THE HUMAN CONDITION
THE HUMAN CONDITION curated by Steven DaLuz
with commentary by Joseph Bravo
As the title Within suggests, this painting reflects Balkan’s fascination with psychological interiority. The artist uses the device of simultaneous narration to convey the multiple facets of personality within a dreamlike context of imagination and mythic narrative. The saturated colors capture emotional intensity and recall the folk art traditions of Latin American arte popular that the artist would have surely encountered during her anthropological fieldwork in Mexico. Balkan's painting explores psychological identify through the nexus of metaphysical cultural narrative and meditative introspection.
Teresa Elliot’s oeuvre is inextricably linked to place and she is rightfully recognized for her evocative mages of livestock. But in this talented artist’s hand, this imagery rises beyond regionalist nostalgic cliché to reflect Elliot’s thoroughly contemporary aesthetic sensibility. In Badlands to Cross the figure is immersed in the landscape, both indistinguishable from it and vulnerable within it. The narrative with its skulls floating in a morass is simultaneously a reminder of mortality and a reaffirmation of the resistant struggle for life. This can be arduous journey though a potentially hostile psychic environment. Yet as the figure grasps the rock there is a sense of optimism that this same environment will provide opportunities for salvation for those who persist in reaching out to get a grip.
More known for her realistic renderings of food, which tend to be in aesthetic dialogue with the Pop art imagery of Wayne Thibaud, Madelyn Sneed-Grays is an impressive emerging artist from the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Masterful in her handling of light and surface as well as her supple palette and innovative development of composition, Sneed-Grays is one of a new generation of artists reinventing figurative realism in a contemporary cultural context. In this striking painting, the artist moves afield from her more benign subject matter to confront the unavoidable issue of race in American society. The young man is depicted comfortably seated in a business suit gazing directly at the viewer. The device of the extended leg is beautifully foreshortened and brings the viewer’s attention directly into the composition where it arrives at the figure’s face surrounded by a target. Despite the subject’s evidently relaxed demeanor and bourgeois presentation of self, he is afforded no prophylaxis from being ominously targeted in a society that cannot see past the color of his skin.
Regina Jacobson pursued a career in fashion design and merchandising before becoming a fine art painter. After studying painting at the Laguna College of Art and Design, she spent the next decade and a half creating an impressive series of works investigating the oft times debilitating images women have of themselves and how these are reinforced through intergenerational internal dialogues that can be self-destructive and self-perpetuating. It is not uncommon for Jacobson to depict her figures in compositions where their costuming seems in awkward context within its environment. In Just as I Am, we see just such a juxtaposition as the figure is draped in revealing black lingerie in what appears to be a funerary setting complete with cemetery gate and wilting sunflowers indicating mortality. The woman in the painting seems to be engaged in a gesture of prayer yet she is strangely holding up a mannequin arm to complete her pious pose. The disturbing imagine implies that this is no ordinary prayer to a benign deity but rather some bizarre cultic gesture, in this case a perverse Cult of Beauty that is both irrational and inappropriate. Jacobson uses lusciously rendered surreal imagery to plumb the psychological depths of feminine identify. The artist has developed her own allegorical iconography to visually depict the dichotomy within the female psyche and the conflicting messages women convey about themselves to themselves and to each other. Regina’s work has also recently been included in The Bennett Collection.
Stanka Kordic is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art and an internationally recognized portraitist. She followed her talented brothers into the world of art. Her work has been called “intuitive and clairvoyant.” As critic John Seed noted, “Kordic evokes a world of fragility and sentiment…figures vanish, coalesce and layer…Kordic’s resonant images are unforgettable and just a bit uncomfortable.” According to the artist her practice is “…centered on responding to the paint in the present moment, within the boundaries that figurative representation provides.” In her painting entitled Discernment all the attributes Seed noted seem to be present as does evidence of the artists claim to be responding to the paint in the present moment.
Victor Wang grew up in Northern China and earned his BFA from the prestigious Lu Xun Academy of Fine Art. He earned his MFA at Fontbonne University where he is currently a full professor of painting and drawing. The artist’s figurative work is rendered to convey emotional tension and psychological drama. The artist paints imagery inspired by distant memories or dreams. Consequently, his images are often fragmentary and contextually oblique. Color is used expressively and pigment is loosely and thickly applied to provide a sculptural quality that accentuates the physicality of the work. In The Crow the viewer is presented with a wizened visage of an idiosyncratically stoic figure amid a murder of crows. Space is ambiguous and the portrait and birds jointly occupy an enigmatic dreamscape imbued with metaphysical implications.
