After Pratt, Galanes returned to Buffalo to work as a freelance illustrator. She also began volunteering at the Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo to give back to a place she had spent so much time as a child. After a year, when asked to paint a mural, Galanes readily agreed—even if she didn’t know how. At first, she painted at night when she could figure it out with no one watching. But when the kids would wake up in the morning, they would give her an earful of comments and criticism. She loved the pushback, and soon was painting in the busiest parts of the day, with children and staff watching.
Galanes recognized how important the murals were, and how seriously the children took them. Sometimes the hospital was the last space the children in it would see. Galanes was painting a landscape with a giraffe when a young girl from the oncology ward, Brianna, told her she didn’t like the mural: there were no bugs in it. Galanes noticed that girl had stickers of bugs on her IV pole, images of bugs on her clothes, bug plush toys, and had made drawings of bugs.
“When children have lost control of their lives, they attach themselves to something. And she attached herself to bugs—the bigger and the scarier, the better,” Galanes says. “And the control she had was—she would show you a bug and you'd get scared, and she liked that response.” Together, the two researched the kinds of bugs that lived with giraffes, and Brianna fell in love with the dung beetle, which found its way into the mural. Now, each mural Galanes makes for a children’s hospital has a bug in it—for Brianna.
Galanes’s interest in abstraction also began in these murals: in the blobs of color that made up the background layers of her paintings. In a coffee shop one day, she recognized something in these shapes. She told the TEDx audience: “I saw beauty and deformity in this image. They weren’t separate.” By moving past representation, she could ask questions that a viewer feels first before they think.
My Mark Matters, the program Galanes founded in 2011, continues the project of dignifying and revealing the inherent value of people through art. It began as an exercise to show the amount of attention that went into a one-inch square of one of Galanes’s drawings and a way to demonstrate value in composition. As Galanes ran these workshops, she realized that participants were responding to something deeper: what it means to sit with something or someone for one minute, as opposed to five minutes, or ten.
To go beyond the surface of something is also to push past our fear of it. When you spend time with Galanes’s work you begin asking profound—and maybe scary—questions: what if we treated each other as fully human? To spend time with Galanes’s work you’ll see why she also inspires awe and wonder.
We invite you to come and interact with Galanes, as well as artists Max Collins and Phyllis Thompson, during their residencies at Albright-Knox Northland through September 12, 2021. In order to ensure a safe environment for all, we encourage you to review our Courtesy Code and reserve your visit date and time prior to your arrival.