The artwork of celebrity athletes went on display in Los Angeles prior to the 2014 ESPY Awards. The exhibit will also be touring several cities in the United States (New York and Miami) and Europe. For more, visit www.Athletes4Art.com.
Meet the Man Behind the Camera, Sparky Campanella
By Jana Ritter
As a person, Sparky Campanella is as compelling as his name would promise and as an artist, he combines the humble brilliance of his signature photography. Minimalist yet abstract, 2 dimensional yet bold, he has mastered the reconciliation between man vs. nature and shows us beauty in the mundane reality of everyday.
He first discovered his power to harness the world from behind a camera at the rare, wee age of three. But even more rare is that a Pittsburgh bred boy, raised on steel minded values and practical career paths, would pursue any artistic passion - period. In fact, Sparky did a full circle from following his father's footsteps into the business world, Duke undergrad, Stanford MBA, then hitting success during the peak of the dot com hey days - before finally reigniting his passion for photography. Sparky Campanella is an anomaly among artists and certainly makes a lasting impression when you meet him.
A lot of us don't remember much about our toddler days, but you distinctly remember "that moment" when you first picked up a camera at the age of three?
Absolutely. I remember looking through the lens and being amazed at how different everything looked than it did in real life. What I also remember is that first sense of the power the camera gave me to see the world from my own perspective.
But even after that early enlightenment, you pretty much went in the opposite direction from photography. Why is that?
Well anyone who grew up in Pittsburgh can tell you that it's not exactly a Mecca for the arts. My Dad was an engineer, my Mom a homemaker and everyone there just lived a traditional kind of life. In fact, I don't think I knew any artists at all growing up. But my Mom always inspired that part of me though, she had an artistic side, always flower arranging and an eye for seeing beauty in things. She would take us on walks just to show us the simple fascinations like a running stream or the juxtaposition of a house built right at the edge of a running waterfall.
But then there was the other side of my upbringing, that inspired a whole other set of interests and as far as careers plans, it was just a given that I would do something practical like my dad. So I started working when I was pretty young, went off to study economics at Duke, then got my MBA at Stanford, which put me right in the heart of the dotcom boom and immediately started my corporate career.
What finally made you do the complete 180 from Silicon Valley success to emerging artist?
My switch was based on a number of things, mainly that I was feeling my mortality and really wanted to connect with people artistically, instead of only through the left-brain domain of business. In 2005, I moved to NYC and that really helped to put me on a new path. I finally found that courage to leave behind financial security, start at the bottom of ladder again and commit to a career driven by passion not paycheck. There's a lot of who we are that's formed during childhood and I feel lucky to have indulged my childhood interests in business and technology with my first career, and now I'm furthering my love of image-making as my second career.
You developed a style that put you on the map pretty quickly with a number of solo and group exhibitions across the country. Especially your horizon series, tell us about that.
Again, I credit my upbringing for my appreciation of the symbiosis between battling concepts. Man vs. nature, city vs. country, practical vs. abstract. That duplicity in me is reflected in my photography, as any art is an expression of the artist. The horizon series really focuses on the "conceptual standoff" between man and nature, equally divided by the horizon of the frame. It was actually Hiroshi Sugimoto who coined that process of equal bifurcatation of images to create a horizon line. His seascapes series have inspired a lot of artists; even U2 used his work for their "No Line On the Horizon" album cover.
I added my own technique using a 4 x 5 camera to sharpen the focus on both the foreground and background, which flattens the image to look more like a painting than a photograph. I also print at the scale of a painting, usually 40 x 50 inches, and then use matte paper, which further abstracts the image towards painterly interpretations as opposed to recording reality.
You have a solo show at the Crisp Museum in September, that's a great honor for an artist.
Yes, it's the first time horizon will be shown in a museum. I'll be exhibiting 14 pieces, all 40 x 50 inches and that in itself, is an experience I'm really looking forward to. The great thing about exhibiting that many pieces at that size, is that it truly shows how my consistent bifurcation between man-made and natural creates a virtual horizon line in the space. It's a very calming effect and almost performative, as it reproduces much of what I feel when shooting them.
"Havelock Street" will definitely be an experience to see on that large-scale exhibit platform. It already pulls you right in, even as the small image on your website.
I shot "Havelock Street" for a photography course at San Francisco City College, which is where I learned to shoot 4x5. It's actually a rooftop of a greenhouse that's since been torn down, taken with a 15-minute exposure. The colorcast comes from the mercury vapor lamps of a nearby parking lot. That type of light shows up greenish-yellow on film, which is very atmospheric!
What is the next big project we can look forward to?
Well, I'm currently working on a moonlight inspired series called night light. I love being outside during a full moon, because it makes the familiar look unfamiliar - eerie and romantic - which was a key tenant of the surrealist movement. But I'm not really driven by any intellectual surrealist agenda; I simply take the moonlight's transformation and push it forward by lighting up parts of the landscape with a flashlight and colored gels. Doing so not only changes the way we see everyday images, it also comments on man's intervention in the landscape, basically a conceptual extension of what I did with the horizon series.
I've got a few other projects in the works as well.
