Los Angeles artist Gretchen Batcheller deftly combines airbrush, acrylic and oil painting media to create paintings that bridge figurative realism and abstraction. Her work can be ebullient, cathartic and aggressive, and at other times, unsettlingly still. There is a palpable potency to her work that is deeply connected to her own personal narrative as a military dependent and the space and sensations that currently surround her. Her work reflects a deep exploration of color, pattern and rhythm that echo throughout the compositions of her paintings. They also reveal a self-consciousness derived from multilayered examination of memory, nostalgia, and personal reflections on systems of oppression found throughout militarized regions of the Pacific. Gretchen’s paintings have been featured in numerous regional, national and international venues including the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art in Los Angeles, CA; Burgenland State Gallery in Eisenstadt, Austria; and the Jeju Museum of Contemporary Art in South Korea.
“I grew up the daughter of a Navy fighter pilot, and from the late 70’s to the early 80’s my family was stationed in Yokohama, Japan. I was an infant/child transplanted into a culture with a different language and surrounded by impressionable and powerful visuals for a child.
“Stationed,” is a term used by American military families to describe where we lived while on active duty. Growing up a military dependent, I was rarely asked where I “lived,” only, “Where were you stationed?” I believe this underscores the fact that the spaces we occupied as a family were temporary and colonial in nature. Rightly so, anywhere we went we were “gaijin” (foreigner) as we effectively consumed our surroundings.
As I explore these childhood memories, it is of paramount importance to me to address my family’s multigenerational participation in the militarization of the Pacific. My place of privilege as a white, cisgender, heterosexual daughter of a Navy captain and granddaughter and great-niece of a Navy admiral and officers has (until my adult years) veiled my ability to recognize the impact the United States military has had – and continues to have – on entire societies, economies and the natural environments that sustain them. This ongoing revelation as an adult, challenges my ability to find an appropriate artistic expression for the seemingly endless and complicated layers of my experience living in Japan as a military dependent. This ongoing body of work serves as a fractured, visual correlate for a remembered reality that oscillates between gradients of cultural discovery, family honor and systemic oppression.”
Gretchen Batcheller, 2022