Gale Suver poses in front of her “Ohio Inspiration” exhibit at the Cultural Arts Center on Sept. 19. Credit: Tristan Relet-Werkmeister | Lantern Reporter

Gale Suver, a retired medical assistant who turned to painting four years ago, is displaying her Ohio landscape paintings in her first solo exhibition at the Cultural Arts Center in downtown Columbus.

Suver, 63, was born and raised in Columbus and has never lived farther than Cincinnati. This created a special bond with the state of Ohio — one that she struggles to put into words. Her paintings could be qualified as nostalgic and timeless love letters to the countryside.

“Painting is the one thing I can do that can take me away from the rest of the world,” Suver said.

Suver began painting with brushes and eventually moved to palette knives to obtain more depth and reach a more aesthetic effect.

“It’s almost like I can feel the texture I’m trying to do, whether it’s a board or the grass,” Suver said.

Most of the painted locations have a special meaning to her — a place she knew when she was younger, a store next to her child’s house or the village of her ancestors. The exhibition can be interpreted as a painted autobiography.

Her artistic process begins with photographs of places she wants to paint. Suver said she pulls to the side of the road when a house, farm or an old tractor calls for her attention while driving to her children’s houses through the countryside.

Suver said she does not directly copy her photographs and allows herself to alter them. She slightly changes colors and removes cars or pedestrians. In her painting, “Downtown Nelsonville,” Suver said she intentionally made the buildings taller and the sky bluer than it really was, to improve the reality the camera cannot see.

Suver said she still attends painting classes every Wednesday at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center because she considers art to be an ongoing learning process. Brent Payna, her teacher, gives her guidance in an open studio, where all the students are doing something different, from watercolors to portraits.

“She had no particular subject matter and jumped from one painting subject to another,” Payna said. “Students like her find their voice.”

Suver emptied a bedroom in her house to create her own studio. It is where she prefers to spend her time alone, sometimes up to five hours a day as a single painting can take her up to three weeks to complete. This depends on several factors, such as the size of the canvas.   

When she is painting, Suver said she is in a state of complete calmness and is very focused. She said she has always loved art and thinks that her creativity was inspired by her father, who did architecture drawings.

“Ohio Inspiration” will be on display until Sept. 30 on the third floor of the Cultural Arts Center, which is at 139 W. Main St. A reception with the artist will be organized from 6 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 28. Admission is free.