Sought after by discriminating connoisseurs and featured in the Bennett Collection, Anna Wypych is a Polish artist whose immaculately rendered portraits convey a clarity of vision, strength of personality and contemporary optic that reflects the artist’s own optimism and passion. Baltic seascapes and romantic opulence appear as settings for her figures who are often conveyed with a contemporary sense of ironic whit. Much of her work encourages psychological introspection and Creature is her effort to get the viewer to more self-awarely consider the process of presentation to oneself. With its over the shoulder gaze, the painting has the gestalt of the digital selfie. The red drape and the coquettish pose are more an erotic affectation than a genuine attempt at seduction of another. The artist says that she wants the viewer to consider the masks we assume when presenting our idealized fantasies of ourselves to ourselves even when looking in the mirror where we strike a pose for an audiences of one.
A native of Dallas, Karen Offutt is the daughter of an artist father and creative mother who encouraged her to pursue her talents. Her paintings have an atmospheric sensibility which reveal subtle psychological drama. The artist is concerned with the opposing impulses of extraversion and introspection. Many people are torn between the impulse to expressively shed one’s insecurities and the desire to conceal our true selves for fear of the reaction such an expressive hazard might entail. In Wall Flower the painting’s beautiful subject seeks social camouflage among a florid background where she finds security in visibility. She has denied herself a spotlight she rightly commands and in so doing deprived others of her potential illumination.
A native New Yorker, Daryl Zang grew up in an artistically enriched environment in which she could feast on the City’s enviable museum offerings. After getting her BFA at Syracuse University, she further pursued her artistic training in Florence, Italy where ambitious aspiring realist painters still make their pilgrimage to master their craft. Although informed by history, Zang’s work is unmistakably of her own era and is to some extent autobiographically informed. The title Fifteen Minutes unavoidably recalls Warhol’s glib comment about the emergent ubiquity of fleeting fame. The painting palette and nostalgic Americana has a certain populist sensibility but this is expressed with a sincerity that eschews Pop irony. The composition is collaged as if comprised of fleeting images drawn from memories rendered opaque through time and enigmatically juxtaposed to convey the intuitive feelings that accompany the process of remembering. As accomplished artist, Zang’s work is highly prized by connoisseurs of contemporary realism and she is featured in The Bennett Collection.
Conor Walton is from Ireland and is one of the more highly regarded artists working in a traditional realist style. His narratives are often allegorical and draw on mythic imagery to address archetypal themes. Humanity’s relation to the environment is a repeating motif in his oeuvre. This piece is no exception. In Rest, the artist presents the viewer with the myth of Sisyphus but with his own twist. Whereas the narrative of the original myth focuses on punishment for hubris, in Conor’s painting the figure is availing himself of a moment’s respite from the futility of his task. This figure is not so much doomed to his fate as exercising some degree of agency as he takes in the fading light of sunset or an emerging dawn. If he has the volition to rest, then by implication he might also possess the agency to just abandon his futile occupation and seek a more fruitful one of his own initiation. In this way the artist encourages the viewer to question fate, to recognize their place in the environment and take notice of the natural beauty around them.
American born and trained, Teresa Brutcher has spent the last thirty two years practicing primarily out of northern Spain. Her artwork is widely exhibited there and throughout Portugal, Germany and the U.S.A.. Famous for her exquisite technique and her masterful use of light, her narratives are often mysteriously composed and rich in implied meanings that defy easy interpretation. But in this painting entitled Temptation III, the Eve reference is unmistakable even as it is posed in a contemporary setting. The bright light illuminates the figure and defines the volumetric of the composition while simultaneously providing an implied iconography.
Pamela Wilson received her MFA from the University of California, Santa Barbara where she was awarded a Regents Fellowship, the Abrams Project Grant and a Regents Award for her thesis exhibition. One of the most recognized figurative realists practicing today, Pamela Wilson paintings are highly sought after by collectors and her work is included in The Bennett Collection. According to Pamela “depicting ordinary beauty feels too passive” and she is “seeking a psychological moment, a different kind of beauty, the beauty in absurdity.” The figure of a child ominously presented in a surrealistic context is a recurring image in Wilson’s oeuvre.
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