In­ter­pret­ing Life

American Art Collector - - Special Preview - BY JOHN O'HERN

The Ro­man gen­eral Sci­pio Africanus (236-183 BCE) is re­ported to have said he was never less at leisure than when at leisure, nor less lonely than when alone. The An­glo-Irish es­say­ist Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) tweaked the idea a bit when he wrote, “Wise peo­ple are never less alone than when they are alone.”

Con­tem­po­rary Ir­ish­man Nigel Cox ex­plores soli­tude in his paint­ings, and he is care­ful to elicit the pos­i­tive as­pect of the ex­pe­ri­ence as op­posed to the neg­a­tive feel­ing of lone­li­ness. His sub­jects are caught in a mo­ment alone in a fea­ture­less en­vi­ron­ment—in­di­vid­u­als plucked from their ev­ery­day lives and ca­pa­ble of be­ing set down in an­other, com­plete in them­selves and with the abil­ity to re­spond to new stim­uli.

Cox ex­pe­ri­enced the fea­ture­less land­scape and ethe­real light of both poles as the ra­dioman on the three-year, 100,000-mile Trans­globe Ex­pe­di­tion, from 1979 to 1982. In Clar­ity, the fig­ure walks con­fi­dently through the in­fi­nite space, grounded by her shadow.

In Aron Wiesen­feld’s The Ca­noe, two fig­ures glide along the edge of a dark wood, sep­a­rated by the length of the ca­noe as well as by gen­der and race but united in their jour­ney. Wiesen­feld says of his paint­ings, “I be­gan to think of paint­ings as an ex­pres­sion of the un­con­scious, or that they can be ob­jects of med­i­ta­tion, spec­u­la­tion and much more.”

He con­tin­ues, “I look at Hop­per and see the meta­phys­i­cal. Most see his paint­ings as ma­te­ri­al­is­tic beau­ti­ful light. In the world of the paint­ing the realm of the spirit is in the dark cor­ners. It’s not vis­i­ble. Ei­ther you feel it or you don’t. My job is to present the im­ages and to sug­gest what they are and what they can pos­si­bly rep­re­sent. Not ev­ery­one’s go­ing to be of a like mind. That’s fine.”

In Lee Al­ban’s Main­te­nance and Re­pair, the fig­ures are bathed in light, rep­re­sent­ing not just them­selves but the strength and tal­ent of the women who en­tered the work­force dur­ing World War II when the male work­ers went off to war. Al­ban un­der­scores the his­tor­i­cal ref­er­ence by dress­ing the fig­ures in the work clothes that re­call the iconic We Can Do It poster cre­ated by J. Howard Miller for West­ing­house in 1942.

Trained clas­si­cally at the Schuler School of Fine Arts in Bal­ti­more, Al­ban is equally at home paint­ing land­scapes, still lifes and por­traits. His work is the­matic, of­ten, cen­ter­ing on the peo­ple who made Amer­ica—from Na­tive Amer­i­cans to con­tem­po­rary work­ers. The fig­ures in Main­te­nance and Re­pair are painted with the same at­ten­tion to de­tail as the lo­co­mo­tive be­hind them, sug­gest­ing a sim­i­lar strength. He has painted them, how­ever, not as sym­bols, but as in­di­vid­u­als, each with her own per­son­al­ity.

Ed Co­p­ley has painted two young girls in the cos­tumes of an ear­lier pe­riod, one con­cerned by The Torn Hat and the other per­haps con­sol­ing her and try­ing to dis­tract her. The girls are in soft shadow and back­lit, posed in a toy land set­ting—the torn hat sug­gest­ing that mis­for­tune can oc­cur in the most idyl­lic places.

Co­p­ley has painted with oils on a cop­per panel, a lengthy process, as he has to al­low each layer of paint to dry be­fore re­turn­ing to the paint­ing. He notes that he ap­plies red last since it takes the long­est to dry. Paint­ing on cop­per be­gan in the late 16th cen­tury and their lu­mi­nous qual­ity and color re­main vi­brant.

In Sabo­teur, Bry­ony Bensly demon­strates her de­sire “to find com­mon ground for dis­course, a plat­form upon which we can con­nect” not only with other hu­mans, but with other species. She says her new work, which fea­tures en­dan­gered species, “is fo­cused on the pre­cious­ness of this planet and the life it sus­tains as we face en­vi­ron­men­tal and po­lit­i­cal chal­lenges. I wish to cel­e­brate all the beauty that sur­rounds us—which in turn, re­flects all that is within.”

In Sabo­teur, a young woman gathers foxes into her sun­lit shel­ter as the

“Col­lect paint­ings that have a strong and unique voice and that make you feel some­thing. If a paint­ing elic­its an emo­tion, if it calms you or up­lifts you, or if you res­onate with the char­ac­ters in the paint­ings, that is a good sign you should live with that paint­ing.”

