As part of the permanent gallery collection, the works of Gary Branam is a retrospective of the artist's life and love of painting and drawing his favorite model and personal friend. This rare show features classic figural drawings and expressive paintings of the female form. Most works range from 1975-1989.
Gary Lynn Branam was born in Waxahachie and was raised in Dallas, Texas in the Oak Cliff area.
Studying art from an early age, he had a natural ability for freehand drawing. He worked in high school drawing artists’ renditions of funeral monuments. He was an accomplished draftsman before he graduated high school.
He received his Bachelor’s degree in architecture at Texas Tech, and entered the Navy as an officer where he served in Da Nang during the Vietnam War. After the Navy he moved to Gulfport, La., spending a time at Gainesville, Florida where he studied art at the University there. Then moving to New Orleans, he attained his Masters degree in art at Tulane University where he also taught art classes.
He lived in the French Quarter the rest of his life, painting and working as an architect for a large firm, where one of his most notable accomplishments was the design for LSU Medical center. He also had a passion for his restoration designs and projects of historical homes in and around the French Quarter. When Gary left the firm, the owner of the company commented that he was the most talented person he had ever known.
He was first and foremost a painter, but he was proficient in other mediums, such as sculpture, clay and acid-relief etching. He was a fine portrait artist, but did few portraits, only on commission for good friends.
Gary loved classical art and had various influences. Perhaps his most powerful influence was the American abstract expressionist Mark Rothko. Gary loved to visit the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas and view the large dark works of Rothko. He utilized Rothko’s technique in his work, putting down numerous layers of bright fragmented colors and then applying a subdued overlay of muted color.
On the surface, many of his paintings appear almost monotone, but beneath are layers of vibrant bright colors. Depth and color were what mattered to him. The subjects of his work were secondary.
The majority of the paintings he produced in New Orleans and Gulfport were of one model, a friend, whom he photographed with a polaroid in black and white, and used for his subjects. He liked her figure – he said she was “shaped like a light bulb” – and he never felt the need for a different model. Gary Branam’s art was featured at the Vincent Mann Gallery in New Orleans.
Gary was a charismatic person, very gregarious, and his friends felt privileged to know him. He loved Mardi Gras, and every year threw his large house open to whatever friends wished to come to town and stay there. He also had a passion for Chow dogs and collecting Persian Rugs.
He painted until death in Dallas in 1995.