drawing
    acrylic, graphite, colored pencil and hand cut stamps on paper mounted on wooden panel 30"x15"
  • Thea (with Bevin hidden), Gale and Laura

    portraits spark conversations, mixed media portraits, real people, paintings, conversations create portraits
    oil, acrylic, colored pencil, graphite, ink and torn paintings on paper approximately 21"x9" each
  • Faces #195 & #275

    oil, acrylic, colored pencil and graphite on paper Each panel is approximately 22"x9.5"
  • #270, #274 & #264 (all Kyle)

    portraits spark conversations, mixed media portraits, real people, paintings, conversations create portraits
    acrylic, oil, graphite, ink, colored pencil and torn paintings on paper Each panel is approximately 22"x9.5"
  • (Matthew)

    oil and graphite on paper 20"x10"
  • #269, #231 & #280

    acrylic, oil, graphite on paper Each panel is approximately 22"x9.5"
  • A Long Row

    portraits spark conversations, mixed media portraits, real people, paintings, conversations create portraits
    oil, acrylic, ink, colored pencil, graphite and collaged paintings and to-do lists on paper Each panel is approximately 22"x9"
  • Self Portrait

    portraits spark conversations, mixed media portraits, real people, paintings, conversations create portraits, self-portrait, to-do lists, every year
    acrylic, ink, colored pencil, graphite, torn paintings and to-do lists on paper 22"x10"
  • Gina Pierleoni portraits

    portraits spark conversations, mixed media portraits, real people, paintings, conversations create portraits
    oil, acrylic, ink, colored pencil, graphite and collaged paintings and to-do lists on paper Each panel is approximately 22"x9"

Mixed Media and Torn Painting Portraits

My paintings are all made on paper, which feels intimate, closer to skin than canvas. This allows me to tear sections and strips of older paintings and easily recombine panels with newer pieces. I am also as compulsive list maker: to-dos, punch lists and repeatedly written mantras. When the mantras are memorized and the tasks completed, the lists are torn down. These paper tiles become tesserae and I work with them in the same way as mosaics.

The mixed media paintings are created over weeks, months and years, each lovingly realized. I start with a model, paying close attention to impressions and our conversations. Both form the heart of the piece. After our time together, I continue alone recalling as much as possible about the sitter and our time together. The remainder of what happens is intuited. I draw, paint, scratch into, collage. Hand-made stencils and stamps create additional layers. Gender, race and age sometimes blur. Figures emerge from long histories of surfaces and ghosted images.

  • 1000 Reasons

    human icons, mixed media, portaits, painting, seed pods, graphite, hands, falling, transformation, 100 reasons
    acrylic, pastel and graphite on paper 85“x45”
  • This Moment Is Every Moment

    portraits spark conversations, contmeporasry art, portrait, human icons, mixed media, portaits, painting, graphite, charcoal, transformation, real people
    acrylic, charcoal and graphite on paper 44“x28”
  • Silked Bevin

    portraits spark conversations, mixed media portraits, kenyan cloth, real people, paintings, conversations create portraits, reconfiguration, portraits, transformation, real people
    acrylic, pastel, colored pencil and torn paintings on paper 39“x31”
  • Reprogramming and Heading Home

    mixed media, painting, portraits, collage, inside the mind, head, thoughts, ideas, home, reprogramming
    Installation shot of Reprogramming and Heading Home Each piece is 42"x26". acrylic, ink, colored pencil, torn paintings and to-do lists on paper
  • In Tension Out

    mixed media portraits, painting, drawing, stamps, color, cage, numbers, contermporary painting, breathing in, breathing out
    acrylic, graphite and hand-cut stamps on paper 26"x42"
  • The Edges That Blur

    flags, US flag, Afghanistan flag, mixed media, portraits, paintings, stars, stripes, collage, real people, torn paintings, edges, blur
    acrylic, graphite, and torn paintings on paper
  • Above in Below

