by Len Lear
Geri Greinke-Mack is 75 years old, but like a modern day Georgia O’Keeffe, she keeps getting better with age. Geri, a resident of Cathedral Village in upper Roxborough, currently has an exhibit of her linoleum cut prints of animals, oil paintings of Morris Arboretum, animals, gardens, flowers, cats and whimsical images, as well as watercolors and gouache paintings of peaceful and harmonious gardens through October at The Top of The Stairs Gallery in Cathedral Village, a Presbyterian Senior Living Community.
It comes as no surprise that if Geri could meet anyone on earth, living or dead, it would be Georgia O’Keeffe. “I respect how she lived her life,” said Geri. “When I went to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in New Mexico, I was fascinated by her landscapes, and I liked her own quotes about her work. What a wonderful conversation we could have had together about different art categories.”
It is often said that one person cannot change the world, but that does not deter Geri from trying. “My passion is to create gardens of peace, which is influenced by Edward Hicks and his peaceable kingdoms,” she said. “My second passion is to paint fanciful environments for living things that are facing extinction.”
Geri is a graduate of Haddonfield (N.J.) High School and the University of the Arts (then called Philadelphia College of Art) with a BFA in 1964. She obviously had a very artistic, creative streak from a very young age.
“When I was tucked in bed at night,” she said, “I told my mom not to close the bedroom door because it was too dark. With light coming into the room, I could see my beautiful wallpaper with white swans and flowers. I looked at one swan with the flowers. Soon I imagined myself flying and sitting on the swan. A blue long stream appeared. We floated down the delightful stream. I fell asleep that way every night with my swan.”
After college, Geri worked as a secretary for Dean George Gerber in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania untiI she married in March of 1965 and moved to Fayetteville, N.C., where her husband was serving in the Army.
When they returned to Philly, Geri found another job as a secretary for the Department of South Asia Regional Studies at Penn while her husband obtained his MFA from the Fine Arts Department there.
“During my lunch hours,” she recalled, “I went up to the rooftop and brought with me art materials, such as a small metal box of watercolors and sepia ink. I painted pictures of the campus. In addition, I met Stella Kramrisch, a professor who taught in the department. She was well known as a specialist in Indian art and Hinduism, and I loved Indian miniature paintings and Indian sculpture.
“Stella allowed me to attend her classes for free. She was a kind and intelligent woman, whom I admired. I was so inspired by Indian art that it took my breath away every time I attended her classes, and I visited the Philadelphia Art Museum in order to study the wonderful Indian miniatures and the lively and expressive sculptures.”
Inspired also by the works of Henri Rousseau, Paul Klee, Japanese paintings and Frida Kahlo, Geri’s works of art “are about the wondrous things and beauty that I see in nature. I love animals, people’s faces, flowers, trees and landscapes. I chose the linoleum cut medium to express clearly defined, imaginative and well composed prints for certain fairy tales and fables that I liked.”
Geri’s linoleum cut prints have been commissioned by book publishers, such as, G.P. Putnam and Sons and Running Press. Eventually she changed mediums and used oil paints on linen canvas to paint portraits of animals and people.
“I want people who look at my work to react with an emotional response of their own. If my images bring joy, whimsy, beauty and peace to others, then I feel immense satisfaction.”
When she is not doing a commissioned work such as a portrait, Geri looks at her garden and floral book collection as well as photographs she has taken of plants, trees and flowers. Then she starts to sketch a composition.
It usually takes her at least four to six weeks to complete a painting. Her work has been exhibited at numerous area galleries and museums such as Woodmere Art Museum, Sande Webster Gallery, The Print Club, Ursinus College Museum, Gross McCleaf Gallery, Cats Paw Gallery, Hahn Gallery and Third Street Gallery, among others.
Geri’s ultimate goal as an artist is “to create art works which graphically show people that it is our responsibility to take better care of the environment that we have left in the world … There are so many animals wild and domestic that are being treated horribly. For example, elephants are still being killed for their tusks, leaving their babies certain to die.
“Now elephants are endangered. We must not allow this to happen anymore! Do we want our birds, lions, tigers, etc., to become extinct? I say no. Only human intelligent, compassionate beings can make changes that will save our beautiful animals and environment. My ultimate goal is to make art that tells a story about saving all living things.”
When she is not painting, Geri likes to swim, ride a stationary bike, read, watch movies, attend music recitals, visit museums, take walks in gardens, read books with children who attend a public school in Roxborough and visit Cathedral Village for an hour once a week, and do volunteer work for people in need.
For more information about Geri’s exhibit or portraits, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.cathedralvillage.com