— Sarah Stieber, artist

un­sus­pect­ing hounds dash by into the shadow. Con­fi­dent in her­self and her be­lief in the sanc­tity of all life, the girl smiles hap­pily that she has thwarted at least this one fox­hunt.

In Santa Jus­ti­cia, Patrick McGrath Muñiz makes the cen­tral fig­ure, alone in her sanc­tity, a metaphor for a larger con­cept. He ex­plains, “Artists started de­pict­ing Lady Jus­tice blind­folded from the 16th cen­tury on­ward. A sym­bol of im­par­tial­ity. Be­fore this, a blind­fold would have sig­ni­fied fool­ish­ness or ig­no­rance. In this re-in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Lady Jus­tice, by be­ing blind­folded, she is un­aware of her cur­rent predica­ment.” To­day’s en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial chaos threat­ens a world in which Jus­tice, al­ways an ideal, can’t pre­vail. Of the many im­ages threat­en­ing Jus­tice, Muñiz cites, “A Trump-like boy dressed in an ex­ec­u­tive suit looks at­ten­tively at his phone while ig­nor­ing the scene. Be­hind him, the Statue of Lib­erty un­der wa­ter and an oil­rig in the hori­zon can be seen. Cor­po­ra­tions and profit have re­placed lib­erty and democ­racy.” The nov­el­ist Joseph Con­rad wrote, “The end (goal) of art is to fig­ure the hid­den mean­ing of things and not their ap­pear­ance; for in this pro­found truth lies their true re­al­ity, which does not ap­pear in their ex­ter­nal out­lines.”

In the fol­low­ing pages of this spe­cial sec­tion of fig­u­ra­tive art­work are con­tem­po­rary ex­am­ples of the genre in clas­sic and mod­ern tech­niques. The artists share their in­spi­ra­tions, while deal­ers dis­cuss the im­por­tance of col­lect­ing fig­u­ra­tive works.

Lot­ton Gallery in Chicago rep­re­sents

sev­eral sought-af­ter fig­u­ra­tive artists. No­tably, among them are Ma­rina Ma­rina of St. Peters­burg, Rus­sia, and Lee Guk Hyun of Seoul, South Korea.

“Ma­rina Ma­rina’s paint­ing Soft Evening shows her del­i­cate bal­ance of sen­sual fig­ures and finely in­tri­cate fab­rics,” says gallery di­rec­tor Christina Fran­zoso. “Lee Guk Hyun tran­scends med­i­ta­tion in his paint­ing The Girl in the Dream, go­ing be­yond philo­soph­i­cal con­cepts to Nir­vana.” Sarah Stieber has found the prac­tice of paint­ing “strong, con­fi­dent and vi­brant char­ac­ters has man­i­fested those char­ac­ter­is­tics into my own re­al­ity and re­la­tion­ships.” Her hope is that her art­work will in­spire peo­ple to live their most ex­pressed and authen­tic lives.

Stieber’s Su­per­hero se­ries, which in­cludes her paint­ings Amer­i­can Dream and God­dess on a Good Day, de­picts magic

“Choos­ing your art should be sim­i­lar to how you choose your mu­sic; an es­cape from re­al­ity for a mo­ment, leav­ing you feel­ing bet­ter for hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced it.”

— J.M. Bro­drick, artist

through su­per­pow­ers. “Us­ing the visual lan­guage of prisms pro­pel­ling out of eyes and hands, su­per­heroes fly­ing through the air, and fierce ladies shoot­ing sparkles and swirls,” Stieber says, “I aim to cel­e­brate the very real magic that we can cul­ti­vate and em­anate from our minds and bod­ies into this world.”

In her paint­ings, J.M. Bro­drick works to­ward merg­ing re­al­ism with the beauty of ab­strac­tion. She adds, “I like to play one color off the other in harmony much as a com­poser would use com­bi­na­tions of notes to form a sym­phony, and then pull ev­ery­thing to­gether for a strong fin­ish.”

Bro­drick’s new­est works are avail­able at Cole Gallery in Ed­monds, Wash­ing­ton, where she will also have an ex­hi­bi­tion in Fe­bru­ary 2019.

Nyle Gor­don’s re­cent paint­ings have fo­cused on “cap­tur­ing the dis­tinc­tive no­bil­ity of men and women in work­ing re­galia.” Real peo­ple who are la­bor­ing side by side also have in­spired his pieces. In terms of tech­nique, Gor­don is drawn to ex­press­ing emo­tions through ges­ture, line and form.