    drawing, painting, charcoal, prayer ties, memorial, afterlife, wind, color, stamps, words
    acrylic and charcoal on paper 42"x26"
  • The Space Between

    acrylic, pastel, charcoal and graphite on paper 34"x26"
  • Untitled Flag

    untitled flag, mixed media, citizenship, American, painting, stamps
    'Untitled Flag' questions the process of deciding who is granted citizenship and who is permitted to call themselves American. Words like US, THEM, ME and YOU are embedded into the flag along with YOUTH, a combination of the words 'you' and 'them'. acrylic, graphite, pastel and hand-cut stamps on paper
  • Lamentation

    painting, my mother, my son, fallen soldier, poem, drawing, falling, lamentation, grief
    acrylic,ink,graphite and hand-cut stamps on paper 22"x30" 'Lamentation' was inspired by the poem 'For Nathan Cirillo, Soldier' by A. Garnett Weiss. These collaborations are featured in The Light Ekphrastic. https://thelightekphrastic.com/

Human Icons

Human Icons
"Human Icons" visually braids images of humanity, veneration, and the sacred. The paintings make visible moments of transformation within the people they depict.

These paintings are primarily large with multiple panels from old paintings shuffled around and reworked. Joining old pieces in new configurations mirrors the ways we continually reassemble to create newer selves. Some of the paintings are in process for many years. I allow the "old" images to show through, some sections visible in their entirety while other areas are largely obscured. It is important to keep intact the visual timeline that occurs in making each piece. The figures emerge from a long, multi-layered history.

  • Full Empty Fill

    human icons, mixed media, portaits, paintings, collage, real people, bowls, full empty fill, torn paintings
    acrylic, graphite, ink, colored pencil, torn paintings and hand-cut stamps on paper 41x36
  • Shield Cycle

    human icons, mixed media, portaits, painting, collage, seed pods, locusts, ink, torn paintings
    acrylic, pastel, graphite, charcoal, colored pencil, ink and torn paintings on paper 73"x42"
  • Radiation

    human icon, radiation,. light, healing, color, painting, stamps, stencils, portrait
    acrylic, pastel and hand cut stamps/stencils on paper 42"x52"
  • 48 Weeks

    portraits, quilt, painting, drawing, cancer, spheres, bowls, healing, floating
    acrylic, pastel, ink and graphite on paper 72"x51"
  • 'Human Icons' exhibition detail

    human icons, mixed media, portaits, paintings, installation, exhibition, bowls, torn paintings, offerings
    'Human Icons' exhibition detail 'The Last Egg' (left) and '48 Weeks' (right) acrylic, pastel, charcoal, graphite, ink on paper, wooden bowls on shelves with torn painting pieces as offerings
  • Hero

    human icon, hero, women, woman, prayer, strength, portrait, balance, painting, stamps, color, power, life sized
    acrylic and pastel 75"x41"
  • Homing

    human icons, mixed media, portaits, painting, family, portrait, graphite, human house, home
    acrylic, charcoal, pastel and graphite on paper 70"x30"
  • With Wings

    human icons, mixed media, portaits, paintings, luck, wings, collage, stamps, to-do lists
    acrylic, hand cut stamps, torn paintings and to-do lists, ink, graphite on paper 41"x24"
  • Percolation Pose

    human icons, mixed media, portaits, painting, portrait, graphite, trees, percolation, waiting
    acrylic, pastel and colored pencil on paper 52"x41"
  • Deep Water

    human icons, mixed media, portaits, painting, boat, death, next life
    acrylic, pastel and hand-cut stamps on paper 26"x32"

Wearable: Painting Rag Shirts

Wearable: Painting Rag Shirts
In the process of making 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. It is a balancing act, a push and pull, and eventually, after days, weeks, months, it's done. The difference is I can wear these paintings.

The Backstory: I’ve saved these painting rags for 35 years. I couldn't part with them because the colors on the T-shirt scraps were remnants of the paintings I'd created. They sat around for decades accumulating. I started sorting 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 personal history as a painter. My palette has changed many times over the years. This ongoing series transforms the rags back into paintings.

