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Hollis Gabriel, Mobile Maker of Greensboro l

What She Does

Right now, I’ve taken over my dad’s mobile-making business because he moved here, and he is 85 years old. He has about 10 orders of these mobiles that he had to (and still has to) get done. I was helping him do it, and we were going nuts trying to do it together. So I’ve kind of taken over, but he still does a lot of the wire bending. He created this (his business Perpetual Motion) over a period of about 20 to 25 years. He saw a simple mobile and thought, “I can do this.”

He used to work with colored discs, and then he was living in Colorado and started doing the Aspen leaves, and then he started doing the butterflies. He would say, “I want to teach you how to do this. I want to pass it on.” I would think, “No way. It’s way too structured; you have to get the balance just right, it’s way too much math, and you have to be artistically left-brained.”

Then when he moved here, and I had to help him, it became like knitting. You have to follow a pattern, but there are ways to make it unique and different. I also like getting results quickly, and when you do this you have created this lovely and beautiful thing fairly quickly.

A Beautiful Material

(The mobiles are) made of mylar, and what I love to do is paint the strips of mylar. I go outside on my deck and start throwing paint and water on it, and I’ll just play with what they do. I’ll pick it up, and I’ll let it drip, and I’ll do all sorts of fun things. I feel like Jackson Pollock . I make a wonderful mess, and I cut them into strips. They are beautiful colors.

My signature is that I paint them different from him (her dad), and I’m playing with the idea of changing the shapes, making it more mine.

I’m totally enamored with painting with mylar and what to do with what’s left over.

I’ve been working with senior citizens through the Center for Creative Aging . It’s been so much fun to take these and make collages. Seniors will sit down and say, “I can’t do art.” It’s about the process of making something and creating something beautiful, and with this material you can’t go wrong; it’s very safe.

Where She Would Like

to See Her Mobiles

I would love to see them in every hospital room and places where people have to sit and wait. I think of these (mobiles) for older people.

I have a very good friend who has cancer. She’s very sick, and she has told me when you go and get all these cancer tests, they lie you down, and they’re doing all these things to you while you lie back and look at a ceiling. I think, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be looking at this (points to the large mobile above her)?” I’d like to make them smaller so you can just go in the hospital gift shop and get one instead of flowers. You could take someone a bouquet of butterflies that’s permanent and an escape to take you away from your pain, like music does, and you could add music to it. I do see them as being therapeutic, and I think of art as being therapeutic.

What Would Hang on a Mobile Representing Her

I love color. I love things from the

outdoors, so something nature-related. I’m not a symmetrical person, so it might be a little abstract. I like things that glitter and look like they are dancing. It would have children. I love to travel, and now I’m really into old folks, so there would have to be some of them too. There would have to be books because I love to read. I love to dance, eat and be with my friends. I love everything; that’s the problem.

How New Orleans

Influences her Art

We moved here from New Orleans, and I think it comes into play more than I even know when I am working. I love the swamp, the trees, the lushness, the birds, the French Quarter. I would never get tired of going to the French Quarter … looking at it with artist’s eyes. That’s what I’m most thankful for: seeing the details and the beauty in things and stopping to look.

In New Orleans, the people, the way they dress, the architecture –– beauty is not really the word –– but after Katrina, the houses as they decayed, there was something fascinating and beautiful about them. Even the falling apart parts of New Orleans had the rich, visual lushness. There was always something to look at. There is something mysterious, and you can really feel history in New Orleans.

–– As told to Erin McClanahan Rainwater,


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