Gisela McDaniel

Luminous portraits of collective healing.

Gisela McDaniel (she/her) was born in 1995 in Bellevue, Nebraska, and is currently based in Detroit, Michigan.


Named as one of the Fountainhead Artists-In-Residence for 2022, a prestigious residency that has previously hosted artists such as Tschabalala Self and Lauren Halsey.

Did you know?

In May 2021 McDaniel created Sakkan Eku LA, a multimedia public art project consisting of a mural and soundscapes in Downtown Los Angeles. The project presented portraits of, and interviews with, people native to LA – sharing stories about social injustices they experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Collaborations with this artist

Practice overview

Gisela McDaniel’s lush, celebratory portraits are platforms for healing that cherish community voices. As a person of indigenous Chamorro descent and a survivor of sexual assault, lived experience is at the heart of the artist’s creative philosophy. She primarily paints women of colour, non-binary people of colour and survivors of sexual violence. Sourced by word of mouth, each model has control over their representation, from settings and poses to the inclusion of personal possessions. Thus, the act of painting becomes a transfer of power back to historically oppressed individuals. Dense layers of paint and pigment create the vibrant scenes, in which smoothly blended gradients contrast thick, sculptural masses of paint. Careful attention to colour and depth sees figures illuminated in warm, homely lighting – cosily enveloped by their surroundings.

When exhibited, McDaniel’s paintings are accompanied by motion-activated soundscapes. These recordings allow the paintings’ subjects to speak directly to viewers and share their experiences, making the artworks inseparable from the people they depict. Through this gesture, the works critique western museums that have looted artworks from indigenous communities and displayed them without relevant context. McDaniel considers her portraits ‘consensual artefacts,’ conveying oral histories that refuse to centre representation on trauma. Instead, she centres them on individuals and their intimate moments of becoming, being and healing.

"My biggest inspiration is my subjects. The grace with which they move through life inspires and amazes me. I’m deeply honored to have their trust."Gisela McDaniel