Your work certainly reflects a lot of who you are, so if there is one thing you want people to learn from Sparky Campanella what would that be?
How about two things...one, is to believe in yourself and your true purpose, even when it all seems stacked against you. Two, is to see the beauty in everything around you, the things we see everyday and usually take for granted.
To find out more about Sparky Campanella's fine art photography, upcoming shows and more, go to his website www.campanella.com.
Elissa Tracy; Melding Fantasy & Reality
By Donna Letterese
Lifelong artist Elissa Tracy has thrived personally and professionally in various creative fields from home décor and lighting design, to commercial photography and costuming. Currently based in Southern California, Tracy is now making a new name for herself in the fine art world through her vibrant, large-scale and textural abstract expressionist paintings, as well as her geek-chic, nostalgia-fueled paintings celebrating the heroes and villains of the iconic "G.I. Joe" action figure series. In that arena she has been known to embody an alter ego, The Blonde Baroness, who has been known to appear at Comic Con and other venues.
Both painting styles are bold, striking and powerfully adept at evoking visceral and emotional reactions, and both the abstracts and character portraits are representations of the artist's own life on canvas. While there's a clear and intriguing depth to Tracy's abstract work that feels inherently personal, conversely, the way her G.I. and Cobra characters seem to leap into action right off the canvas, quickly captures ones imagination, giving audiences a clear insight into the artist's sense of humor and mischief.
How did you decide to become an artist?
I've been exposed to and surrounded by art, and beautiful antiques, my entire life. My father was an avid art collector and car enthusiast, so I couldn't escape it. Three years ago, I decided to delve into art full-time. I created a painting as a gift and from there I knew my life's direction had changed. Painting was a passion I needed to address and I committed myself to making it my full time work within three years time. Suddenly I felt alive. I realized that behind the very thing I feared the most is the thing that brought me the most passion, life, and creativity. Once I abandoned the fear of making that dream a reality, the art and creativity seemed to start flowing freely out of me right onto the canvas.
You worked as a photographer in the past. How did that influence your painting?
Photography helped fine-tune my sense of composition. It's a more controlled art form. You learn how to get the best shadows, and how to control the ways light falls on someone's face. Knowing photography has definitely helped me with color placement and balance in my paintings.
What painters influenced you the most?
My favorite female artists are Tamara de Lempicka and Georgia O'Keefe, who both used geometric patterns to great effect. I love their period of art, during the 1920's and 1930's. Other favorite and influential artists include Vincent Van Gogh - for his personal struggles and use of color, Jackson Pollack - for the passion and energy that seems to fly off the canvas in his paintings, and lastly Andy Warhol's clean line work and pop sensibility has also inspired my work.
How would you define your own painting technique?
I primarily paint with Acrylic paint on unprimed, large canvases, using little to no water when I apply and mix the paint. I mostly use palette knives, and enjoy working with thick textures. I prefer to build those textures up using only paint, and without Acrylic medium.
How would you describe your work?
It's very personal, very emotional, and it represents my authentic inner self. I describe my abstract work as intent abstract expressionism. My more representational work is stylized pop-art.
Since you paint abstract paintings and more representational works, do you approach those works differently?
I do. My abstract work is the most raw. I use those pieces to work through personal issues. Viewers who see the paintings may not know exactly what I was feeling, but will often say, "Wow, this is intense!"
Since many of my representational pieces are based on real people, I do research in order to capture the person in the painting. Those pieces are primarily focused on the individual I'm trying to capture.
Since you paint real and fictional pop culture characters, what is it about the real life individuals that inspired you to paint them?
I'll decide to paint a person, depending on my perception of him. When I dove in and did research on Muhammad Ali, I was enthralled by everything I read. I perceived him to be strong and outspoken. In my painting, I worked to capture those qualities in his physical stance and his eyes.
As far as Jimi Hendrix and Andy Warhol are concerned, I was driven to paint them because they were loners, surrounded by people, and motivated to create a distinct social identity. I too am an introvert, aiming to show my identity through my art.
The fictional characters in your other pop culture paintings are those from the "G.I. Joe" series. How did those come about?
My husband and I are big "Star Wars" fans, and we collect vintage toys. We started an online business in 2010 primarily focused on "G.I. Joe" toys. When my husband introduced me to this world, I immediately took interest in the villainous Baroness character. I was fascinated by her appearance, but even more so, by her power. That's why I first painted her.
Since 2009, you've attended Comic Con actually dressed in a Baroness costume. Would you consider her an alter-ego?
I used to wear a black wig to look just like her, but it became uncomfortable. So this year, I wore the costume with my natural blonde hair. Everyone then started calling me the "Blonde Baroness." She's definitely become an alter-ego. In real life I'm introverted and some times want to hide. Often, I've felt like I had to have my guard up working in what, at times, felt like a man's industry, but I didn't always feel powerful. She's a femme fatale that really owns her space and isn't scared of anything. For me, it's not only been a lot of fun to dress up as a femme fatale, but being around so many people at Comic Con has helped bring me out of my shell.
The internet has changed the music and publishing worlds. How do you think it's affected the worlds of fine art and collecting?
