Gabrielle McNally. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Libby Serra.

Check out our Artist Spotlight — Junior Girl Libby Serra interviewed a working artist and professor in Michigan!

Gabrielle McNally is an Assistant Professor of Digital Cinema in the School of Art and Design at Northern Michigan University. She is also a mom, scholar and working artist. I got the opportunity to find out more about her passions, her work and the impact art has made on her life.

Libby Serra: When/why did you start creating?

Gabrielle McNally: I have been making stuff my whole life! I was that kid putting on plays for my class in kindergarten, writing songs on the school bus, and spending all summer with a sketchbook in my hand. I make because I’m trying to figure something out. Most of my video work focuses on something I fear and I use the creative process to work through the fear.

LS: What’s your typical art process?

GM: I usually start with a concept or idea I want to explore. Then I search for inspiration — sometimes I’m inspired by images, oftentimes phrases, rarely film/video. Once I have compiled my ideas, I start making an outline (or score) of the piece. Then I shoot, record audio, etc. Editing is a sacred process for me and where I really feel at my best. Usually the images aren’t locked in before I start working on the music. Those two processes happen simultaneously.

LS: Favorite piece of work you’ve made?

GM: I made a video about my dad’s and my relationship to the farm on which we both grew up. It was an incredibly difficult video to make because my dad became very emotional. We worked through a lot and I’m really proud of the piece it became.

LS: Favorite artist?

GM: Oh, geesh. I know it’s super cliché, but seeing Frida Kahlo’s work in person was a life-changing experience for me. I had broken my foot and was being wheeled around the gallery in a wheelchair by my boyfriend/now husband. Frida’s art was intermingled with letters she had written friends and lovers and I just felt so much of her in the room. It blew my mind.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Libby Serra.

LS: How has being a woman impacted your art?

GM: I think everyone sees the world from their own unique perspective. The intersections of gender, race, class, etc. all add up to our experience. My being a woman has impacted my art as much as my being from a rural, middle-class, Iowa farming community. It has made me who I am and affected how I see the world around me (for better or worse). But I wouldn’t change my perspective for anything. It’s what makes my art what it is.

LS: How has art impacted your life?

GM: It is my life! It has provided me connections to people I love, opportunities to travel, and keeps me centered in my own life.

LS: Can you give some advice for girls wanting to start creating?

GM: Don’t want to start creating. Just start creating! You have to want to do it for yourself or it will never happen. Don’t worry about how other people will receive your work. Make it because you HAVE TO.

LS: Can you give advice to older girls looking to start their career in art?

GM: It is never too late to do what you love. If you need to make art, figure out a way to do it, even if you have to start small. You have to start somewhere! Connecting with other artists is incredibly important, whether they are fellow students, community members, or people online. Networking and finding people with like minds and interests will get you far!

LS: Any real-life moments that changed your artistic career?

GM: I can retrace a remarkable series of events that led me to where I am today. It’s not worth stating in full here. Just know that I believe in fate for this very reason.

LS: What do you see for your future?

GM: I see more traveling and exploring. I see new realities in my life that will lead to new outlets for my work. I see my kids growing up and not needing me as much, allowing me for more time to grow back into my creative side and see where that takes me!

To see more of Gabby’s work, visit her Vimeo video page at

-Libby Serra
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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