F&M Stories

Gail Gray: Doctor of Arts

Presented at the 2016 Commencement of Franklin & Marshall College:

A friend recently characterized contemporary artist Gail Gray as "an artist on the frontiers of science." She embraced the description immediately.

Indeed, in talking about her work, Mrs. Gray is as likely to refer to Copernicus or Galileo or even analytical psychologist Carl Jung as she is to mention the media in which she works, including painting, printmaking, fabric and fiber art, and collage. She is a past participant in the Evolution Roundtable hosted by Franklin & Marshall College, which inspired her to create a series of abstract images representing the successive steps of genetic inheritance. Other works have emerged from her interest in linguistic studies, producing constructions—abstracted from concrete or theoretical ideas—that "speak a language that words cannot."

For five decades, Mrs. Gray, holder of dual bachelor of fine arts degrees in painting and design from Carnegie Mellon University, has exhibited locally, regionally and nationally in juried and invitational art events. Prominent among them is the acclaimed Associated Artists of Pittsburgh show at the Carnegie Museum of Art, juried by renowned Dutch architect Aldo Van Eyck in 1969.

Other exhibits in which Mrs. Gray has taken part have featured an eclectic array of themes such as "Art and Censorship—Our Environment," "A Journey to the Canadian Rockies," "Waste, Fraud and Abuse," "Consumermania" and "Artists, Bikers and Attorneys." The last is particularly revealing. Like her husband, former Legal Services lawyer and current Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray, she is an incorrigible devotee of life on two wheels, and in 2004, also exhibited in the "Motorcycles and Art" national juried exhibition at the Susquehanna Art Museum, where five of her works were presented alongside those of art-world luminaries Andy Warhol and Richard Prince.

Many of Mrs. Gray's pieces are now part of the permanent collection of the Lancaster Museum of Art. Additional examples can be found in various public spaces throughout the city, including the historic Saint James Episcopal Church, the Marriott Hotel and Convention Center at Penn Square, Lancaster General Hospital, the Lancaster County Courthouse, and the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute. In all, the forms, materials and approaches she chooses seek to visually and symbolically explore the meaning of life and the learning process.

Although being married to Mayor Gray makes for some jam-packed days—she regularly attends many civic events with her husband—Mrs. Gray continues to work steadily in the studio she opened on North Queen Street in the early 1990s, sharing with and supporting others in the Lancaster arts community, and even finding time to volunteer with several community groups, including the American Heart Association.

Gail Gray, for your creative exploration of the intersection between science and art, for challenging us to
confront the connections and disjunctions between physical reality and abstract expression, and for your many contributions to Lancaster as a civic leader, Franklin & Marshall College bestows upon you the Honorary Degree, Doctor of Arts.

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