“I like cap­tur­ing a mo­ment in time that tells a story, more of­ten hu­mor­ously as Nor­man Rock­well in­spires,” says artist Loretta McNair. “For col­lec­tors who are mu­sic afi­ciona­dos of the clas­sic rock/ pop genre, I’m pas­sion­ately work­ing on an on­go­ing se­ries of paint­ings that tell the sto­ries in those songs. That is a prospect im­pos­si­ble to com­plete in one life­time, but I’ll com­plete as many as I can in mine.”

Suzy Hart of­ten turns to hu­man­is­tic top­ics in her fig­u­ra­tive paint­ings. For in­stance, in her piece Wit­ness, she de­picts a fig­ure that she de­scribes as the “Ev­ery­man

stand­ing as shocked wit­ness to de­struc­tion and chaos.” Hart con­tin­ues, “He is wit­ness to any war, any hu­man atroc­ity. He is ‘us.’ The ‘Them’ are out of range of at­tack. I find a re­lease from in­tel­lec­tu­al­iza­tion in paint­ings that have hard themes; tech­nique and fin­ish give way to a per­sonal free­dom to work the paint just to the point I like, and not be­yond.”

Other works, in­clud­ing Where is thy brother? and Jojo, hone in on emo­tions such as rage, shame and sor­row in the for­mer piece and the com­ing of age through the tran­si­tion from girl to woman in the lat­ter.

Joe Shan­non has been an out­doors­man his en­tire life, and he has spent his time hunt­ing, fish­ing and con­nect­ing with na­ture. “I love folk mu­sic, so in Two Singers: Pete Seeger and Pal, I honor one of my he­roes in a nat­u­ral set­ting. And I’ve heard the songs of coy­otes and even wolves who are kin­dred spir­its,” he says. “Walt’s Bass re­calls the good times I had with one of my old­est friends with whom I worked at the Smith­so­nian. We fished and hunted to­gether for many years. These paint­ings re­flect my deep love of mu­sic and na­ture.”

Shan­non’s work in­cludes not only fig­ure paint­ings, but land­scapes, por­traits and ab­stract pieces. He has had paint­ings rep­re­sented in ma­jor mu­se­ums, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Gallery, and nu­mer­ous pri­vate col­lec­tions.

New Eng­land artist Almerinda Silva be­lieves some col­lec­tors are par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in provoca­tive paint­ings with a va­ri­ety of in­ter­pre­ta­tions that stim­u­late

“If you col­lect for in­vest­ment, find an art con­sul­tant with ex­pe­ri­ence and art knowl­edge. You can also in­tensely study the his­tory, the unique­ness

and back­ground of the artist and the art piece.”

— Zu­lia Go­tay An­der­son, artist

con­ver­sa­tion. In Red Ca­naries she en­vi­sioned at least two sharply con­trast­ing view­points, with each fur­ther­more be­ing ei­ther lit­eral or metaphor­i­cal.

As Almerinda ex­plains, “Is the young girl tak­ing the birds out of the cage to free them or putting them back in to keep them safe? Per­haps the sub­ject her­self feels im­pris­oned, as sug­gested by the stark walls and crossed arms. Al­ter­na­tively, she might be ap­pre­hen­sive about tran­si­tion­ing from her fa­mil­iar ado­les­cence to the un­known of adult­hood, re­treat­ing to her con­fined but safe space, as sym­bol­ized by the bird in its cage.”

The fig­u­ra­tive work of Chantel Lynn Bar­ber is more than just a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of what she is paint­ing. Her unique style is what gives her work en­ergy, depth and emo­tion, such as in her paint­ing of an as­pir­ing bal­le­rina ti­tled Shine. These at­tributes of her paint­ings ex­ist be­cause, as she says, “I am truly ex­cited ev­ery time I pick up a paint­brush!”

In her art­work, Maxine Smith finds “Im­per­fec­tion is per­fec­tion.” She adds, “I am not try­ing to paint a re­al­is­tic por­trait, what I do is al­ways styl­ized; for me that is what is in­ter­est­ing. Oth­er­wise, the cam­era or a post­card will do.” Many of her pieces are of peo­ple that she has met, some­times in her day-to-day life and other times while she is trav­el­ing. Of­ten the peo­ple be­come

quite dif­fer­ent from the per­son she has met, but the work is in­spired by a mo­ment that she needed to cap­ture.

