In the Abstract

Photos: E.J. Carr

Geri deGruy studio
“I learn more from my mistakes than my successes. If you don’t do a lot of experimenting, you don’t make a lot of mistakes.”

Until a few years ago, Geri deGruy was famous among friends and family for being nowhere near artistically inclined. “Not even good at stick figures,” says the Castle Pines resident, who moved to the area two decades ago and began her art career by making cards and jewelry soon after. “There’s something so ironic and fun in the idea that I’m an artist now.”

Looking at deGruy’s colorful inventory—some mixed-media and some acrylic on paper or panels, but largely focused on abstract paintings—it’s hard to believe she ever lacked talent. Her work is bold and provocative, and the multilayered complexities of the pieces hint at the protracted procedure she subjects them to until she feels finished.

DeGruy earned a degree in nursing at Duke University, but a move to Alabama (and a master’s degree in counseling from the University of South Alabama) before she came to Colorado found her working as a therapist, where many of her clients were women who had been sexually abused. “By the time I was done with that job, I had some PTSD of my own to work through,” she says. “The result of my dealing with that really informs how I do art; I believe that developing that relationship between our inner selves and our creative selves can really be healing.

“Painting is very similar to therapy. It’s redemptive. And the best part about it is that if I’m disappointed in how something turns out, I can paint over part of it or all of it. Allowing myself that right without self-judgment is what is so appealing. I try to get that philosophy to spill over into the rest of my life as well.”

Geri deGruy
“I fall in love with materials—in the sensuality of the textures and the emotional appeal of the colors.”

One day 16 years ago, deGruy started making greeting cards. On a lark, she offered them for sale online and to friends. They sold well, so she tried jewelry. Then came knitting and, finally, sewing, where she discovered art quilts, which are more abstract and created spontaneously. She started adding paint to the quilts and using other media before becoming obsessed with oils and painting techniques. “I took classes online and tried everything, and then it just started to become a fun journey of discovery,” she says. “Each step on my way here informed the next, and then it just started evolving.”

“I start off my day with a big cup of coffee, and my cat sits on my lap and lets me groom her,” says deGruy, who offers her work for sale on her website rather than at art galleries. DeGruy then heads to her home studio: “I usually don’t start off painting. Most of the time, I play with shapes and newspaper clippings and whatever else catches my attention. I work on larger pieces first and then take the paint that’s left over and start slopping it onto smaller pieces. And then I go back and paint over what I’ve already done. … I paint pretty much every day.”

Geri deGruy spotlight painting
“Every time I paint, I find out more about myself.”

“For me, abstraction means using emotions, thoughts, ideas and patterns and creating a painting about them that doesn’t necessarily refer to reality. It’s mostly intuitive and involves playing with shapes, colors, lines and more to make a composition which expresses something in me, but which others may, and do, interpret differently.”

“It’s different every time. I know when I know. But I will say that there are canvasses that I’ve been working on over and over for forever.”