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 Gale Jaxon Surface  (1907 - 2000)

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Lived/Active: West Virginia      Known for: folk art style landscape with figure painting, church murals

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:

Gale Jaxson Surface

Date of Birth:  December 4, 1907

Date of Death:  January 22, 2000

Home Town:  Richwood, WV

Gale Surface was born in Saxmon Holler, West Virginia.  His father, John Surface, was a coal miner who died when Gale was a teenager. 

Gale began painting at a very young age.  One of the first paintings, done when he was 12 years old, is of a ship in the ocean.  He did not attend any art classes, or have any schooling whatsoever. He made his first paint brush by cutting hair from a cat. 

Leaving home, he traveled around the United States by hopping railroad cars and staying in “hobo jungles.”  He painted signs on windows in small towns to survive the Depression of the 1930s.  He lived in Greenwich Village, New York for a period of time before returning to Charleston, West Virginia to work as a machinist.

Surface was ambidextrous and intended an air of ambiguity to be conveyed in his paintings. One of his paintings can be viewed in the Nicholas County Courthouse, and he also did murals in local churches and public buildings.  My favorite mural painting, entitled “The Ascension of Christ” hangs in the United Methodist Church, Fenwick, WV.

Sunrise Museum in Charleston, WV has paintings by Surface in the collection.

Written and submitted by a grandson of the Artist

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