“I am so­cial. Very so­cial,” says Scotts­dale, Ari­zona-based artist Priscilla Nel­son. “So, nat­u­rally, I en­joy watch­ing peo­ple and how they por­tray them­selves. From tat­toos to cloth­ing—in and out of wa­ter—to the gar­ments and ma­te­ri­als they select. What are they say­ing about them­selves? What im­pres­sions do I and other view­ers get? Wouldn’t it be fun to know if what they are try­ing to por­tray, the viewer ac­tu­ally gets?!” Zu­lia Go­tay An­der­son, rep­re­sented by Jane Hamil­ton Fine Art in Tuc­son, Ari­zona, has been paint­ing the fig­ure for 40 years and still finds it chal­leng­ing. “I choose to paint my fig­ures in an ab­stract way, and from my imag­i­na­tion,”

she says. “This gives me more free­dom to play with the forms and col­ors and to fol­low my artis­tic in­stincts.”

De­picted in Mo­ment For My­self is “a woman en­joy­ing the sim­ple act of comb­ing her hair while hav­ing a mo­ment for her­self,” the artist ex­plains. “I wanted the fig­ure to be in­te­grated into the back­ground, so I used curved lines, round shapes and col­ors that are echoed in the back­ground. The imag­i­na­tive fig­ure and the back­ground were done with the same in­ten­sity and pas­sion, and both are uni­fied and are im­por­tant parts of the paint­ing.”

Artist Troy Collins says, “I have al­ways loved paint­ing a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent sub­ject mat­ter but am most known for my land­scapes fea­tur­ing aspen trees with bright col­ors and my paint­ings of the Amer­i­can flag. I have been striv­ing to be­come more di­verse with the sub­ject mat­ter that I paint, and my love of fig­u­ra­tive work has, and al­ways will be, some­thing that brings me joy. These pieces still are im­pres­sion­is­tic and are cre­ated with my sig­na­ture style: us­ing thick paint and fo­cus­ing on edge­work to con­vey the feel­ing of a fig­ure as op­posed to a de­tailed rep­re­sen­ta­tion.”

“Fig­u­ra­tive work that de­mands the viewer’s at­ten­tion, should not only cap­ture the essence of the sub­ject, but also pro­claim that the artist had fun paint­ing it.”

— Chantel Lynn Bar­ber, artist

1. Ar­ca­dia Con­tem­po­rary, The Ca­noe, oil on can­vas,23 x 42", by Aron Wisen­feld.

96. EVOKE Con­tem­po­rary, Santa Jus­ti­cia, oil and gold leaf on panel, 23½ x 11½", by Patrick McGrath Muñiz. 7. Ed Co­p­ley, The Torn Hat, oil on cop­per, 8 x 6" 8. Lot­ton Gallery, The Girl in the Dream, oil on can­vas, 24 x 18", by Lee Guk Hyun. 9. Sarah Stieber, God­dess on a Good Day, acrylic on can­vas, 42 x 54" 10. J.M. Bro­drick, The Pol­lock, acrylic on linen, 24 x 30"

J.M. Bro­drick, Cats in the Cra­dle, acrylic on linen, 24 x 18" 13. Ri­ley Doyle, Re­mem­ber, oil on panel, 45 x 72"

11. Sarah Stieber, Hell Ya, acrylic on can­vas, 48 x 96" 12.

oil, 24 x 36"15. Sarah Stieber, Amer­i­can Dream, acrylic on can­vas, 42 x 36" 16. J.M. Bro­drick, Win­dow Shop­ping in Paris, acrylic on linen, 24 x 20" 17. Mark Hunter, Nina on Wicker Chair, oil on can­vas, 30 x 30"

14. Nyle Gor­don, The New Guy,

18. Nyle Gor­don, Ruby, oil, 28 x 20" 19. Loretta McNair, The Wait­ing is the Hard­est Part,Two Singers: Pete Seeger and Pal, acrylic on board, 18 x 24" 22. Maxine Smith, woman in fur trimmed coat,

oil on can­vas, 30 x 24" 20. Suzy Hart, Wit­ness, oil on linen, 32 x 28" 21. Joe Shan­non,oil on can­vas, 40 x 30"

24. Suzy Hart, Jojo, oil on linen, 22 x 20" 25. Priscilla Nel­son, Blue on Blue, oil on can­vas, 24 x 36" 26. Suzy Hart, Joe Shan­non, Walt’s Bass, acrylic on board, 24 x 24" 28. Maxine Smith, woman in peas­ant blouse, oil on can­vas, 40 x 30"30. Priscilla Nel­son, Swim to Me, oil on can­vas, 30 x 48"

23. Almerinda Silva, Red Ca­naries, oil on linen, 20 x 16" Where is thy brother?, oil on linen, 22 x 20" 27.29. Chantel Lynn Bar­ber, Shine, acrylic on panel, 12 x 9"

oil on board, 12 x 9" 35. Troy Collins, Time­less, oil on can­vas, 16 x 12"

oil on can­vas, 36 x 30" 34. Troy Collins, Light in Blue,

33. Zu­lia Go­tay An­der­son, Mo­ment For My­self,

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