  • M

    painting rag shirts, acrylic, painting, painting rags, sewing, thread, putting pieces back together, making a painting, shirts, t-shirts, sleeves, colors, paint, cleaning brushes, recycling, repurposing, painting history, wearable art, wearable paintings
    Painting rags reassembled and sewn back together, acrylic and thread on cotton fabric
  • Last Shirts

    painting rag shirts, acrylic, painting, painting rags, sewing, thread, putting pieces back together, making a painting, shirts, t-shirts, sleeves, colors, paint, cleaning brushes, recycling, repurposing, painting history, wearable art, wearable paintings
    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.
  • Fur Shirt

    painting rag shirts, acrylic, painting, painting rags, sewing, thread, putting pieces back together, making a painting, shirts, t-shirts, sleeves, colors, paint, cleaning brushes, recycling, repurposing, painting history, wearable art, wearable paintings
    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
  • The D

    painting rag shirts, acrylic, painting, painting rags, sewing, thread, putting pieces back together, making a painting, shirts, t-shirts, sleeves, colors, paint, cleaning brushes, recycling, repurposing, painting history, wearable art, wearable paintings
    Painting rags reassembled and sewn back together, acrylic, buttons, and thread on cotton fabric
  • 3 Painting Rag Shirts

    painting rag shirts, acrylic, painting, painting rags, sewing, thread, putting pieces back together, making a painting, shirts, t-shirts, sleeves, colors, paint, cleaning brushes, recycling, repurposing, painting history, wearable art, wearable paintings
    Painting rags reassembled and sewn back together, acrylic and thread on cotton fabric
  • Seal Hidden

    painting rag shirts, acrylic, painting, painting rags, sewing, thread, putting pieces back together, making a painting, shirts, t-shirts, sleeves, colors, paint, cleaning brushes, recycling, repurposing, painting history, wearable art, wearable paintings,
    Painting rags reassembled and sewn back together, acrylic and thread on cotton fabric
  • Spots

    painting rag shirts, acrylic, painting, painting rags, sewing, thread, putting pieces back together, making a painting, shirts, t-shirts, sleeves, colors, paint, cleaning brushes, recycling, repurposing, painting history, wearable art, wearable paintings
    Painting rags reassembled and sewn back together, acrylic and thread on cotton fabric
  • UK

    painting rag shirts, acrylic, painting, painting rags, sewing, thread, putting pieces back together, making a painting, shirts, t-shirts, sleeves, colors, paint, cleaning brushes, recycling, repurposing, painting history, wearable art, wearable paintings
    Painting rags reassembled and sewn back together, acrylic and thread on cotton fabric
  • Painting Rag Shirts

    painting rag shirts, acrylic, painting, painting rags, sewing, thread, putting pieces back together, making a painting, shirts, t-shirts, sleeves, colors, paint, cleaning brushes, recycling, repurposing, painting history, wearable art, wearable paintings
    Painting rags reassembled and sewn back together, acrylic and thread on cotton fabric
  • Mystic

    painting rag shirts, acrylic, painting, painting rags, sewing, thread, putting pieces back together, making a painting, shirts, t-shirts, sleeves, colors, paint, cleaning brushes, recycling, repurposing, painting history, wearable art, wearable paintings
    Painting rags reassembled and sewn back together, acrylic and thread on cotton fabric

Sewn Figures

The sewn figures parallel my painting and mixed media processes. Stitching is drawing, fabric is paint and attached objects create layers. Through collecting, sorting and valuing, materials headed for the landfill are sewn together to make something whole again.

Each figure is made entirely from discarded and re-purposed materials except for thread and paint. Materials have included: electric toothbrush rings, gift bag handles, any small things with holes in them, shoelaces, broken costume jewelry, hospital socks, old beads and buttons, rosaries and medals of saints, graduation tassels, sequins, leather scraps, fabric and yarn. Everything is sewn together with a simple looping stitch.

