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Luna Gambina’s paintings of vulnerable moments capture people at their most beautiful

There’s so much style and confidence in Luna Gambina’s paintings that it’s hard to believe she only started making them two years ago. The artist, based in Houston, has always loved to draw. She even enjoyed making short comics for friends and family while growing up. But it wasn’t until her mother passed away that she decided to give painting a go.

A multi-talented artist herself, Luna’s mother specialised in painting nudes and had her work shown in galleries and various catalogues. When her mentor and teacher passed away, she stopped painting and poured her creative energy into art quilting, where she was also well accomplished and eventually founded a quilting school,” Luna tells Creative Boom. She found a lot of joy in teaching.”

The last time Luna and her mother spoke, she was already very ill, but it soothed her to look through art books and the images she loved. “She showed me a picture of “Il Ratto delle Sabine by Giambologna; she was in awe of how the stone was sculpted into flesh,” Luna adds. “That sense of awe and deep appreciation for beauty and art is the amazing gift she left.”

Luna Gambina’s paintings of vulnerable moments capture people at their most beautiful

Her mother’s appreciation for art, which extended to finding the money to take her family to various art galleries and concerts, also instilled a strong work ethic in Luna. “My mum used to tell me: you have the same number of hours Leonardo da Vinci had, use them well,” Luna reveals. “I am afraid I am still struggling to learn that.”

We can’t help but disagree. Luna is teaching herself and finding her own way to express herself artistically, having never considered formal training. “I have great respect for formal education,” she hastens to add: “I do not see it as a detractor from finding your own voice. However,ach of us, in any endeavour, has the duty and the power to self-educate.

“It would also be disingenuous for me not to recognise how lucky I was, growing up in a home where art, books and a passion for always learning were important. Exposure to the arts helps you to develop your own taste, which, in the end, is the only compass you can truly follow while you create.”

Luna’s artistic compass directed her to work on wooden panels after she had some left over from the repair work on her house. Since then, they have become her preferred surface to paint on. “Their colour, and the veins of the wood when the light strikes them from different angles, seem to form the shapes and curves of people,” she explains.

“In particular, the shape of a dancing lady. So I started going over that shape with a pencil, and soon, I could see a whole scene taking form. I coloured it and loved the way oil colours flowed over the texture of the wood. I named the painting Downtown as a little nostalgic nod to the pre-pandemic outings of Houston.”

Indeed, this callback to a bygone world is a recurring theme in Luna’s paintings. This is further echoed by her belief that we live in a “sensory-deprived” society where most of our interactions are virtual.

“Algorithms are very good at grouping people in tiny little bubbles of similar tastes and lifestyles or even purchase history, but we are way more than that; we are complex, multifaceted and have a tremendous ability to change,” she reveals.

For Luna, artificial intelligence will always be a step behind people because they only exist to copy us. This, in turn, ties into her love of people and how she finds everyone to be more than just a label. “We don’t experience ourselves as a gender, a race, a sexual orientation or an age first; those are simply parts of a whole human being who shares common primal emotions and needs, along with every other human,” she concludes.

“That is why I like to paint people in their vulnerable, intimate moments when they are not being filtered by social media. I think that is when they are at their most beautiful.”