I think the Internet broke down many boundaries. Now, anyone can distribute content, create an online store, and reach a wider audience. While it can be a bit overwhelming, I think it's mostly positive. If you have a talent for something, and you stick with it, there will be a natural law and order to things. And the Internet will help you along.
What future projects are you working on?
I'm working on a new free form series, which blends abstract art with street art. Street art is very loose and layered. When I'm working on those pieces, I paint with acrylic spray cans, incorporating three-dimensional objects. I also have an entirely new phase of G.I. Joe paintings in the works, based on both well-known and relatively unknown characters. Once more "G.I. Joe" movies are released, I'm excited that there will be more fans in general, and more fans who want art based on the story.
For more information on Elissa Tracy and her works, please go to www.ElissaTracy.com.
Most artists have creative visions, but not all artists are visionaries. Enter Ron Taybi, a masterful artist who seeks to bring the world a statue that holds the same impact as the Statue of Liberty. His giant Ballerina is a diplomatic gift for the Sochi 2014 Olympics. In Hollywood sits down with Taybi to learn about the motivations of world peace beneath his latest creation, to be revealed to the world on January 11th.
In Hollywood: What inspired you to create your Ballerina?
Ron: Well, many things. Most of all, a message of peace. A message of bringing people of the world together. It's my highest aspiration and dearest wish to see peace on Earth. Like anyone else, obviously. But I have a different view of it. I think that people are a lot more ready than everybody thinks, you know? And I think this is a very good opportunity because the people of this city in Russia are bringing all the people of the world together. All the cameras of the world's media are focused on the event. When the ceremony starts, people have tears of joy, laughter, they are happy. Humanity in its most beautiful tapestry. We see the colors, we see the different cultures of the world together just like a garden of different flowers. And I see the unity in diversity.
I view the world as one country. In fact, I am a student of Buckminster Fuller who viewed the world as Spaceship Earth and we are all the navigators of it. So this is a wonderful opportunity to donate a beautiful piece of art of that size and stature, to the people of that city for creating that image of oneness for a few short weeks, which is like an appetizer to the main course of ultimate unity of mankind. This is a sign of gratitude to the people of that city and to Russia.
I feel that people all over the world will cherish peace. That's why I'm doing it.
The last time something like this was done was the endowment of the Statue of Liberty from the French people to America. So this is a monumental step in bridging the gap between people of the world. It's been over 120 years since a gesture like that has been repeated. That's a lot of time. We should do this more often, and show each other love rather than animosity.
IH: Why Russia?
Ron: Because they're bringing the people of the world together one more time for the Olympic games. People of the world love the Olympics for what reason? Because they see the beauty in diversity of humanity. When we are at peace and concord. It's a wonderful thing.
IH: How big is it and how do you plan to transport it?
Ron: It's 22 feet tall including the base and close to 17 long. It almost splits in half and we assemble it over there very quickly because it's pretty much pre-assembled over here.
IH: When and how are you going to launch the Ballerina?
Ron: We will have a major ceremony for its first unveiling, where we will invite the media, on January 11th. All the people who are supporting it can see and make a major event out of it. The bigger production it is as an unveiling, the bigger and better news it'll be over there, and a much more dignified ceremony if they realize this is something from the heart of the people of America.
IH: What message do you want to send to the world with your art?
Ron: We want people to first of all see the image. We are going to send you a computer rendering of what the final visual of it is going to be like, and then we have some pictures up right now so you can get a gist of what it's all about. And we want the support of the people. If you're claiming that it's coming from the people, in fact it is, meaning that the more people show their Likes, the more appropriate to claim that the people are behind it.
IH: You have degrees in chemical engineering and business management from prestigious California universities. How has this translated into your art?
Ron: It has given me this sense of logic. I feel that art is a very logical science and it really has to make sense. Everything has to. And the sense in art is balance, gradation, harmony and so on... art creates a language that everyone speaks and everyone understands. It speaks to everyone their own language. So, what better language to speak peace to the world than art?
Yes, I'm very mathematical in my thinking, I'm logical and also artistic, so I have a kind of right brain-left brain mentality.
IH: Do you plan to expand your work to other cities?
Ron: Oh yeah, I want to use the world as my gallery. For the last 35 years, I have built many, many large art pieces and none of them were really commissioned. Only a few. But the rest of them I just built because I had the means to build them. I had the manpower, the equipment, the material, and the know-how, to build these things. And that's part of the reason I embarked on a business where it's architectural metal business called Rami Designs that has practical use and practical ways of making means for my life. But at the same time would have the facilities to build art. It's actually a backbone to my artistic career. So intentionally I went this direction. I've built things totally different and unconventional. We are trying to break many conventional molds, even about promotion of my art it's a very unusual method. Most artists start from the bottom to the top, I prefer to start from the top. But the most prevalent conventional mold of all times which we are going to break is the notion that mankind cannot chive peace. We are going to break that old age conventional mold.
IH: What social progress would you like to contribute to in your lifetime?
Ron: Peace! I'm working on empowering the youth, community building, I'm involved in those type of things. To make changes from grassroots. But more than anything else in my life, I'd like to bring to people's mind that first and foremost, we are all one. And if we taught that to our children and our youth and it's ingrained in the psyche, then they don't look at each other from a prejudiced perspective. We have to abolish prejudice from our society entirely - any kind! Religious, cultural, gender, sexual preference, whatever. We have to abolish that because we're all people and we're all created equal.
IH: You combine old and new technology alike in your art. What can you tell me about this process?
Ron: My style of work is very modern. I love modern looking things from cars to homes to fashion. However, I never ignore the most classical things in art history, like the human body or anything that is altruistic and real. I use the classical models and interpret them in a modern way.
The ballerina is the very classical shape of a woman, with a beautiful face and a beautiful figure and a very graceful posture, yet the lines behind it depict a shadow of it and are very technical. So it easily could be used in both environments. If it's put in a setting that's very modern it'll fit perfect. If it's put in a setting of a very, very classical building, in fact they're going to put this in front of a performing arts center that was built by Joseph Stalin. It has huge Corinthian columns and the style of the building is very Greek. We can see that it merges both in a modern environment and a classical environment, and that's very hard to achieve.
The Art, Imagery and Vision of Jennifer Delilah
By Donna Letterese
Painter Jennifer Delilah always knew she wanted to work in a creative field. Hailing from a small town in Texas, she was involved in the arts from a young age. She even trained in ballet for many years, considering a serious career in dance. Yet, visual art became her all-consuming passion. "My Grandma taught me how to use oils when I was about five," Delilah reflects. "I then attended an all arts high school that was a serious introduction to drawing, technical painting classes, and so on. That was where I really got into it."
Delilah was inspired by artists who used a great deal of imagery and action within their works, such as Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel. She attended the Kansas City Art Institute before transferring to the San Francisco Art Institute, where she finished her degree. While the Midwest and the West Coast were instrumental to her education, Delilah felt that she truly began to learn beyond the theoretical when she moved to New York City. In 2005, she began working with a curator at the Pierogi Gallery in Brooklyn. "The curator approached art as a collaboration, and in a critical, creative manner," Delilah explains. "The best gallery and artist relationships actually function in this way." It was under this collaboration that Delilah chose her first theme to base a series of paintings around. The "Empire" series was a collection of works dealing with the palace of Versailles, how people often yearn for multitudinous riches, and how that yearning can often lead to oppressing others.
Ever since the "Empire" series, Delilah has always focused her works around a particular theme. She creates "alternate fantasy realities," by doing work firmly rooted in magical realism. "My work is thematically about the desires people have. I also delve into the things that create those desires, and how they manifest," Delilah elaborates. Visually, the settings she paints look as if they could exist. Yet, particular characters that inhabit those settings are too fantastical to be real. Overall, every piece Delilah creates is part of one long narrative. Even if she creates two series on two seemingly separate themes, they still relate back to the entire story she is telling. "I approach it like a filmmaker," Delilah muses. "Each one of the pieces I make is a frame from my story. They're each snapshots of things going on inside the world that I'm creating."
The need to create a narrative is something that began early in Delilah's childhood. She grew up in the wake of the Civil rights Movement. Before she was even born, her father was working as a Pathologist at the hospital where President John F. Kennedy was brought upon being shot. While Delilah's family would not discuss the event, it caused her to be curious. In life, she learned to use her imagination to fill in any gaps. Even when reading a history book, Delilah would always wonder as to its veracity. For example, she and her elementary school classmates were taught that the reason that the Civil War happened was to end slavery. As a child, she still suspected that the war had not been fought for that reason alone. It also seemed to her that people in society were often far from "free."
Delilah became forever interested in whatever story could be hidden behind an official explanation. As an adult and an artist, this has driven her to create worlds that have layers of meaning. In her paintings, there are always avian characters. Anthropomorphic storks are the oppressors, and their slaves are the more beautiful, exotic birds. Suspension bondage is something she often depicts, as it is a metaphor for the kinds of unhealthy situations people often find themselves trapped in. One question Delilah thinks that viewers should ask of the oppressed characters in her work is: "Are they there because they enjoy that feeling of being dominated? Or are they too frightened to move past it?"
While some present day artists have seen a big change in how they work because of the prevalence of the Internet, Delilah's process has not been dramatically altered. She has a sub-category of affordable works available online, and she sells to overseas fans via the web. Yet, her pieces are high-end. Some are measured at 36 by 36 inches, while the largest works measure at 54 by 72 inches. Delilah remains an artist who very much utilizes the traditional methods of working with galleries, curators, and art dealers. "The Internet is great, but it can get overwhelming," Delilah points out. "Galleries are important, because they help define the artist. They have a point of view. And that point of view helps sell work."
Artistically, Delilah is happy that she took the time early on in her career to try various things until she found what she wanted to focus on. "I wanted to experiment to the point where I was comfortable enough to do work long-term that was on the same theme," she reflects. "That's really important for the longevity of your art." Delilah's latest work is the large scale painting, "The New York Cock Exchange." As might be suspected from the title, two roosters are locked in combat outside the New York Stock Exchange. Fellow avian onlookers are taking bets as to who is going to win. This work shifts the narrative from the "Empire" series, as the action has migrated from the inside to the outside of the palace. Once Delilah completes the task of photographing "The New York Cock Exchange," she plans to send it to various curators in hopes of securing an autumn show.