  • In The Race

    sewn figures, recycling, repurposing, sewing, drawing with thread, layers, stuff
    Plastic electric toothbrush rings and other round things with holes are attached using a simple looping stitch. Sequins are attached to the arms individually, obsessively. Materials used are 100% repurposed/recycled excluding thread. 24"x13"x5"
  • The Win

    sewn figures, recycling, repurposing, sewing, drawing with thread, layers, stuff
    ‘The Win’ is constructed using elements from my mother’s nursing home room collected during her last three weeks. The armature is built and stuffed with hospital socks. Also attached are gift bag handles, shoelaces, her religious medals, feathers and a bingo prize. Materials used are 100% repurposed/recycled excluding thread.
  • Little Brown Boots

    sewn figures, recycling, repurposing, sewing, drawing with thread, layers, stuff
    This piece uses individually attached beads, winter glow in the dark gloves, dusting rags, individually stitched flowers and sequins, a safety pin collection and GI Joe boots. Materials used are 100% repurposed/recycled excluding thread.
  • Glistener

    sewn figures, recycling, repurposing, sewing, drawing with thread, layers,
    I am a big fan of polka dots and stripes. Glistener was built around 2 favorite socks that had developed holes at the same time. They became her face and her socks. Materials used are 100% repurposed/recycled excluding thread. 28"x16"x5"
  • Butterflies

    sewn figures, recycling, buttterflies, earrings, repurposing, sewing, drawing with thread, layers, stuff
    ‘Butterflies’ is built around a pair of 1960’s earrings sewn onto the figure’s shoulders. There are also hand laced shoe tops, separated snaps which loop the arms, and children’s leggings which become the legs. Materials used are 100% repurposed/recycled excluding thread. 24"x9"x7"
  • Gina Pierleoni: Color Coded installation detail

    color coded, exhibition, Gina Pierleoni, installation, sewn figures, recycling, repurposing, sewing, drawing with thread, layers, stuff
    Materials used are 100% repurposed/recycled excluding thread. sizes vary
  • Untitled Baltimore

    sewn figures, recycling, repurposing, sewing, drawing with thread, layers, stuff
    Untitled Baltimore was started during the Uprisings and completed a couple of years later. I dismantled a Maryland flag as a symbol of parallel worlds of opportunity and inclusion statewide particularly in Baltimore. Materials used are 100% repurposed/recycled excluding thread.
  • The Deepest Sleep

    sewn figure, recycled, re-purposed, doll, puppet, sewing, textiles
    The Deepest Sleep was made as a memorial following my father's death. I cut flowers from different fabrics and placed them on the figure. This was my first attempt at making slippers. Materials used are 100% repurposed/recycled excluding thread.
  • Something Old

    sewn figure, recycled, re-purposed, doll, puppet, sewing, textiles
    Materials used are 100% repurposed/recycled excluding thread.
  • Leap Of

    sewn figures, recycling, repurposing, sewing, drawing with thread, layers, stuff
    Leap Of began with an armature of hospital socks left over from my mother's time n a nursing home. I considered where she went from here (after death) and what she needed to take with her. Materials used are 100% repurposed/recycled excluding thread. 26"x16"x6"

Special Projects and Illustrations

Sixty Feet (formerly Fifty Feet) is an ongoing series of my feet, painted one at a time, following a significant life step.

Graphite Drawings Graphite is the first medium I used as a young artist and I always return to it. The marks, the feelings are put on the paper and they stay there.

Visible Man Revealed is a series based on the clear plastic Visible Man models common in my childhood. Rather than showcase the organs, I wanted the interior spaces to be a cataloging system or series of thematic collections. In these black and white ink drawings I used common male archetypes collecting images and text to describe each one.

Forgetting Memory
My mother, a healthy and 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 and learned to walk with a walker. Her ability to speak returned but her memory was dramatically impacted. She asked questions like, “Was I a good mother?” and “Was I a good wife?” She didn't remember all of her 9 children unless she named them from oldest to youngest. My parents had been married for over 50 years but she'd misplaced her memories of him. It was as if the files in her brain had been randomly ransacked and areas were deleted or mismatched.

