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Painting it softly 

Pistols give Galusha shot at top.

click to enlarge ARMED AND READY: Artist Emily Galusha is poised for success.
  • ARMED AND READY: Artist Emily Galusha is poised for success.

Emily Galusha has exhibited her work in a fine art gallery only once, in March at Gallery 26. But she thinks she knows why her work is so well known that she was selected by readers this year as the best artist. It's the guns.

Galusha, 31, likes the form of the pistol, the chamber, the handle, the barrel. "The mechanics are kind of sexy," she says. But she's not making a statement about violence or death; her guns are combined with softer things — they shoot not bullets but women's lovely arms, or they're rendered in soft pastels, or an octopus' tentacles are wrapped around them. (Her Christmas card combined a gun with a snowflake and the words "Let it Snow or Else," and she's had some fun writing about the "caliber" of her paintings.) "There's so much you can do" with the pistol, she explains.

But she is not trying to be controversial. Some people think nudes are controversial, she says; she thinks nudes are beautiful. "Pistols are my nudes."

Galusha, who is also a graphic artist, is as articulate as she is pretty, and it is appropriate to comment on her looks, because she is also a model. She is also unassuming and honest. She does many things — designs product labels, does magazine and other forms of illustration, paints, sculpts, models — comparing herself to a pocket knife. When she worked full time as creative director for Arkansas Advertising Federation, she was like such a knife — "with only one blade being used."

Galusha was born in Little Rock into an artistic family. Her mother, Norma Galusha, is a painter, ceramist and teaches art at Episcopal Cathedral School. Her brother Les is a well-known Little Rock painter and film editor at Jones Productions and her brother Russell is with See Spot Run Productions. "And my dad [Harry] is a master doodle artist," she added. She was raised in a "very creative, motivating and imaginative environment."

Galusha graduated from the University of Arkansas with a bachelor's in fine art in 2002. Then, she said, "I started painting images that had a Southern feel." Her mixed-media work "Red Dirt," which superimposes a baby dress on a rusty background dotted with illustrations of animals, and which is wrapped in string tied with a horseshoe, reflects her barefoot childhood tomboy summers. "Cotton," another work featuring a baby dress — she collects them — was selected for the Arkansas Arts Center's Delta Exhibition three years ago. It was about that time, she said, that she started "closing doors" to pursuits that took her away from art (she once considered becoming a dentist). She now has an art blog, a web page and a Facebook page; she's a savvy promoter.

Galusha will exhibit paintings from her pistol series and work she does on small wooden blocks in a show called "Southern Stash" in November at the Historic Arkansas Museum. She is represented by Gallery 26 and sells items at Box Turtle in Hillcrest.

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