002: Painter, Hayley Gaberlavage

"Don’t take yourself too serious." -- Hayley Gaberlavage
Hayley Gaberlavage's studio in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans, LA

Hayley Gaberlavage's studio in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans, LA

Photography and Interview by Carlos Detres

It was just before Mardi Gras weekend, here in New Orleans, when I went over to Hayley Gaberlavage's studio to photograph her at work. She had just finished a commission and decided that it was time to plug away at her personal work. Over a couple of glasses of prosecco, we chatted about the upcoming celebrations, painting, personal stuff and photography. She's very sincere and sweet, which comes through in her paintings. 

Where does your story with painting begin?

My story begins with found photographs.  Preferably vintage Kodachrome photographs of people.  I also find images and photoshop to design a composition I think will be an interesting painting.  

What’s the connection with the work you currently do and a childhood memory?

Well, I paint a lot of people enjoying themselves at the beach, having a cocktail, putting on makeup, dancing.  I guess it tells you I enjoyed my childhood a lot.  There were always music, dancing and beach trips.  I had fun and still do.  Don’t take yourself too serious.  Enjoy life as much as possible. 

Your paintings are intimate, often humorous, snapshots from a bygone era. Can you remember the first time you felt that this was the direction you wanted to take your work?

Yes, one of my first paintings I did that turned a little towards humor were the Trailer Park series.  They had this humor that I think a lot of people could relate to.  My favorite is “Thanks for Retirement”.  It’s a painting of an older couple putting up a tent for their camper.  The postures show so much personality.  

If you could describe your painting style as a song or genre, what would it be?

Southern Soul

What do you look for in a subject when you’re doing a painting? What are the key elements that you’re attracted to? Like, the moment when you say to yourself, “Oh my god! I have to paint that”.

When doing Portraiture, I’m drawn to elderly people.  I’m attracted to their eyes and wrinkles.  They have more attitude, sass and life experience.  I never know the moment is coming up where I think “Oh my god, I have to paint that face” until I come across it.  That moment comes to me in person (where from there I’ll take their picture) in books, magazines, online, vintage photos in antique stores etc…. 

Have you had any strange commission requests? If so, could you tell one?

I haven’t had any strange commissions.  People always commission me to paint their parents or grandparents from old photograph.  It’s easier to paint strangers.  I guess the strangest paintings I’ve ever painted would have to be self portraits.  There’s something weird about painting yourself.  I have only painted myself 3 times.  So, I guess I find it strange.  

Where can people view your work?