In the future, Delilah would love to physically go to Versailles to create a collaborative mixed-media piece. Delilah would like to photograph live-action performance art, performed by dancers and actors acting out suspension bondage scenes similar to the ones in her works. "I would have them pose, while wearing bird torsos and heads," she envisions. "I've dreamed of finding a puppeteer and a costumer who could create realistic looking costumes with fully alliterated eyes, beaks, and wings. It would be awesome to make such imagery come to life."
For more information and to see more of the artist's works, please go to www.JenniferDelilah.com.
The chain Walmart evokes many thoughts, ranging from Internet memes, to labor disputes, to its being a symbol of corporate America. Nevertheless, artist Brendan O'Connell has turned the mundanity of one-stop shopping into poignant, colorful paintings.
(Photo by Essdras M. Suarez/Globe Staff)
The initial steps that led to the Walmart series, surprisingly, took place overseas. "At twenty-two, I was living in Paris, teaching languages, and writing a novel about a group of painters," O'Connell exposits. Inspired by those he was studying, he decided to teach himself to draw. Six months after he began his self-taught journey, O'Connell was working full-time as a visual artist. In the summer months, he made money by painting portraits in Paris. When he returned home to the United States, he knew he wanted to do more of the same-- but in a distinctly "Americana" fashion.
"I noticed that Walmarts were dotting the American landscape," O'Connell explains. "And that there was a long tradition of American painters who cut their teeth in Europe, and came back to paint America." There are few things more "American," for good or for ill, than Walmart. So, O'Connell decided he would create paintings based on photographs he took of everyday shoppers. In France, the Post impressionists painted the main shopping thoroughfares of Paris. O'Connell realized that America's equivalent to Paris's commercial boulevards were the superstore's endless aisles.
Describing his interest in this series as "aesthetic to sociological," he makes a point of playing with abstract patterns, as well as often playing with the brands of actual products. While O'Connell is not quite sure if he would call the paintings a "pop-culture series," working on them makes him dream up various pop-culture scenarios. He sometimes imagines himself wandering through stores, in a Henry Darger meets Andy Warhol sort of fashion. "I don't know," he laughs. "I think I'd really like to set up in a few stores, under the strange neon lights, and to paint a bit alla prima."
As Walmart is both a popular and a polarizing entity, these paintings have struck a cord. O'Connell believes that Walmart is one of the only places where shoppers of dramatically different incomes all consume in the same space. From a sociological standpoint, this explains why such a variety of people relate to these works. In fact, one of O'Connell's best-known proponents is the film and television actor, Alec Baldwin. The two met in 1995 when O'Connell was still a Parisian street artist. Baldwin purchased some paintings and kept in touch. "When I began the Walmart series, Alec and I started talking about what it meant," he reflects. The conversation became so detailed, O'Connell ultimately uploaded it to his website. A key point is that the paintings bridge the gap between "high" and "low" art. The works themselves are fine art, yet, the subject matter is far from a typically classic still-life.
Brendan with actors Alec Baldwin (left) and Josh Charles (right).
"Half of the people who buy the Walmart series are 'serious collectors,' spending six figures a year on art. The other half are first-time buyers of contemporary art-- I love that," O'Connell smiles. He has shown in Toronto, Shanghai, New York, and Boston, and sold in Europe. Walmart itself has even come to appreciate the paintings. "I was originally the guy who was 'invited to leave,' (for taking photographs)," he recalls. "But, in their fifty year history as a corporation, Walmart has officially bought one painting of mine, of their original store in Arkansas." Interestingly, O'Connell does not actually create his works to comment on the chain. Rather, his artistic statement is about America overall, contemporary culture, and the relationships people have to "stuff" and brands.
While O'Connell loves creating his own works, it's also very important to him that young artists get a chance. The Everyartist.me organization, which he helped found, aims to help children find their own creativity. The Rubin Foundation of New York City gave O'Connell a grant to start a pilot program towards starting a "National Art Day." The initial day was a success, where Everyartist.me worked alongside the Walmart Visitor's Center and the Bentonville, Arkansas, school district. The day included a digital and real-world art event, where over 8,000 students gathered to create on the football field of the local high-school. In 2013, the organization's goal is to have it literally be a national art day, where thousands upon thousands of children will have the chance to participate.
In the future, O'Connell wants to see "where the brush leads" him. In February 2013, the Everyartist.me project will be launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the aforementioned National Art Day. A commercial for the project was already shot with Titus Welliver, and Alec Baldwin is scheduled to tweet about it. O'Connell is hopeful that this will do a good job of spreading the word. "We want to raise as much money as possible," he beams. "It would be wonderful to make it the largest community art event in history."
To contact Brendan O'Connell, please email EveryArtistStudio@gmail.com, or call 917-860-7441.
