In the Shadow of the Capitol
By Noelani Kirschner
July 31, 2017
After a brief career in politics, Gavin Glakas decided 15 years ago to pursue his love of painting. He mostly paints portraits, including those of senators and congressmen, but Glakas also finds inspiration from the natural and historic beauty of Washington, D. C.
“I live in Washington on purpose, not by accident. I love it here. I could live in New York or wherever, but I love it here. The architecture is so great; there are so many trees. You can find everything: there’s the fast-paced hustle and bustle of modern life, and areas that are smack-dab in the middle of Washington, D. C., where you can’t see any evidence of civilization. There’s obviously the whole backdrop of the federal government and all the trappings of that. For me, that’s part of what gives Washington its essence but not necessarily something that features prominently in my work. I’m not interested in painting postcards.
There’s a level of substance to D.C., an intensity to the experience being here that draws me to painting and depicting the city. Because of the decisions that are being made here and because of the caliber of people and conversations that you might find yourself in, I think that adds to the intensity of the experience of living here—it permeates everything. There may just be an alley or a house that you could find anywhere, but it’s a couple blocks away from Capitol Hill, where people are making decisions that will affect my life and the life of the viewer. I hope it gives some gravitas to my work.
Sometimes I’ll have an idea, and then I’ll have to go out and find the location that will suit the idea. Sometimes I’ll see something, and I’ll think, ‘Well, this has a lot of potential if I really work it, move some things around, change the light, this might work out.’ And other times, I just turn the corner, and it’s like, ‘Pow, this is it!’ I was just scouting around on H Street by about 5th street NE near Capitol Hill, and I turned the corner and there was this incredible scene that felt really modern and exciting. That feeling when you were young, and you would go out on a Saturday night to meet up with some people that you were really excited to meet up with, or there was something happening and you were full of anticipation: that’s the feeling that I got when I looked at this scene, and it’s one of those paintings that almost painted itself from start to finish. From idea to execution, it just kind of worked out. I changed some things and took some chances with this one, and I was really happy with the result.”
Noelani Kirschner is the editorial assistant for the Scholar.
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