Gael Z. Stack, American, born 1941
Untitled (for Tim), 1985
Oil on paper
29 1/16 × 23 1/8 in. (73.8 × 58.7 cm)
Work on paper (Drawing)
Bequest of William F. Stern

© Gael Stack
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In Untitled (For Tim), Gael Stack layered suggestions of texts and figures against a background evocative of a chalkboard. Old and new ideas compete for prominence through Stack’s continuous integration of marks, facilitating visual dialogues between the past and present. According to her artistic philosophy, Stack consistently adds layers to her work over time, which eventually results in the disappearance or dissolution of its original surface altogether. Colorful semblances of texts and wiry imagery accumulate in a continual rewriting of the work’s history. 

Stack shares that the phrase “cat food,” scrawled in the lower left corner of this work, originates from a note left by her son Timothy (Tim), as a reminder to purchase more food for the stray felines he insisted on rescuing. This note serves as the basis of the narrative of Untitled (For Tim), which honors her son through sporadic suggestions of cat imagery alongside the prominent addition of his name.

In Untitled (For Tim), the action resides largely in the center of the composition through erratic marks. However, a figure drawn with a ghostly contour presides over much of the work. Despite its overall transparency, the cat-like figure veils the colorful composition, creating boundaries in an otherwise chaotic collection of gestures. Smatterings of text are scattered throughout the surface. Written by friends and family, and compiled by Stack, the writing samples range from notes to to-do lists. Through this practice, Stack builds a tangible repository of memories, allowing for remembrance to occur visually. The artist’s propensity for adding to her art and never subtracting from it creates an archive of consciousness.

As a former painting professor at the University of Houston, Stack has called the Houston area home for decades. Her work has become a vital part of the Houston arts scene and is recognized domestically and internationally.