Gayle Dahl, of Byron, does not have any formal art training, but that hasn’t kept her from having a lucrative 20-year career.
Dahl is a folk artist, and by definition, a folk artist cannot have any formal training. While she may not have a degree on her wall, she has sold artwork, filled with bright colors, to people all over the world. Her work is displayed at the Southeastern Minnesota Visual Artists gallery in Rochester as well as the Mantorville Art Guild and in Red Wing.
Not only is Dahl’s artwork all over the world, but it’s also all over everything. She’s painted scenes onto lamp shades, ironing boards, barrels, wagons, bride’s boxes and many other household items. The artwork has been purchased by people in Germany, Japan, South Korea and all over the United States.
How does folk art painter differ from traditional painters?
A true folk artist does not hold a formal art degree. Some folk art galleries won’t even talk to you if they believe you have a degree because the inspiration is supposed to come from within. Folk artists don’t hold formal degrees. I used to feel bad about that, although I’ve taken a lot of classes. I used to hang my work at a gallery in Carmel, Calif. The owner there wouldn’t even talk to you if he thought you had a degree.
How did you get started in folk art?
I think it’s our American history. I’ve always loved history, so one day, I just looked up the history of folk art, and it was so interesting — the dummy boards, fire boards, all of that. I started my own adaptation of them. A fire board is a fire board, but I’ve decorated them with my vision. I do follow Rufus Porter. He was an old itinerant painter from the 1800s. He’s a big influence of mine. I love antiques, and they go with my furnishing. It fits with my love of decorating.
What do you love about teaching folk art classes at the Mantorville Art Guild?
It’s very popular and well-known on the coast. If you go to the East Coast and say you’re a folk artist, they know what you mean. I love to promote American folk art and show people how much fun it can be turning it into today’s art.
You were commissioned to paint “United We Stand with Lady Liberty” for the Gonda family. How did you meet Louis and Kelly Gonda (who are related to the couple after which Mayo Clinic’s Gonda Building is named)?
(Kelly) collects ‘Lady Liberty’ things, so that’s why she was interested (in that theme). She mentioned that she bought this piece of folk art (at SEMVA) before, and it turned out it was mine. It was a decorated ironing board, and it was hanging in their house. She didn’t know who I was, and I didn’t know who she was. But we talked for a long while and exchanged contact information. She contacted me by email and asked if I would do this project.