Gabriel Shaffer’s “A Forgotten Ode” depicts a tattooed woman with bright-blue hair, dragon wings sprouting from her back and a green-scaled mermaid’s tail coiling behind her. This medusa, with her arms raised behind her head and a mane of hair draped over her body, is one of the many fantastical creatures culled from Shaffer’s imagination and captured on canvas. The background of the painting is a muted collage of images made of hand-drawn caricatures, old newspaper clippings and torn pages of sheet music.
The material produced by this self-taught folk/outsider artist has undoubtedly made an impression. For two years in a row, Shaffer’s bizarre and captivating work has earned him the title of Best Local Visual Artist.
“That’s awesome, that’s exciting,” says Shaffer, grinning at the news. “It’s great to know that everyone in the community is behind me. It helps me push through difficult times. I hope the I can live up to the expectation.”
Shaffer’s works include large mixed-media paintings, portraits (of masked women with green skin and blue-haired men set against an burnt orange backgrounds), geometric cityscapes, works on paper (colored pen-and-ink pieces drawn on old journal pages, letters, vintage children’s art and financial records) and, most recently, abstract works in metal and sculpture.
— Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt