The Art of Gayle ClevelandA legacy of love and art

The art of Gayle Cleveland was presented in January.

Introduction to Gayle

Lifelong artist, wife of over 50 years to John Cleveland, mother of three sons, Joshua, Ben, and Adam, and grandmother to Ibiza, Gayle S. Kruse Baumgartner Cleveland magically saw the world. She spent her life trying to help others see the amazing things that forever danced in her mind. Gayle’s inspiration for her early years of fantasy art began during the 1970s when her husband, would read to her, Tolkein’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy as well as “The Hobbit”. These stories sparked the realm of fantasy that she created through her paintings. She explored the expanse of literature while her readings continued to inspire the visions in her art. Gayle’s favorite authors adorned her bookshelves, and each new book pushed the borders of her fantasy world ever outward. Authors such as Anne McCaffery, Robert Jordan, and Terry Brooks had obvious influences on her work. When she was looking to ensure something was well defined by the mythos of its origin, she would often seek answers in books such as Edith Hamilton’s “Mythology”. Her son Joshua can recall her cross-checking the finer points of various mythologies with her husband John, everything from Eastern Mythologies to Western Mythologies, from “Le Morte De Arthur” to “Siddhartha”.

Gayle’s influences also came from the world around her. Sometimes an empty lot across the street would be conjured into life as a rippling pond, at which unicorns drank or a passing bird would bring a horde of dragons to roost nearby. Gayle showed the viewers of her work, snapshots of a world seen through her eyes.

Often asked where she found the faces of the characters she painted, Gayle would smile and say that they came from the world of her dreams. While models were not used for any of the people appearing in her original art, she was often asked to paint individuals into her worlds. During a time when Gayle painted at different Renaissance Fairs around the country, a piece would often be commissioned by a visitor who wished to appear within a specific fantasy setting.

Gayle’s journey at the first Renaissance Faire began in Bristol, Wisconsin, long ago when it was called “King Richard’s Faire”. A far bawdier affair than today’s Renaissance Fair, the experience made its mark on her quickly and she joined as a resident artist, purchasing a booth in the 1980s. Her children were often present, outside the times when visitors were allowed, and can recall a fantastic place where frogs swam under a troll bridge and a “Gypsy” village sat next to a swamp. Occasionally pressed into service, the whole family supported the endeavor and loved that enchanted time and place. Her desire to bring her artwork to others also took her to the Texas Renaissance Faire and the Colorado Renaissance Faire (where her youngest son Adam joined her to aid in her quest).

In truth, some of Gayle’s stories may not be proper for this short story, but she did indeed encounter many unique individuals and make many friends during her life as an artist. Her son, Josh believes she was quite proud of the time in Texas when a well-to-do patron came to the fair in a limousine with the express purpose of purchasing her piece “Valley of Legends”.

Gayle’s abilities as an artist were almost entirely self-taught, beginning at the age of three. She had a brief exposure to a formal educational experience in Chicago, but she quickly grew beyond anything available to her in such a setting.

In recent years her artwork took on a decidedly more political stance. Juxtaposing the fantastic, with her views on the current social situation, became frequent to her in the latter decade of her life. She never relaxed her need for bringing the amazing to the mundane; however, injustices she perceived in the world at large took a more central role in her work. After the passing of her soulmate, it’s possible the spark that had once glowed so brightly, with Tolkien’s words from her husband John, began to dim. Her passion for that mystical plane of magic and beautiful creatures never left her, but the ability to help others see it through her art faded as her illness spread. She never stopped trying to share her vision whether it be through story or gift. Throughout her life, many of Gayle’s friends were travelers, knights, wizards, and witches and she’ll never be forgotten by the faerie world. Gayle’s art keeps her world alive.

Gayle and the Starline 4th Friday Event

Gayle S. Kruse Baumgartner Cleveland was a longtime supporter of the Starline 4th Friday events. Gayle often entered her work into the juried show and received jury-selected awards over the years including “Best in Show”. Her work was highlighted in her own Featured Artist show at the Starline in 2017. Gayle took a renewed interest in the Starline 4th Fridays in 2023 when the 4th Friday Junior art competition was made part of the Starline 4th Friday events. Gayle attended a few times in the past year and was proud to support the young artists through verbal encouragement and by purchasing art from the young artists.

Gayle’s Legacy

To honor their mother, Gayle’s family chose to donate pieces of her work to be shown and sold at the Starline 4th Fridays. The proceeds from the sale of her art are to be used to support the Starline Junior 4th Fridays. Gayle’s art will be available during the Starline 4th Friday events and in various ways throughout the year. An online store is available for the purchase of her work online. Gayle will be remembered for her wonderful smile and her generous gift of art.