American Art Collector
ARRIVING ON THE SCENE Collector’s Focus: Emerging Artists
Rachel Li has been taking art classes since she was 13. “I’ve always had a passion for drawing," she says. She took classes at Grand Central Atelier when she was in high school and later attended its Core Program, graduating in 2018. Today, at 24, she teaches drawing and painting in the same program. “I love teaching," she admits. “I was drawn to the Core Program because they draw from casts with pencil and graphite in the first year and I wanted to study that. I didn’t think about oil painting until the second year of the program which focuses on painting."
Trained rigorously in the classical tradition, she has avoided the pitfall of imitating painters from the 19th-century ateliers. “Even if I could imitate them," she says, “I wouldn’t want to. I think the colors we use now are different and we play with paint differently."
Her oil portraits elicit a feeling rather than a narrative. “I like to pick a model who has a unique look. The model in Mary Lynn is a dancer and has a sort of masculine look to her face. I love her milky complexion and she had a sad look when she was posing. I think art speaks more of the artist than the model. When I painted that, I was struggling with my career, just getting out of school and trying to figure things out. The painting is a reflection of that," she says. “I love the figure and portraits and want to capture different types of people. I want to paint something very beautiful—calm, bright, not too dark—that has a feeling behind it. Eventually I’d like to do bigger paintings with more figures. For now I’ll just keep painting and get to different levels. It’s never ending."
O’Neil Scott attended Syracuse University on a football scholarship, taking art classes which he had to drop because the long studio sessions conflicted with his training schedule. He majored in information technology and later earned an MBA at the University of Delaware. Self-taught and practical, he supplements his art income with IT and other work, but his passion for art and for the people he paints, takes priority.
His large portrait and figure paintings address the contemporary human condition and draw the viewer into a feeling of empathy with the sitter, a fellow human being with whom they might hesitate to engage in their daily life. Hesitation addresses the issue directly. “It’s about skin color and how it affects how people think about you," he explains. “It influences the way you’re treated. People see you and there’s a slight hesitation because of the skin color."
Scott grew up in a poor environment in Jamaica before coming to America and playing football. In 2018, Carolyn Kramer gave him an exhibition at her gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts. At the time he wrote, “I have experienced a large amount of injustice just being a black male in America. As a marginalized American, I think I have a higher sense of empathy for others. I easily relate to situations around equal rights, whether it’s Black Lives Matter, women’s rights or any other civil rights
movement. Injustice for some Americans is an injustice for all Americans. We can only move forward together, recognizing that we all come from one race, the human race.”
Zienna Brunsted Stewart has studied with Odd Nerdum, Daniel Sprick and Sean Cheetham. “I learned a lot from them technique-wise, theory-wise and subject matter-wise," she says. “And from the way they live their lives as people, what they surround themselves with. They have a way of painting portraits or figures that breathe life in a way that they seem more alive than you do standing in front of it.”
She was inspired to paint Afloat visiting hot springs with a friend. “I struggled over painting it,” she says. “I’ve learned so much since then. I wanted a light body against a dark background but it wasn’t working. One day a shaft of light came through the backdoor of my studio and highlighted part of the painting. It was a happy accident.
“At the time, I thought I was painting dreams—sleeping dreams," she continues. “But I realized I was so wrong. There are so many states in our minds when we are awake that can be as abstract as a dream or a memory. Just living, there is so much everywhere. We’re constantly absorbing information through our senses. A painter can get lost in visual senses, though. You need to use all of your senses. I want to live more dynamically. I’m trying to be more cognizant."
When Jesse Lane drew a portrait of his wife, Kinsey, with water running down her face, she said, “You could be ‘Jesse Lane the guy who does water portraits!’” He is now the guy who does water portraits, not in oil, but in the difficult medium of colored pencil. “When I was in high school I saw student work in colored pencil and I said, ‘I want to be able to do that,’” he says. He builds up very light layers of pencil and adds color to the passages of water making the dry medium appear liquid. “People underestimate colored pencil,” he explains.
“I want to be able to make my subjects relatable. I isolate them, showing a small portion of their bodies. I take that one thing that makes them special,” Lane says. “In Surrender I highlighted the curve of
the model’s right arm and shoulder and then his left arm and hand which create an opposite curve. His eyes are closed which creates an inward feeling of him inside his own thoughts. The water is renewing, washing away the old. I want to tell stories without giving away the whole story.” Part of his own story is his letting go of a past in which he struggled with dyslexia and consequent feelings of inferiority, and moving on to new things—like becoming a full-time, award-winning artist.
In the pages of this special section are works by some of today’s emerging talents, who are just starting to forge their paths in the art world. Their subjects, mediums and styles are diverse, and they highlight the unique points of view of each artist. This provides collectors with a wealth of material to select from, and shows there is a bright future ahead for up-and-comers.
PoetsArtists includes a number of members who are emerging artists, including Lane, Megan Elizabeth Read and Junyi Liu.
Lane says, “My work captures intimate moments and gives glimpses of an inner private world…providing a window to our own introspective thoughts and our own mystery.” Abyss was inspired by falling in