On a warm September day, I stood on the 2nd floor terrace of a historic Hollywood estate (that had once belonged to Mary Astor and later, Frank Sinatra). I am drawn outside to admire, not just the serene view of Toluca Lake, but a six-foot fiberglass sculpture of an angel. This surrealistic creation is swathed with paint lapping up the base and torso in Daliesque fashion, resembling melted chocolate syrup and ice cream with a shroud of whipped cream and a red cherry at its heart. The sculpture is aptly titled “Hot Fudge Sundae Angel.” I am at the beautiful home of the artist of the piece, Gayle Garner Roski. She and her husband, Edward Roski Jr., have been Toluca Lake residents for over 40 years. The sundae angel was made by Ms. Roski for “The Community of Angels Sculptural Project.” Since its inception in 2000, this became the largest public art project ever exhibited in the city, displaying throughout Los Angeles four hundred angels crafted by local artists.
Gayle Garner Roski invited me to visit her art studio, a bright and airy space overlooking a private lake shared by residents of the Toluca Lake community. The walls of her studio are lined with her artwork: paintings of travels to Italy, Spain, Tibet, Africa and China. Some of her adventures include trekking the Himalayas and even viewing the Titanic from a submersible, where she filled many sketchbooks. I am especially captivated by a series titled “A Brush with History.” The paintings include a display of hand-crafted calligraphy brushes Ms. Roski purchased in the Beijing flea market. I conducted most of the interview over lunch at the elegant Lakeside Country Club. That afternoon, I was given a rare glimpse into the impressive life of an artist, patron and philanthropist.
Ms. Roski has kind and engaging dark eyes, and has a down-to-earth quality for someone so accomplished. Her voice is rich and warm and instantly puts one at ease. Yet, she commands attention. As we entered the restaurant, she is immediately recognized; several women flock to her. With each, she is friendly, gracious and attentive. They all know what I learned during our conversation—that she is truly an inspiration.
Gayle Garner Roski attended the USC School of Fine Arts (named after her in 2006 following a generous grant given by the Roskis). She is chairman of the Council for the Los Angeles Cathedral, a board member of the University Of Southern California Fine Arts Department and the Public Art Department. Ms. Roski is a member of the Valley Watercolor Society, an artist member of the California Art Club and serves on the Board of Advisors for the California Art Club, Academy and Museum. She is also a Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for the City of Los Angeles. She has been Chairman for the Public Art Angel Project. Roski’s works have been exhibited at the Pasadena Museum of History, the Pasadena Museum of California Art and the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University, the Bowers Museum and at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Adréana: Where is your art currently exhibited? Do you have any upcoming shows?
Gayle: Yes, I am represented by Tirage Fine Art Gallery in Pasadena. They have an ongoing collection of my work. The Manhattan Beach
Creative Arts Center is holding a retrospective show for me called “My World” opening November 18. I will also be at the Autry Museum at the “Masters of the American West” in February 2010. I will be in the California Art Club exhibits and the USC Cookbook Show in January 2010. You can find more information on my Web site: www.gaylegarnerroski.com.
Adréana: What made you decide to become serious about your art?
Gayle: When I turned fifty, I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and ran the L.A. Marathon. After completing those endeavors, I found the courage to declare myself an artist. Before that time, I never had the confidence, even though I had been painting all my life. It was after I finished raising my children and read Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own that I made a place for my own studio. I began to take my art seriously. It was a big shift from being a hobby; before, I had painted in the hallway, in the kitchen, between homework, and all that. I was never serious.
Adréana: How did you get started in your art career?
Gayle: With painting ribbons. There is something very sensuous about ribbons; I made a hundred and fifty paintings on that theme. I also wanted my own show, and I remembered that Geary’s in Beverly Hills has a classic gift-wrap of white ribbon enveloping a silver box. I got the idea to add the Geary’s ribbon to my series.
Adréana: Is it true that you marched into the store and presented them with your paintings?
Gayle: I did. I got an appointment and presented the owner my work. It was Geary’s who gave me my first one-woman show.
Adréana: When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Gayle: It’s been my dream since childhood. I can remember as far back as being three years of age, my mother would put me out on a porch. I have a vivid memory of coloring on that porch with the morning sun streaming in. My mother didn’t have to check on me; I could stay occupied for hours. I was in heaven.
Gayle Garner Roski’s Event Calendar
- Nov. 18, 2009:
“My World” Retrospective at the Creative Art Center (1516 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach, CA 90266). Artist’s Reception from 5-9pm
- Jan. 10, 2010:
Cookbook Show at USC
- Feb. 2010:
“Masters of the American West”
at the Autry National Center of the American West; Griffith Park, Los Angeles
For more information, go to www.gaylegarnerroski.com.
Adréana Robbins is an author, freelance writer and Director of Public Relations for “The Tolucan Times.” She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.