In many ways, she was more content because she didn't remember what troubled her in the past. My mother became funnier, even to herself, asking questions like, “What do you call the thing with two holes?” I replied, “Pants?” She called her walker a wagon and most of the time was OK with her mix-ups. It was game we played of remembering and sometimes I got the answers right.

These drawings reflect the space between my mother's 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

  • 4 1/2 feet

    4 1/2 feet, oil painting, acrylic, painting, feet, aging, significant step, life, feet, foot
    acrylic and oil on masonite approximate panel size: 8'x10'
  • One Reflected Foot

    feet, reflected foot, reflection, oil painting, acrylic, painting, feet, aging, significant step, life, feet, foot
    acrylic on masonite 10"x8"
  • Human Arrow

    drawing, toned paper, human arrow, woman, power
    graphite on toned paper 24"x18"
  • Pod Heads

    graphite, drawing, pods, pod heads, nature, balancing, seeds
    graphite on toned paper 18"x24"
  • Nature Man

    drawing, ink drawing, paper doll, nature, archetypes, men, male, symbols, elements, works on paper, geography, marker
    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

    drawing, marker, sensual, men, male, paper dolls, blood coursing, senses, quotes
    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.
  • Bird Watching

    illustration, forgetting memory, birds, bird watching, mhy molther, my father, memory loss, painting, drawing, ink, questions, family
    acrylic, ink and photograph on paper 5"x14"
  • Questions

    illustration, forgetting memory, memory loss, painting, drawing, ink, questions, family
    acrylic, ink and graphite on paper 10"x16"
  • 'Annie's Tails' page 1

    illustration, Annie's Tails, painting, drawing, artist, wall art, children, children's book, tails, birthday, days of the week, books, reading
    'Annie's Tails' page 1 acrylic and ink on paper, 11"x8.5" published by ASL Tales
  • 'Annie's Tails', Pages 4 and 5

    illustration, Annie's Tails, painting, drawing, children, children's book, tails, birthday party, days of the week, balloons, pink pig, books, reading
    'Annie's Tails', Pages 4 and 5 acrylic and ink on paper, 11"x17" published by ASL Tales

Videos and Ear to the Ground

The Ear to the Ground series began following the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody in Baltimore and the uprisings that followed. Arrows represent a call for sustained attention: to deep listening, inner wisdom, everyday objects and rituals, a final breath, the power of individuals and collectives to create change.

More than a thousand arrows have been hand torn from decades old paintings and to-do lists. They are re-routings, reconfigurations to create possibilities. The process of carefully tearing is a meditation

The videos, part of a series called “Motivation on Mondays”, are filmed and edited by Myles Banks of Just Stunt Productions. Being willing to have conversations is another possibility for coming together.

  • Reframing Your Mind

    This video, part of a series called “Motivation on Monday”, was filmed and edited by Myles Banks of Just Stunt Productions. Being willing to have conversations is another possibilty for coming together.
  • Jarred Loose

    arrows, torn paper, directions, conversations, recycling, jars, pointing
    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 are the protest, people standing together (though on different sides) and hundreds of potential solutions for coming together. There are over 1000 unique arrows to date.
  • Surround Sound