To see the artist's portfolio, please go to: www.BrendanOConnell.com
To learn more about Everyartist.me, please go to: www.EveryArtist.me
Jill Lear: The Tree of Art
Jill Lear is an artist who describes her work as a "an attempt to distill the experience of being in a particular place, using a mixture of marks and connections that move from point to point." In fact, her re-creations of nature are so accurate, that each of her tree paintings is titled with the exact latitude and longitude of the real tree it is based on. "If you Google those coordinates, you're brought exactly to where that place was," Lear smiles. She travels all over the United States and Europe to find a variety of interesting trees.
Lear actually began her artistic career in the fashion world. After studying in France with the traditional school of Haute Couture (where designers train by creating works for Chanel and Dior), she realized that she was looking for something else. Luckily, she found her passion upon returning to the states and discovering the New York Studio School.
"The first two weeks of every semester consists of a drawing marathon which sets the pace for the semester," Lear explains. "The rigorousness and the formality were great training." This marathon is aptly named, as students spend those five days drawing from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM to create large scale perception drawings. Jill then moved to ORcas ISland where she developed her unique tree project. Since then, she has been creating these works using mostly a combination of egg tempera, watercolor, and charcoal.
"Although I'm a colorist, I actually love the underlying structure of trees - winter is my favorite time of year," Lear muses. The subject matter also fascinates her, as she is very interested in the idea of capturing proportions. Right after completing school, Lear moved to Washington State's San Juan islands to immerse herself in the inspiration of old deciduous trees. Immersion is important to Lear, particularly as someone inspired by the work of Cezanne. "Cezanne spent more time looking than making marks on the canvas" Lear notes. "I really appreciate that he'd stare at a moment, and then make one mark on the page."
While in many ways Lear's work is classic, she still finds it intriguing to be an artist in the digital age. She is undecided as to if the advent of the Internet has helped advance artists' careers, yet, she believes it's wonderful for morale. "Art registries, blogs, Pinterest, and websites such as 'The Jealous Curator' have definitely helped artists control where their work gets seen," Lear elaborates. "The Internet allows you to reach people who would have otherwise never seen your work."
It's noteworthy that Lear's step-father is also a famous artist: film and voice-over actor Adam West. While West is famous largely for his work in the 1960's live-action "Batman" television program, and for his current self-parodying gig on "Family Guy," few people are aware that he is also a painter. "My step-dad is the funniest person I know-- he works very hard, even now, with voice-overs, appearances, and movies, when he doesn't still have to be working," she laughs. Lear and West have very different approaches to their visual artwork. While she is largely a self-described formalist, he is a painter who specializes in caricatures. Most of the time, they are characters from the "Batman" films, such as the Joker. Despite their stylistic differences, Lear admires how freely West paints, and aims to be more spontaneous in her own work because of it.
Lear's next show will open on January 17th, at the Shoal Creek Gallery in Austin Texas. She will be showing all new work alongside fellow artist Katie Maratta. In addition to her famed tree work, as well as some paintings on canvas, Lear is also going to debut some entirely new pieces. "I'm introducing some of my photographs," she reveals. "I've taken thousands of photos of trees for reference. Many people have requested to see them, so part of this show includes a black and white installation of those pictures." She enthusiastically adds that she is excited to be showing alongside Maratta: "Her work is the opposite of mine, as she creates tiny and panoramic pencil drawings of landscapes in Texas. I think our pieces are really going to work well together."
The saying "less is more" definitely applies to the delicate beauty of Lear's work, and it's a concept she intends to keep experimenting with. Her tree works are focused on specificity, measurements, and proportions. She also wants to focus on what she calls her "territory paintings," which are exact in a different way. "Those works are all about the sound, the light, and the wind-- what it feels like to be somewhere," Lear elaborates. "The tree paintings are about an actual place and space, while the territory paintings are about the idea of a place and space." Whether it's an exact coordinate or an emotion, Lear's goal is to continually distill experiences for her viewers.
- Donna Letterese
To view more of Jill Lear's work, visit www.JillLear.com
Salvatore Pecoraro: An Artist's Journey
By Donna Letterese
Some artists have visions of becoming the next Van Gogh from the moment they hold a brush. Others become fine artists, only after having traveled on a path they didn't realize would take them there. Salvatore Pecoraro, the son of a barber, never imagined he would be an exhibiting contemporary artist. He attended The California College of Arts and Crafts on a scholarship, studying under the likes of Richard Diebenkorn. Pecoraro initially had an interest in commercial art, but after a year he realized that was not for him and transferred into the teaching program.
Artist Salvatore Pecoraro in front of his "365 Skies 1970" painting series at the de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara University in 1974.
Upon graduation, he jumped right into his field and started teaching high school in 1957 at the age of 21. While he loved it, he also knew he was a creator at heart. While teaching high school, Pecoraro returned to the classroom as a student, emerging with Masters of Art in printmaking from San Francisco State University. "At that point I wanted to have the opportunity to teach at the college level, so I went back to school." Pecoraro then worked at De Anza Junior College in Cupertino from 1968 until retiring 2001.
