About the Artist

Pamela Gaard, b. Minneapolis 1955

My artistic interests began early in life with drawing and stitching - my love for textiles, patterns and sewing was influenced by two of my Russian grandparents. Today I’m primarily interested in drawing, painting and collage. For many years I’ve painted portraits from life; my subjects include neighbors, friends, family, colleagues, coworkers, and other artists.

My education and long career in public health and wellness precipitated many interactions with refugees and other immigrants, particularly with Somali elders living here in Minneapolis. My concerns in wellness and art conflate where the underlying narrative is to focus a positive spotlight on a community, and to create healing dialog toward a more loving and resilient society.

Several elders who are fluent in languages other than English have asked me to create their portraits; these were made with assistance from interpreters in Somali, Oromo, and Amharic. I’ve felt humbled and honored to create these portraits.

Collaborations with other artists have been integral to my studio practice. An elder artist, Hassan Nor, and I collaborated on several projects for over six years. He spoke a little English; I spoke a little Somali — our common language was art. Collaborations with other artists have enriched my artistic practice over the years.

The arrival of the pandemic early in 2020 shifted my focus, as I could no longer invite people into my home studio to sit for portraits, nor could I continue collaborations in the community in the manner which I had earlier. Initially, I turned to masked self-portraits to continue my portraiture practice. Then I made a painting from a photo of my family and me wearing masks in front of our home. I soon began to photograph masked neighbors in front of their homes, and painted portraits from these photos. Thus began my series of Pandemic Portraits. These portraits abate our isolation during the pandemic, reflect a continued practice of community engagement, and intersect with my interest in health and healing.