About the Artist

Pamela Gaard, b. Minneapolis,1955

My early interest in visual mediums was heavily influenced by my family’s work with a variety of textiles and sewing. I was surrounded by fabrics, thread and buttons from a young age, and the influence of textile arts has been and continues to be felt in the patterns and backgrounds of my portraits. My formal arts education began at The Minneapolis College of Art and Design where my work with found object assemblages included musings on domesticity and femininity, including quilts, toys, beads, ribbons, wire, and other detritus not generally included in what has traditionally been considered “legitimate” art.

Completing a degree in Public Health at University of MN resulted in a position as a health scientist, precipitating many interactions with refugees and other immigrants. When my position ended in 2006, I was invited to teach an art class at a small nonprofit organization for girls from east Africa. I spent a decade being involved in the large vibrant Somali immigrant community in Minneapolis teaching about nutrition, health and wellness.

Immersion in this work led me to create portraits of Somali-Americans (some made with the assistance of interpreters), along with other friends, colleagues and neighbors.There have been a lot of misunderstandings about immigrants and especially about Somali community members. By creating art that is centered around individuals telling their stories I hope to dispel some of the misconceptions, focus a positive spotlight, and create healing dialogue.

I see this fairly recent return to the world of full-time art as part and parcel of becoming a grandmother and retiring from public health work. My exhibition at Traffic Zone was an exploration of the commonalities between the Jewish community and the refugee communities in Minneapolis. It is through creating these kinds of ties that I hope to strengthen the bonds that will help to create a more loving and resilient society.

My paintings, sculptures, and photographs have exhibited in over 50 exhibitions in the US and Europe; locally at Instinct Gallery, TuckUnder, Co Exhibitions, Walker Art Center, Hennepin History Museum, Made Here on Block E (Hennepin Theatre Trust), and Traffic Zone Center for Visual Art.