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Moving to U.S. influences artist Helene Gardelle
Gainesville residents painting part of Bus Shelter Art Project
Helene Gardelle’s painting “Free to Go” is part of the Bus Shelter Art Project and will be displayed on one of the city’s bus shelters.

French-born artist Helene Gardelle has moved quite a lot, leaving her the task of finding and connecting to a new art community multiple times.

“My husband was always traveling a lot for his job,” she said. “So everywhere I went with him, I tried to have some contacts. And it was not very easy, because I had to move a lot.”

The upside of the moves is she has had exhibitions in a plethora of venues. Now she is adding a Gainesville bus shelter to the list of places her artwork has been shown after relocating to Georgia in 2011.

Gardelle said she was “so happy” to have a piece chosen for what she sees as a very important place here in Gainesville.

The Bus Shelter Art Project is the installation of 15 pieces of art on bus shelters in the community, thanks to the city of Gainesville and Vision 2030 of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce with help from the Quinlan Visual Arts Center.

“Art was selected in order to introduce artistic works which build on the Gainesville Connection brand of connecting people to family, friends, recreation, business, government, education, retail, nonprofits and places of importance,” according to a Quinlan news release. “Thematically and visually, works are focused on the connectivity of people to the community.”

Gardelle’s piece selected for the project was inspired by the environment, as well as a problem the artist faced when moving to America.

“When I arrived in the United States, I was very shocked to see that there was practically no public transportation,” she said. “We had only my husband’s car and I was stuck at home.”

Then the woman realized she was not alone. Gardelle said she saw people who couldn’t go to work or find a job because they had no car.

“And because they had no work, they couldn’t buy a car. Life was practically impossible,” she said.

The sculptor admitted it is worse in the South.

“If you don’t have a car in Georgia, you are prisoner,” she said. “You stay at home and can’t do anything. It’s a terrible situation.”

Therefore, when Gardelle’s painting was slated to be displayed at a bus shelter, it meant more to her.

“I see these buses as a way to find a kind of freedom because you can go where you want,” she said, noting she chose represent that freedom in her abstract painting. “When you see it, you can see two butterflies or birds and they are in motion. So it is like flying with the wings and going wherever you want to go, having the freedom to go to one place to another.”

As for the environment, Gardelle sees the bus shelters as a way to preserve it.

“Your own car makes a lot more pollution than using public transportation,” she said. “I think it’s very important if we could use public transportation rather than our own car. It’s a way to be responsible about environment and decisions we make about the pollution.”

And while she chooses to make statements about life through her art, that has not always been the case. Gardelle, in fact, wasn’t able to make it her sole focus until later in life.

“I had to find a job for money, which is always a problem when you are an artist,: she said. “So I was a teacher for a while. But I always maintained my artistic activity (even though) I couldn’t spend all my time on art.”

That changed as her children grew up.

“When my children were a little bit older and I could find more time, I invested more and more time.”

Now Gardelle is working full-time on her art. She has a small production in painting, but most are sculptures.

“Most of my production is figurines of people or animals essentially, but they are more and more far from reality,” she said. “I am going in the direction of I don’t respect proportion anymore. It’s more and more inspired by life emotions and I’m more profound about environment.”

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