In addition to his teaching high school, he also showed regularly at festivals throughout Northern California. Frequently, he was awarded blue ribbons. Yet, he did not love the format of art fairs, where patrons walk around to booths and speak directly to artists--often, with pressing questions. A friend suggested Pecoraro seek gallery representation to assist with exposing his work. In 1967, Pecoraro's notoriety helped him land an initial gallery show in San Francisco, as well as an exhibition at the Richmond Art Center. From that point on, he never stopped showing and his works were exhibited in Galleries all over the United States including Chicago, Aspen and Los Angeles.
Pecoraro has drawn inspiration from many sources throughout his life. Other artists have been one source. Instructors during art school were another. Yet, the literal world around him inspired his most famed paintings. "The main cultural thing that influenced me was the consciousness of the environment during the 60's and 70's." Pecoraro muses. "This was the foundation of my sky paintings and the beginning of my most ambitious body of work titled the 365 Skies 1970."
Pecoraro's work evolved towards this famed series, from the work he had been doing in the 1960's. Then, he had been painting abstract clouds, rainbows without gradation, and women's' faces that were semi-realistic. Interestingly, he had been painting with a toothbrush. One critic claimed that these photo-like paintings were beautifully painted with an airbrush. This prompted Pecoraro to buy an actual airbrush, whereupon he began painting with it and ended up preferring this method for most of his work.
Artist Salvatore Pecoraro's "Lips" from the Second Encore painting series
One thing led to another, and ultimately, he was creating the "365 Skies 1970." As the name suggests, this series was made up of 365 acrylic paintings. Each painting was created on a one foot square panel crafted from vacuumed-formed styrene. Pecoraro took a photo of the California sky, always at a different time and place, every day of the year in 1970. Those photos became reference for the paintings he did on each panel. When arranged from January to December 1970, each panel painting shows a different sky for every day of that year. An enormous project, literally and figuratively, it measures seven feet tall and fifty-two feet wide. Unsurprisingly, many galleries were eager to show the "365 Skies Series." The only place to show the entire series on a single wall was the La Jolla Museum of Art. It was also displayed at several museums and galleries including the Oakland Museum of Art, Occidental College and Esther Robles Gallery in Los Angeles.
The "First Encore" series, begun in 2001, is another large painting series of Pecoraro's. It is made up of more than a hundred one-foot square acrylic and mixed-media paintings on raised wooden panels. His current work, called the "Second Encore" is comprised of 18 paintings and is a continuation of the "First Encore" series with more complexity and larger sizes. This ties into his present main focus: preparing for the solo show of his work, "Now and Then: a Journey with an Edge," to be exhibited at Santa Clara's Triton Museum in July and August 2013. The show will be viewed as a chronological time line, reading left to right. While Pecoraro states that the focus is being put on his most current works, the goal is also to share pieces from "then," his work from years ago.
There is timelessness to Pecoraro's work. Despite the advent of things like photos shop and iPhone photography, the kinds of paintings Pecoraro creates can instill awe in any viewer-- whether that means a gallery goer from 1970, or someone today. As for his part, the artist has always aimed to improve his work from series to series. "Does the work look contemporary in terms of what's happening right now?" Pecoraro asks. "I leave that decision up to other people. I was very lucky in life because I was always able to be an artist."
For more information on Salvatore Pecoraro, please go to http://www.SalvatorePecoraro.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Salvatore-Pecoraro-Contemporary-Painting-and-Sculpture/143735332325450.
To contact the artist, please go to:
Lions of Iran
Lions of Iran: Dimensions 12' wide 6'8" high. Acrylic on canvas. Painted in 2007.
This painting illustrates the start of the Iranian civilization from Mithraism to Zoroastrianism, the rise of Cyrus the great and all famous poet such as Omar Khayam, Hafez, Saadi, Rumi, Ferdowsi and etc. This painting also demonstrates all mythical heroes of the Shahnameh "Book of Kings" and all real Heroes of Iran who played a major role in the development and success of Iran. However, the background of this Painting is mostly red because of the many human sacrifices that were made for the motherland and in the lower portion you will recognize the young students who were murdered in the green movement.
Davood Roostaei drew the realities of Iran's political history and he masterly connected Persian mythology with Persian history.
Leah Devora & The Art of Pop Culture
Writers tell stories with words, filmmakers use moving images, and painters use a canvas. Leah Devora, a self-described mixed-media pop artist, tells stories about current affairs. She casts today's political figures as the stars of her paintings. "My artwork involves layering political narratives, and chaos," Devora notes. "Yet, it's positive to be able to create art from that chaos."
Upon earning her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Devora initially focused on textile fashions. She ran her own handmade clothing company for eight years, later switching gears into fine art. At Brooklyn's Pratt University, where she earned an MFA in painting, she was greatly affected by a variety of artists. "Ed Kienholz, a pop sculpture artist, is an all time favorite," Devora beams. "So are the Spanish master painters, such as Dali." Her training and various influences ultimately came together to help inspire her present works.
Today, Devora uses digital and traditional mediums. She employs sound, lighting, and non-traditional, multi-media elements in her digital work. Of her painting techniques, Devora states that she is very much a 3D sculpture artist. "What I do is called assemblage," she explains. "Substances such as roofing cement and magnum rock are sculpted into the paintings." Notably, the paintings in her series, "Rockstar," have just as many layers in their sculpture, as they do in their meanings.
