Monday, January 12, 2015

The Soulful Subjects of Mary Qian

I stumbled upon these three paintings by Mary at Ann Nathan Gallery yesterday, and it occurred to me that this was a good time to write a brief panegyric on her behalf.

First -- because these paintings were outstanding.  Denser, somehow,  than her earlier work that I've seen at the club over the past 10 years.

And second -- because I fear that Mary may never get a retrospective - or even a solo show - here in Chicago in the foreseeable future. So I may as well just write about her now.

 Her work just doesn't have much in common with what this gallery, or any other Chicago gallery, can sell and therefore show in contemporary figurative art.  And even less in common with  galleries elsewhere that specialize in  popular realism and Western Art.

I don't know whether Mary is a woman of faith -- but she paints like she's living in the 16th-17th Century, when faith was a matter of life-and-death, and the great painters, like Titian, Rembrandt, El Greco,  and Velasquez felt compelled to reveal human souls.

That's what Mary does : she reveals the soul of her subjects -- as if it still really mattered.  You almost want to weep as you feel the drama in the characters that she is depicting.  The despair - the tenacity - the idealism -  the sorrow - the confusion - the destiny.

This kind of painting has great technical challenges  because it's not just about self expression. And as everyone knows, Mary is a fanatic for techniques.  She always wants to learn one more. But  obviously, for her, techniques are the means, not the ends.

Someday, this kind of painting will probably  be considered  as contemporary as it was 400 years ago because it's subject will always be compelling.

But for now, it's made,  shown, and appreciated at the margins of the contemporary art world.

Friday, January 02, 2015

New Years Drawing Marathon 2015

Here's a shadowy self-portrait by Del Hall, official Academy photographer, as wanders through the studios during the drawing  marathons, recording the activity within.

Though each and every artist is  not recorded -- and often the same familiar faces re-appear year after year - he does provide the best documentation these events will ever have.

Arturo Vera

Bernard Beneteau

Beth Kordick

Bill Harbinson

Brian Kotwica

Chris Miller

Christopher Sontheimer

Eileen Fergusen

Eva Tupa

Henry Maron

Henry McAlevy

Iaos-Daphne Hoouasnia

John Youssi

Joseph Gruber

Junad Rizki

Larry Paulsen

Lee Radtke

Lena Crumbaugh

Madison Stubbs

Marion Berg

Mary Beth Bellon

Maureen Warren

Ned Waith

Pat Bruchin

Phyllis Brodny

Ralph Paquet

Randall Mathais

Rong Liang

Sandy Kowerko

Scott Moore

Stuart Fullerton


Timothy Kloss

Vince Lisnic

Xiao Dong

Friday, December 19, 2014

Portrait Show - 2014


Leonid Ossening

This is my favorite P&C portrait - in a long time - as I feel the presence of a very strong, though not especially pleasant, personality.  Like the early  portraits by Kokoshka,  the hands are very expressive -- but in the realistic tradition of the club, Leonid has  given them the full five fingers each.

Oskar Kokoshka, Rudolf Blumner, 1910

I  don't want to sit down for coffee with this man - except as a viewer of the painting.

As the images to the right attest, he is an architect.

 Andrew Conklin

It looks like this poor girl is as addicted to her computer (or game console?) as the cat is to absinth.

What a strange and beautiful world, evidently in a high-rise with light pouring in from high, unobstructed windows.

Love the chandelier - and the window's reflection on the picture frame


 Roger Akers

A self portrait from another century  - back before Roger's hair turned white.

More often seen doing sculpture now, Roger used to spend a lot of time in the painting studio


 George Clark

As inscribed at the lower left, this was done at the Figurative Art League, Evanston.

Like myself, George might be found anywhere a model is posing. I first met him in a storefront studio in Lincoln Park, about 35 years ago. But the Palette and Chisel now has more than enough model workshops for my needs.

A Botticelli face.

 Helen Oh

This girl probably lives in the same high rise that Andrew Conklin depicted above.


Linda White
(portrait of Zhiwei Tu)

A good portrait of the only P&C member who currently has a museum dedicated to his work.

Misha Livshultz

Abby, the subject of this fine portrait, is not Russian, but Misha has  made her feel like she grew up in Minsk.

Frank Chung

On the other hand,  this portrait of  Misha  seems to place him in the autonomous tribal areas of Pakistan.

Nancie King Mertz

Reminds me of a newspaper illustration - the frequent occupation of many early club members.

Richard Bloomfield

Another good illustration - though this one seems better fit for a magazine.

Stuart Fullerton

This one caught my eye when Stuart was working on it in the Wednesday night painting workshop, a week before this exhibit.

It really carries the force of the model's personality

Stuart Fullerton

This woman -- and this style -- seems to belong to another century -- maybe even the 18th.
She could be a character in "Pride and Prejudice"

Robert Tati

Robert has captured Lenin as the quiet, sensitive, dedicated English gentleman that he is.

Val Yachik

Such a  haunting,  spectral visage is rather unusual for our galleries

Michael Van Zeyl

This is the first time that I've liked Michael's taste for  the flamboyant.  This quiet, flat and thinly painted beautiful girl is wonderfully complemented by the rambunctious flowers.

George Zaremba

I doubt that this girl is a peasant -- or that George is a Communist -- but he could have been a successful revolutionary artist in some kind of people's republic.

George Zaremba

.... while this view of a face from below reminds me of  this famous painting at the Art Institute:


Unlike the now dominant academic art,  P&C artists do not query, they express. 
Unlike Chicago Imagists, they do not express a freakish world that's gone horribly wrong.
But other than that --- they really don't have much in common with each other.