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Art People: Zachary Gedelman | painter and poet

  • Zachary Gedelman with one of his paintings at his home in Florence Feb. 19<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Zachary Gedelman with one of his tapestries at his home in Florence Feb. 19.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Zachary Gedelman with one of his tapestries at his home in Florence Feb. 19.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • A painting by Zachary Gedelman of Florence.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • A painting by Zachary Gedelman of Florence.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

Creating art came naturally to Zachary Gedelman.

The Florence artist says he remembers drawing his first pictures when he was just 4 years old. Even at that young age, he says, he was able to represent what he saw in the world with just a pencil and a piece of paper. “I was always making something, creating something, ” Gedelman, 30, said in an interview last week.

It was easy, back then, he says, to share his natural talent, his artistry, his love of creation. But then, life happened: As he got older, Gedelman struggled to come out as a transgender male — something, he says, that was not easy to do in the South, where he grew up.

“I received a lot of really rude, rude comments,” he said. “I felt unsafe.”

It was an experience that robbed him, for a time, of his artistic voice. But two years ago, Gedelman began to overcome that impasse, moving to the Pioneer Valley to participate in a trauma-based recovery program that has set him on a creative path once again.

“It was intensive therapy, a healing process. I graduated from the program, got on with my life,” he said. “My heart opened up again. I began to be embraced and understood.”

And he started to paint again.

Today, Gedelman opens an exhibit of artwork he has done since he began what he calls his “recovery journey” two years ago, to the day. The 20 abstract acrylic and watercolor paintings that will be on view through May at the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community in Greenfield, represent artwork that he has done during those two years.

“I create my art to keep that recovery process open,” he said.

When Gedelman starts a painting, he doesn’t know how it will evolve, where it will end up. The work, he says, is about rediscovering his artistic voice, about transformation.

“I like that word,” he said. “The word trans: transverse, to go across; transform, to change form; transition, to go from one state to another; and the identity that I have, transgender.”

A red rising sun is present in most of Gedelman’s new work; it’s an image, he says, that represents his healing.

“It means warmth of the heart — my heart and also a heart that everyone shares. It’s a community of the heart, a community of the sun. … It’s all about new life,” he said. “The sun rose in my life March 1, 2011. That’s the day I started my healing process.”

And though he acknowledges that there are still some dark times, he says he feels tremendous joy in his recovery — a joy he has expressed in the colorful paintings he makes. He hopes others, who see his exhibit, will share that sense of elation.

“It will be a celebration,” he said.

— Kathleen Mellen

The opening reception for Zachary Gedelman’s exhibit is today from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the RLC, 74 Federal St., Greenfield. The show is part of the Peer Art Series: Life Systems. RLC hours are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 p.m.

Gedelman will hold a workshop on creating artist books April 14 from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the RLC. Participants will explore the history of artist books; make a simple thread-bound artist book; and begin illustrating the book with watercolor washes. To sign up, call 615-207-6200.

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