Diving Into Gilsdorf’s Upcoming Art Show: ACTUALIZE


Grant Gilsdorf

Photo Credits: http://www.grantgilsdorf.com/

Sai Rayala, Editor-in-Chief

Liberty’s own art teacher, Mr. Gilsdorf, delves into the topic of self-actualization with his solo art show “Actualize”. The show opens on Friday, Oct. 5 from 7-11 p.m. in the Musca Gallery at 3127 N. High St. in Columbus. The show will challenge audiences to reflect upon themselves and explore their inner self.

“This is a show about self-actualization,” Gilsdorf says. “It’s about when you kind of self-excavate and like dig back in, and you’re trying to ignore the outside noise and easy options of direction and truly finding your kind of inner instinct, inner bliss and following that path.”

Gilsdorf considers himself a storyteller with painting being his vehicle to tell his stories and his shows in the past have been very narrative driven. Yet, this show is somewhat different from the rest. Rather than a story, this show is exploring a concept of much importance to Gilsdorf.  

“…It just so happens that this time, this concept is like my life philosophy,” Gilsdorf explains. “So I’m completely vulnerable this time around versus before, I was able to hide behind like “Oh it’s all just the story,” so…if you don’t like the story, okay. But this time, if you don’t like the work, really, you don’t like me. It’s going to leave a mark this time.”

Most of the paintings feature people that are searching, and it is a prominent theme throughout the show.

“They are people that are searching for something and the thing that they are searching for is that inner voice. Not the outer voice,” Gilsdorf explains. “And there are these kinds of false prophets – these fake sort of offerings that you can easily pursue that can make you happy but not fulfilled.”

The idea for the show, in part, stemmed from what Gilsdorf had seen happening at school. With his wife also working in the educational setting as a school counselor, they had both often discussed the huge increase in the mental health crisis.  Their conversations revolved around what was happening culturally and how it should be fixed.

“…And it seemed to us that there was like these two mountains. There was this mountain of who students want people to believe they are. It’s the curation that they put out there on social media and everything like that. Then there’s this mountain over here of who they actually are. Most people are kind of disappointed with that mountain because it’s not as cool as the one they want people to believe. People kind of get lost in this valley because they can never be this thing they want people to believe because it’s not actually them, but they are unhappy with this mountain over here,” Gilsdorf explains. “And really, when you are able to climb this mountain, when you can start to embrace, accept and understand who you are, there’s so much power there. There’s all the power in the world there.”

Gilsdorf’s idea for the show was also influenced by the ideas that he was being exposed to at the time such as the book Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin. The book is essentially an essay Baldwin writes to his nephew about what he should know about the world.  

“And at that time, I thought, well what if something happens to me? Should I write something for my son…Well, what would I even write?… I was thinking about what was wrong with the world. I was thinking about our students and it all kind of clicked and became really really simple,” Gilsdorf says. 

His thinking was also influenced by Joseph Campbell who argues the idea that there is only one story in the world: The Hero’s Journey.

“The hero’s journey means that we have to go into the abyss, we have to confront the monster, we have to conquer the monster, and then we have to return it back to the people how we’ve been changed. That cycle is the hero’s journey,” Gilsdorf states. “Well, that’s what self-actualization is. Self-actualization is digging into yourselves, confronting the things that you are terrified of and then once you become powerful and you have conquered those demons, it’s paying it forward…We’re supposed to be doing something in this life and we all know it… and that purpose is only going to be solved from within. Everything coalesced and [I] was like, “I know what the show has to be”.”

Yet, it took great thoughtfulness to turn these very expansive, abstract ideas into a show that could be viewed. Gilsdorf decided to show these ideas by having paintings of people searching but not having the answers in the paintings.

“Most all the paintings, you know, they’re looking just outside of the frame and the answers are existing just out on those edges,” Gilsdorf says. “…Intentionally, there is only one painting in this collection where the person is looking at the viewer. Everybody is scanning the horizon and they are all kind of lost and they are drifting.”

Photo Credits: http://www.grantgilsdorf.com/

In the end, viewers will be faced with the final painting which is meant to resemble a Greek goddess of sorts. The painting will be almost six feet tall with a gold leaf triangle that glows from the end of the gallery.

“The Greeks had these huge ideas that they didn’t know how to explain so they attached them with a human personification,” Gilsdorf explains. “…So this is the goddess of self-actualization. You confront her at the end and you are meant to ponder yourself.”

The gallery itself is purposefully designed to add to the experience of the show. The space is supposed to resemble walking into a church or chapel and the very end is the altar where the painting of the goddess is going to be.

“I wanted to try to find ways to make the experience of going and seeing the actual work…more immersive and more worthwhile,” Gilsdorf explains. “I wanted you to feel like you can’t just look at a picture of it on the computer. You’ve got to see it in the space…I wanted it to be an experience instead of just something you shuffle past.”

On top of all of this, Gilsdorf has planned other things to make the show even more interesting. He’s created a zine so people have a relic of the artwork to take home. There is also a Spotify playlist with a QR code that has been created specifically for the show. If people want to experience the show by themselves on a different level, they can go through the show while listening to the special playlist.

Overall, Gilsdorf wants the show to stick in the minds of the audience. He says that the show can work on as deep a level as one chooses

“I wanted them to be a little bit haunted by the images in a sense,” Gilsdorf says. “I want it to linger with them, and I want them to think about it as they go forward. I want them to try to just see what it means…”

The opening reception is Friday, Oct. 5 from 7-11 p.m. On Sunday, Oct. 7 there will be an artist talk at 7 p.m. where Gilsdorf is going to talk more in-depth on topics such as his influences, what the pieces mean and what led to the show.

“This is my heart and soul show,” Gilsdorf says. “ As good as the work has done before, I wanted this one to the exclamation point and to really let Columbus know that I’m here.”