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

    arrows, pointing, rituals, torn paper, recycling, still life, painting
    Urgent calls attention to the objects we use and rituals we perform on a daily basis. 10“x8”x1.5”, acrylic, ink and torn-up old paintings on panel
  • This

    arrows, pointing, rituals, torn paper, recycling, still life, painting
    This acrylic and hand torn arrows on wooden panel 10"x8"x1.5"
  • Ear to the Ground

    arrows, pointing, mixed media, torn paper, recycling, installation, clothes line
    Ear to the Ground This piece focuses on individual choices made that together form a multitude and a less than straight path. acrylic, ink, colored pencil, graphite, hand torn arrows, plastic sleeves, clothes pins and line size variable
  • Arrows

    arrows, pointing, directions, collage, mixed media, torn paper, recycling
    Arrows 8"x8", mixed media on paper mounted on wooden panels
  • Mr. West

    arrows, pointing, directions, collage, mixed media, torn paper, recycling, memorial, tyrone west
    Mr. West was made as a memorial for Tyrone West, an unarmed artist killed by Baltimore police following a traffic stop. 7 “x5”x1.5”, acrylic, ink and torn-up old paintings on panel
  • Force

    arrows, pointing, directions, collage, mixed media, torn paper, recycling, force, to do lists
    'Force' is the power of a group when they move in one direction. acrylic, ink, colored pencil, graphite, old torn paintings, to do lists and arrows on panel 12"x12"x1.5"
  • Your Thoughts Are Powerful

    This video, part of a series called “Motivation on Monday”, was filmed and edited by Myles Banks of Just Stunt Productions. Being willing to have conversations is another possibility for coming together.

Statues

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 (Gino Pierleoni, so close to mine), 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.

  • Do Not Look Outside Yourself

    statues, installation, my father, funeral cards, death, holy, Mary, Marys, Hopi elders, painting, collage
    mixed media and torn paintings on paper mounted on wood approximately 10"x2.5"x1"
  • Four Statues

    statues, installation, my father, funeral cards, death, holy, shelves, painting, Mary, ears, trees, collage
    mixed media on paper mounted on wood Each statue is approximately: 8.5"x2.5"x1"
  • Self Portrait

    statues, installation, my father, funeral cards, death, holy, self portrait, skeleton, my bones, painting, collage
    mixed media on paper mounted on wood approximately: 8.5"x2.5"x1"
  • Modern Mary

    modern, Mary, statues, installation, my father, funeral cards, death, holy, shelves, painting, collage
    mixed media on paper mounted on wood approximately 12"x4"x1"
  • 'Human Icons' exhibition installation

    statues, installation, my father, funeral cards, death, holy, shelves, painting, collage
    Statue installation mixed media on paper mounted on wood and placed on shelves each approximately 9"x3"x1"
  • The Black Pants

    statues, installation, my father, funeral cards, death, holy, lambs, painting, collage
    mixed media on paper mounted on wood 8.5"x2""x1"
  • Daughter of the Lions

    statues, installation, my father, funeral cards, death, holy, lambs, to-do lists, painting, collage
    mixed media, torn paintings and to-do lists on paper mounted on wood approximately 9"x2.5"x1"
  • St. Patrick Pointing

    statues, installation, my father, funeral cards, death, holy, shelves, St. Patrick, pointing, painting, collage
    mixed media and torn paintings on paper mounted on wood approximately 10"x4"x1"
  • Three Statues

    statues, installation, my father, funeral cards, death, holy, Mary, painting, collage
    mixed media on paper mounted on wood End statues are approximately: 8.5"x2.5"x1"
  • St. Theresa

    St. Theresa, statues, installation, my father, funeral cards, death, holy, shelves, memorial, patron saint, painting, collage
    mixed media and torn paintings on paper mounted on wood approximately 10"x2"x1"

Installation Shots and "Gina Pierleoni: Untitled Flag" interview

The video, part of a series called “Motivation on Mondays”, was filmed and edited by Myles Banks of Just Stunt Productions. Our conversation happened inside the exhibit "Gina Pierleoni: Untitled Flag."

What Makes Us (US) at Creative Alliance in Baltimore featured 241 portraits. During the run of the exhibit I gave a talk within the exhibit and primiered 'Making Conversation', an original performance with four local musiciands and audience participation.

The viewing experience shifts when images are seen from the street projected 51 feet tall or wrap around architectural elements. Baltimore's LED Board, located across from Penn Station, provides an opportunity for artwork to be visible for miles.

Connect with Gina

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Gina's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.