Subjectwise, still lifes, interiors, portraits, landscapes and plein air scenes, there is a little something for everyone in this year’s curated exhibition at Eisele Gallery. Thematic trends are also a popular consideration, elements that are ‘trending’ or relevant to current news or polarized politics are found . Of much more importance to the potency of a painting or sculpture is the extent to which the work embodies a point of view and embraces this perspective in fresh language with a technical advantage.

Single figure female portraiture is one such theme.

Shana Levenson of New Mexico, shows “Ritual”, a single figure in the act of uplifting her dark  tresses. The exquisitely painted sleeves of her lacey bodice is the seductive element of this painting. The upper torso figure is posed frontally and while beautifully conceived against multi layered shades of mossy green background, it is in fact devoid of emotional content.

William Schneider of Illinois presents a small oil painting entitled “Updo”. An attractive anonymous single figure is painted executing the same ritualistic movement of the aforementioned piece. Schneider’s figure seems even more unconscious of our voyeuristic presence as her attention is focused in an off canvas mirror. We view her from the side in a darkened interior, her svelte blond figure is riveted by an unexplained vertical shaft of light which adds dramatically to the painting’s mysterious circumstances. These elements set the stage for a fragmented reveal of the figure, her abundance of blond curls and the occasional hint of interior elements such as an implied split of sunlight on the upper right tease the viewer’s interest to return to the solitary figure. This is a painter who teases our appetite with mystery, drama and painterly language. This painting was awarded ‘Most Original’.

Landscape and urbanscapes make up a large portion of the display and several are exemplary. Best of Show was awarded this year to Tim Breaux, “Cheops Pyramid Sunset”. The subtle play of light on the richly textured water carved canyon is a composition well played in this 30×40″ oil painting. Also very palatable to contemporary taste are a series of inner urban scenes displayed on a single exhibition panel. Alluding to the harsher aspects of inner urban infrastructure is a small geometric, value focused painting by Dean Mitchell. Upon close examination, one discovers that this painter used metallic colors on the facade in the foreground right, a surprise nuance accomplishing a natural effect.  The painting is entitled “Ybor City Corner”.

At the bottom of the panel, is a painty plein air work entitled “Warmth of the Sun” by Floridian Kathleen Denis, depicting a whitewashed bungalow with a picket fence and island vegetation.

Uninhibited brush work and a tropical color palette make this happy little work irresistible which accounts for it being awarded ‘Best Impressionism”.

Special lighting effects are explored in several paintings.  Among these are two Canadian works.

Denis Anataya paints a late evening light strike on a series of rural farm buildings. Late evening  sun reflects on the curving wet pavement, extending the golden glow and further emphasizing the extreme horizontal format. The overactive sky detracts from the purposeful simplicity of the picture’s theme.

Canadian Ober-Rae Livingstone exhibits his acrylic  “Because We Love”. Livingstone paints a bucolic setting including a small body of water accessed by a casual foot or animal path. A majestic cloud pattern dominates the format with a rosy light, sentimentally linking to the tender title.

Taking Second Place was “Underwater Weaving” by Derek Penix. The ever-popular Koi fish are traditionally associated with perseverance in adversity in Japan. This painting presents numerous multicolored Koi fish undulating in a dark pool. Formatted on a 30″x30″ canvas and executed in a very painterly mannerism, the school of fish swarm in an intriguing pattern that abstracts beautifully. This painting is arguably one of the best works in the show for fresh handling and a very modern abstraction.

Many works, both oil and acrylic, seem to emerge untouched by brush or human hand, such as an abandoned industrial module, a series of dry-docked boats by Bob Rohm, a painting of a young girl with a hat, seated in an endlessly expanded landscape of pebbles.  This artist depicts lichen-hosting rocks in the foreground with the same minute detail as the super green trees in the distance behind a towering McMansion. Harsh surface tensions resulting from over-assertive attention to detail in every aspect link the work to the hyper-realism trend. Sadly they add nothing to the conversation.

“Color Riot” by Karen Budan,  “Pansies in Turquoise” by Scott Royston and “Summer Splendor” by Patricia Tribastone are among several works which employ shopworn mechanisms only acceptable on a high school level and lacking in sophistication and imagination. Animal paintings abound: a quizzical donkey portrait, a flag draped quarter horse, two horses splashing through water, several horses splashing through water and a trio of Kosak Archers astride their steeds under an impossibly unnatural cloud pattern to mention a few, should satisfy any appetite preoccupied with this animal portrait /narrative theme.

While this exhibition surveys a smorgasbord of trends and stylistic tendencies, the expectation of encountering exciting and expressive contemporary painting may have been disappointed.

Exhibition continues at Eisele  through Oct. 13, 2018.

NOTE: NOAPS: National Oil & Acrylic Painters’ Society, supports artists around the world in their pursuit of artistic distinction and by expanding marketing opportunities.

–Marlene Steele

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