November, 2014

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  • Boston Art Fair 2014

    The Boston International Fine Art Show is going on this weekend.  I make a point to go every year-as far as ‘traditional’ painting goes, this is the best art fair in New England.  It’s a cross-section of what dealers all over currently have on exhibit, whether by living painters, etchings and prints, or some very interesting historical work.

    It’s of huge importance to see paintings in person- let alone to appreciate the technique, color and mood of a picture or sculpture, you just can’t feel the presence of a work in reproduction.  When visiting a museum, more often than not, the paintings that give me a gut, visceral response are not necessarily the ones that look good printed on a postcard.  Conversely, sometimes I’ll see a painting I like online or printed before I see it in person, and when I’m eventually able to track it down, looking at it in the flesh gives me a resounding meh.  Increasingly, these days people just look at paintings online- and often just on their 4 inch phone screen.

    It goes further than that, though- through the advances of technology, people have started to judge work by what it looks like online, not what it looks like in person.  Contemporary painters are striving to get work done quickly, and something may look far more painterly and interesting in a photograph than it actually is.   Even painters that work without using any photographic reference often strive for a photographic aesthetic, or a certain ‘look’.  As someone particularly interested in the technical aspects of painting, this is a huge loss- and you really can’t get these concepts without spending time with pictures face to face.  I looked at Velazquez in books for years, but really didn’t get him at all until I saw his works together in person.

    Art fairs like these are a rare opportunity to not only see work by living painters from outside of your circle without visiting all of the galleries and their respective cities, but to see what lesser known paintings have come back onto the market from private collections, a brief window before disappearing again into peoples homes.  Unfortunately my photos from the fair came out terribly, so I’ll pepper this post with a couple images from last year.

     

    The Ocean, Frederick J Waugh 39.5x49.5

    The Ocean, Frederick Judd Waugh 39.5×49.5″

     

    Back in February I went to the Palm Beach Art fair with Ben Fenske- we split up and went through the show separately, when we met up we both mentioned this painting first as the standout from the fair; out of hundreds (thousands?) of paintings.  This is not entirely a coincidence- this is a technically virtuosic painting, Waugh at the height of his powers, and not a well known one of his works.   Thickly painted, you just have to see this in the flesh, deftly painted mostly with the palette knife.  I had previously seen it in Boston at BIFAS 2013, one of the few paintings I remember clearly after my visit.  If you’re in Bryn Mawr, you can still see it at Avery Galleries, before it disappears again into someone’s home.

     

    Dusk over Gloucester Harbor, George William Sotter 26.25x32"

    Dusk over Gloucester Harbor, George William Sotter 26.25×32″

     

    The above painting, which was also at Avery Galleries, has since sold.  If you want to see it, well, you’d have to make friends with whoever bought it.  Good luck.  Again, the photo doesn’t really do the picture justice- Graphically, strongly drawn, the picture had a unity of light and strong effect not unlike Monet- and a bit more interesting broken color than you can see above.  This is a museum quality painting by a lesser known Pennsylvania Impressionist.

     

     

    Woman in a Blue Kimono, Frank Benson 1902 30x25"

    Woman in a Blue Kimono, Frank Benson 1902 30×25″

     

    The Frank Benson above is currently owned by Vose Galleries in Boston. They’re the oldest gallery in America, started in 1841.  They have a great DeCamp and a very strong Paxton out this year, though neither are currently on their website.

    They are currently showing the below Aldo Hibbard, a particularly strong one of his snow scenes-

     

    Canadian Rockies, Banff, Alberta, Aldro Hibbard 40x50"

    Canadian Rockies, Banff, Alberta, Aldro Hibbard 40×50″

     

    There’s fairs like these that happen all over and these are just a few examples of why visiting these smaller art fairs, or even a small local museum rather than a major one can be worth it.  It’s really difficult to judge what works you respond to by a painter  -living or dead- without seeing them up close.  Writing about this was brought to mind when last week someone told me that one of my paintings looked better in person.  I think that’s a fine compliment.

    I’ll go back to the fair today to see if I missed anything and try to snap a few better images- if any come out I’ll edit them into this post.

  • Dalai Lama Portrait

    Late last year I was commissioned by The Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT to do a portrait of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama for the center, and to be presented to the Dalai Lama during his visit to Boston, his 3rd public event with the center at MIT.

    After many iterations, this is the final painting, 24×20″-

     

    24x20"

     

    During the event the portrait was privately presented to HHDL, and the center asked for him to do a blessing and write on the portrait.  The portrait, with the Dalai Lama’s writing, will remain part of the Center’s collection at MIT.   Here is a couple of very nice images of the moment:

     

    HHDL-writing

     

     

    HHDL-writing2

     

  • FAA at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts

    This past summer I taught a course for high-schoolers at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens, NY.  The class was a collaboration between Exploring the Arts, a non-profit educational foundation founded by Tony Bennett and his wife, Susan Benedetto and The Florence Academy of Art, where I went to school and used to teach in Italy.

    I jumped at the chance to teach a sight-size drawing class to high schoolers.  The Frank Sinatra School, both through its founding principles and support from ETA is able to give its students opportunities far outside of a ‘normal’ high school art, music, or dance class.  When I visited the last spring school, I walked into a sophomore year art class where they were discussing the concept of the Sublime during the Romantic period.  This is a public high school, not a liberal arts college.

    The Florence Academy has been working for 25 years now to bring traditional drawing and painting techniques back in to the forefront- a skill based education was something I was pining for as a student, and back in the late 90’s it was very hard to find anyone offering classes of the sort.  I was very lucky to have ended up finding the school while I was in Florence, and thankfully these days skill-based drawing and painting is coming back into the spotlight.  After many years, they are opening their first branch in America in the new year, at MANA Contemporary, just across the hudson from NYC.

    Here are some images from the class:

     

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    drawing

    Financing-1

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    I went to great efforts to set the room and pose up exactly as the school does in Florence- lighting, model, easels, and running through the particulars of the Sight-Size technique.  Each of the students were given the tools we use for observation and measuring- plumb lines, mirrors, and plenty of examples around the room.

     

    DSC_0057

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    At the end of the last day we had a short final critique, put everyone’s work up to take a look at-

    critique2

    critique

     

    Although the course was only 5 days the students got a lot done.  They did very well.  For many of them, it was their very first experience working from the live model.

    I can only hope that techniques in observational drawing and painting continue to become more common, and especially for younger students.  For dance or music, we often have kids in serious classes long before 10 years old, but we start artistic training late these days- but somehow parents have forgotten that great artists like Anthony Van Dyck is thought to have started his training by 10 or 11.

    Introducing classes like this at the high school level is an important step in the right direction.

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