Local school inspires 77-year-old to create 180 pieces of artwork

A local, nationally known folk artist is being showcased where she lives. Gay Speirbhain lives in Paducah and currently has her exhibit, “I Came from a Star” showing at the Yeiser Art Center.

Speirbhain is a folk artist that incorporates everyday objects. A folk artist is an untrained artist. Speirbhain wants to show through her work you don’t necessarily need training to create art.

“I have to do it or I hurt. It seems like all that builds up inside of me, and when I paint, I get this relief. That’s beautiful,” Speirbhain said.

Speirbhain grew up in New Mexico, and recently moved to Kentucky to be closer to family. She’s lived in Paducah about 4 years and said last year she started feeling lonely.

“I had gotten to a very low point… Maybe it was my age,” Speirbhain said.

She decided to take sculpture classes at Paducah School of Art and Design.

“I was so inspired. It was maybe, they had a hard time containing me because I’d have a three week project and I’d do it in one day, and bring it back,” Speirbhain said.

She said she felt part of a family and enjoyed learning welding the most.  She feels it’s a skill every woman should try.

“You look at that pipe, you can put it in that thing, and count 1, 2, 3, and bend it. Boy, that’s empowering I just love it,” Speirbhain said.

Shortly after enrolling in classes, the YAC asked Speirbhain to do an exhibit. With a goal of 2 small paintings a week, Speirbhain churned out about 180 pieces in the year leading up to the exhibit.

Some pieces show her strong sense of patriotism. She’s painted 800 flags.

“Most of my life I’ve been compelled to do it,” Speirbhain said.

Other pieces highlight what she calls American royalty

“Michael Jackson king of pop, this is Prince,” Speirbhain said.

Its art work she describes as ‘simply me’.

“I’m just part of it you know,” Speirbhain said.

Next Saturday at 6 p.m., the YAC is holding a “Palette to Palate” event. It’ll feature Speirbhain’s work and offer an evening of poetry with desserts from local restaurants. Poets Samuel Hawkins and Maggie Vaughn will be there.

Speirbhain’s next project is to publish a collection of short stories detailing her unique experiences.

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