"Rockstar," which began four years ago, was created to comment on the political climate of the United States. Devora felt that few artists were making true political commentary, driving her to make her own statement in juxtaposition. "I wanted to do more than just say, 'Oh! Here's Obama. Isn't he great?'," she elaborates. "I researched additional historical things to include in these paintings of Obama and the administration."
While Devora aims to not have a personal point of view skew her work, creating these pieces is her way of still reflecting and being involved. As the title of her series might suggest, Devora believes that politics, pop culture, and art intersect frequently. In her work, she enjoys showing the negative and positive contradictions that are ever-present in today's issues. For example, one of her paintings depicts Obama being crushed by healthcare issues. The piece clearly shows who he is, at first. Yet, as time goes on, he gets buried alive by the various problems.
Devora also believes that politicians must present themselves as celebrities, just as much as they do government officials. When asked if she believes this is true of Obama, Devora responds: "I think people see him as a pop-icon. What president goes on John Stewart and David Letterman on a regular basis?" She then cites examples of how often the lines of celebrity and government cross: Arnold Schwarzenegger, famed mostly for his performances in action films, was elected the governor of California in 2004. Recently, actor Clint Eastwood was presented as a "surprise guest" at the Republican National Convention. Through her works, Devora comments on how it often seems as if the theatre of politics in Washington D.C. is as important a show as one put on by Hollywood itself.
In addition to her political pieces, Devora is currently working on a sound installation titled "Voices." The installation will feature pre-recorded, layered voices of men and women being interviewed, along with actual performance art. The idea for this project first came to her in 1998, from voicemail personal ads. "New York once had something called the Relationship Line. People would speak, and decide if they wanted to meet one another - often having great conversation, but sight unseen," Devora laughs. Now, with the advent of reading Twitter, Facebook, and texts, people almost never physically listen to one another any more. "Voices" seeks to have people listen, without being able to simply judge a visual.
To help fund "Voices," Devora launched her first IndieGogo campaign. While she has never used crowd-funding before, she is excited for the possibilities inherent in this new, popular method of getting the word out. Her plan is to use some of that money to fund her projects, and to donate the rest to charities she's involved with: the Los Angeles based Free Arts for Abused Children, and Aviva Family and Children's Services.
Devora is excited for the 2013 debut of "Voices." It will open on January 5th at the Papillon Art Institute (located in proximity to the Los Angeles Staples Center). "It's a beautiful, non-traditional, contemporary art space. Right now, I'm focused on preparing for 'Voices,'" she smiles. "I'll probably keep going with installations. As to my paintings, it depends on what happens in the White House over the next few years."
- Donna Letterese
To see Leah Devora's work and contact her, visit http://www.ldevora.com
To attend the opening reception of "Voices," and to find out more about the Papillon Art Institute, please visit the gallery at 1835 South Main Street, Los Angeles, CA, on the night of January 5th, 2013.
Mara Sfara: Telling Stories Through Sculpture
By: Lucas Swift
In the world of sculpture, Mara Sfara stands out as a unique artist. When approaching a mold, she doesn't try to shoehorn in statements about society or layer in preachy messages; she is only concerned with the ability of her work to evoke emotion.
Mara, whose art is featured at the Eckert Fine Art Gallery in Millerton New York, is no stranger to the world of fine art having presented her work across the states and even abroad, showcasing in such places as Spain and Argentina. Really, the whole spectrum of the arts seems to enthrall her. She graduated from the University of Rochester studying English and Film, taking on Fine Arts as the focus for her Masters. While painting became the main interest of her career, she has never forgotten fine literature or great movies and often allows their influence to bleed into her works and shape her style of thinking.
Yet Mara's recent exhibit was a bit of a departure for her. She returned to a medium from her past, sculpture, for the first time in twenty years and she is approaching it in an unconventional way. Mara has gone for an aesthetic that focuses on the emotional, the whimsical, and the expressive over the realistic. "I was looking around at a lot of the other work being done and I wanted to add a different perspective with my work," said Mara.
Wanting to break from the monotony, Mara made her statues fun and exaggerated. "Each is a spirited character with a charming twist," she explains, with the individual statues focusing on the expression a specific emotion that conveys the story of the various characters. Sometimes these sculptures take cutely surreal turns in order to do this, like the man with surprise painted over his face because his penis transformed into a fish. Other characters are actually based on the tales from ancient Greece that Mara read in college in another call back to her past.
However, Mara didn't pull from Greek myths because they are classic staples of the Western tradition but because they held something special for her. Mara doesn't think up convoluted meanings and then work backwards when sculpting. Instead she focuses on something pure, relatable, and universal; preferring to concern herself with the feelings of the everyday person and that sets her art apart, freedom from the pretense that too many artists fall victim to. "I see my sculptures as stories," she explains. "Each carries its own tale, like chapters in a novel."
Mara doesn't aim to lecture or depress her audience, only to give her audience something magical whether they use it to laugh, to forget, or just to simply feel. Because as she put it, "If I wanted to be depressed then I would just watch the news."
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