Elody Gyekis is a painter, animator, and sculptor. She earned her MFA in Painting at the New York Academy of Art and her BFA in Painting and Ceramics from Penn State University. Her work has been exhibited in many group and solo shows in Pennsylvania and New York, and also across the USA, Central America and Europe. She completed artist residencies in Sibiu, Romania in 2014 and Giverny, France in 2018. Elody has taught painting workshops in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Honduras, and Costa Rica. In addition to her fine art, she has been a community arts organizer of over a dozen murals and other large-scale public art projects in Pennsylvania and other states. In recent years, Elody has lived, worked, and taught in Honduras, Pennsylvania, and Brooklyn. She currently teaches online classes for the New York Academy of Art.
Whether I am creating a painting, sculpture, or animation, I use the language of myths and fairytales to play freely with gender roles. My work explores visual storytelling as a process of catharsis, both personally and for my subjects. I work collaboratively with the people I depict in my compositions; they enter that domain with agency and consent as makers of their own meaning. Feminine traits are still systematically undervalued and dismissed, and our culture still shames behavior that falls outside of established gender roles. In my current studio practice I delve deeply into the pleasures of color and beauty and decoration: aesthetics that have long been considered feminine and thus unworthy of serious consideration in Western Art. I celebrate femininity and question the boundaries of gender expression by following my instincts and diving fully into my own untidy fantasies.
How does the theme ‘Biosphere’ play a role in your work?
As a young child, I spent my time exploring the woods barefoot. I gathered small treasures, sculpted with twigs and clay, and sketched flowers and turned them into flower fairies. These impulses have never left me and continuously infuse my creative life with themes of nature and my connection to it.
As an adult, my work has explored various themes and topics both ancient and contemporary, but always plants and animals find their way into my compositions. Even as I was thinking about human constructs of gender identity, I began to research gender in the animal kingdom, discovering fishes with four distinct gender identities or swap genders, birds that quite literally have a female half and a male half, split bilaterally down the middle, and a species of newt that has only females who clone themselves. The gender binary not only not as “natural” as many think, but nature is infinitely weirder and more complex and wonderful then we ever imagined.
We have so much to learn from nature, its medicines for the body and for our mental health, and we must do all we can to slow our contributions to mass extinction and destruction. In the face of problems so large, we must forge on and nurture our sacred connection to this bountiful, and fascinating earth.