Gayle Tanaka was born in Chicago, Illinois. She received a B.F.A. in painting from the University of Hawaii and an M.F.A. in printmaking from San Francisco State University. Tanaka has exhibited nationally, including shows at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Jewish Museum in San Francisco, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art and the Center for Photography in New York. She currently has a studio at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island, New York.