Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bernard Gilardi- Basement Visionary

Pink and Pallor, Bernard Gilardi

For the first time last night a lecture became a source of comfort on a Friday evening gone horribly wrong. As I headed back to my dorm room after many failed attempts to reach social competency, it dawned on me: I don't have to go out on Fridays. For 50 some years, Bernard Gilardi probably didn't go out very much at all, and the result was a basement of visionary paintings filled with references to counter culture, religion, and, oddly enough, Wisconsin. I don't think my Friday evenings, should I choose to spend them in pajamas rather than high heels, would ever prove to be as fruitful as Gilardi's, however, there is a comfort in knowing that a fantasy world, one created inside of your head, can be much more enticing than the world a couple of residence halls over, where the booze and loud music create a false sense of excitement into the late hours of the night.

By looking at Gilardi's work, I can easily tell that he was not tempted by the pull of cheap entertainment and frivolous interactions with people. In his head, people were strange beings, and he paints them thus in his plethora of assorted portraits. Maybe this is why he spent so much time in his basement: because he saw humanity as too strange to interact with. In his isolation he was able to discover more truths about humans than he could through interacting with them. His paintings, though often whimsical, offer fresh new takes on subjects that have been beaten to a pulp. The birth of Jesus, to Gilardi, could have taken place in Wisconsin, and Mary could have been wearing red heels at the time. His wittiness and secret messages in his paintings, such as the cleverly placed "WisconsIN RIbbon Company" above a burning cross, show that he was very insightful, and probably would have brought joy to many people had he chosen to interact with them more often. Instead, he left behind his paintings, and in this way he will offer insight to those who are lucky enough to see them. For this we can be thankful that Gilardi chose the basement over the real world. Maybe if more people chose to analyze life from their basements, they could save themselves from the strangeness of humanity that Gilardi so accurately portrays.


  1. It definitely was interesting how Gilardi was able to portray a wide array of human issues while being seemingly isolated from other people. Also, your points on how Gilardi chose art over cheap thrills, leads me to think about the nature of creativity. Are there endless hours of productivity that one misses out on when socializing/seeking entertainment?

  2. I think you really hit the core of his work by mentioning how he analyzed, viewed, and connected with the social world without being physically immersed in it. He truly benefitted artistically from staying in his basement and creating his hundred's of works of art. He expressed himself creatively rather than drinking his life away in a bar, which really speaks to artists, so many of which are still depicted as the cigarette smoking alcohol drinking stereotypes. Gilardi's work shows that creativity is found in all manner of places.

  3. I like how you mention Gilardi brings in ideas from interactions he has with people. It is also very clear when speaking with Deb Brehmer about Gilardi, it's very clear from many of his works that he really did to his research. Not only that but he focused so much on the small things, they become part of the picture and as you define it, "he is able to discover more truths about humans than he ever could interacting with them."The question then is, did he get his inspiration for characters in portraits from the newspaper, television, or books? I think this might be a good question to ask in order to delve even deeper into his discovered truths about humans.

  4. Reminds us of the George Harrison lyric: "The farther one travels, the less one knows..."