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A Fashion Exec Becomes A Hermit To Pursue Her Art 9

Ingrid Gipson was a successful Dallas fashion executive and designer in the 1980s. She left that world – and her family – behind and retreated into the woods in Oklahoma to pursue an almost obsessive drive to create.

Morrisa Maltz befriended Gipson and spent almost three years making a film about her, “Ingrid.” (It airs Thursday on “Frame of the Mind” on KERA TV.) In State of the Arts this week, I talked to the Dallas filmmaker about the reclusive artist who spends her days making ceramic art and building elaborate structures from rocks she gathers on her property.

Maltz told me that Gipson has blossomed since the film debuted. She accepts visitors and sells her artwork from her property in the Ouachita Mountain countryside. She’s even joined Facebook.

Click above to listen to our conversation, which aired on KERA FM.

Almost everyone can think of a time when they have felt so unhappy with their lives and felt the need to make big changes. But this change was truly radical. Ingrid Gipson completely cut off contact with the world. Why did she need to go to that extreme?  

MMThe choices we make as humans might not just be about that moment, or the last year. It could dig deeper, possibly into generations, as to why we’re doing what we’re doing. For Ingrid, she was born in Germany, she came from a Nazi family. She was abused at times by her father and she came from a very tough background.

  • “Ingrid” airs Thursday, Sept.12 at 10 p.m. on KERA TV.
  •  Check out the entire “Frame of Mind” season. 

How she was brought up was extreme. And I think that it effected her for the rest of her life. So I think when it comes to making the choice, it was something that she felt compelled to lead the life that she wanted to live, given so many things that had happened in her life. And not just [because] she felt fed up, but for reasons that were so much deeper than that.

And then I think on a smaller level, we’ve all felt that feeling of  needing to get away. But [this] almost feels like a life and death situation. For her, I think she felt like she could not continue moving forward as the person that she was, living this Dallas lifestyle. She was going to lose her mind if she didn’t follow a path that felt more like her. 

So this is what she needed to do, almost to save herself.


Can you describe the place where Ingrid is living?

MMIt feels a little bit like a fairy tale castle in the woods. She has built everything on her property herself. She lives deep in the forest. She’s hauled all of the rocks herself out of the woods and piece, by piece, built a house, multiple structures, storm cellars, steps. Every detail is an art piece on her property.

And she’s also done all the electrical herself.  Every bit, this woman has built herself from the ground up and taught herself how to do it.  She has her own garden, she kills her own food, so she’s living totally off the grid.

And she’s also adding to her property every day. 

Filmmaker Morrisa Maltz.

She had two children from two different fathers. And she was estranged from both of them. Was that simply because she had left and moved to the woods, or was there more to that story? 

MMShe could be so hurt by anything or anyone that cutting people off and just having animals that can’t hurt you was sort of like her way to deal with life.

But even to this day, I can’t really explain. There wasn’t a snap, or a reason. It was more of her own doing, like she just felt that what was best, was just to cut it off. And then it just kept going, is how she describes it.

How has her life changed since the film came out? 

MMShe ended up reconnecting with her sons, which made me very happy, and I think made her very happy and was really necessary.

Just like any other human, when your life feels validated in some way,  and what you’ve done feels like people pay attention to it or someone cares, it does a lot for you.

She’s honestly a totally different person. I think that she was fulfilled before, but now she’s fulfilled and happy, would be the best way to describe it .

She’s in her 70s now. This is a pretty hard life. Does she intend to stay there?

MMI think that especially since the film has come out, she has gotten older, but even more empowered to continue. She’s not leaving. I mean she was working non-stop, which  you can see in the film. But now, I’m not even sure that she sleeps. She is just continuously working even harder.