It probably started about 10 years ago … “When we get together, we don’t shut up,” said Pennsylvania contemporary realist painter Robert …
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It probably started about 10 years ago …
“When we get together, we don’t shut up,” said Pennsylvania
contemporary realist painter Robert Jackson, speaking of his annual
get-together with painter friend Scott Fraser, who lives in
They developed an idea they had picked up from artist Michael
Bergt in Santa Fe: “Why wait to be discovered? Why not initiate our
Fifteen artist colleagues from across the nation agreed to
participate in this conceptual exhibit. Museums were contacted.
It’s unusual for a museum to accept such a proposal, but the
Evansville, Ind., museum, which has been a showplace for the genre
called contemporary realism and knew many of the artists, agreed to
host it even before paintings were painted and is circulating it.
Others agreed as long as they didn’t have to handle the logistics
of shipping, scheduling, etc.
“Object Project” is now open at the Museum of Outdoor Arts, on
the second level of Englewood CivicCenter, 1000 Englewood Parkway,
the last of five museums hosting the show over a two-year
Jackson, Fraser and seven others of the 15 included, spoke in a
panel in next door Hampden Hall before the museum’s opening
reception Feb. 20. Museum director Cynthia Madden Leitner laughed
about how much fun the staff had trying to identify the objects in
each work. Techniques include oil, egg tempera, pastel, graphite,
acrylic and styles illustrate the workings of 15 unique minds. “The
problem-solving skills are so extraordinary,” Leitner said.
The concept was to have 15 contemporary realist artists each
create one multipaneled painting or two similarly sized painting,
including five common objects, chosen through a ballot: a clear
glass of water, a moth, a ball of string, a bone and a mirror.
“You had to agree to paint whatever was chosen, even if you
didn’t like it,” Fraser said.
Each artist received a brown cardboard box, like a Christmas
present containing five identical objects and they organized their
ideas and started painting, a process that took about two
Will Wilson said he agreed immediately and didn’t care about the
objects. Then they arrived and he had no ideas after two months. He
crossed the street in San Francisco to Scott Hess’ studio and saw
his finished paintings. Wilson joked about needing lots of rabbits
for his painting and auditioning them. Two appear in his “Object of
Madden asked about collaborative process. Artists aren’t known
for that ability. Colorado painter Daniel Sprick answered that it
was not necessary to collaborate.
One just used the objects and could be secretive, using objects
as symbols. He joked that he could bring a death motif into any
painting. (His includes a skull). He talked about his favorite
historic painters: Northern Renaissance, low countries about
His luminous work is compared to Van Eyck’s by critics. “It’s
not the technique. It’s how much they loved what they are doing —
the care, the consummate perfection shows in the beauty of their
Nancy Sprick of Bow Mar, near Littleton, paints with thick
textures. She insisted she couldn’t possibly do something as
fragile as a moth, so she used “Butter Fly” in a title.
“Did this change anything?” Leitner asked.
Evans said his Pennsylvania school district is the one that made
national news recently by asking that Creationism be taught instead
of Evolution, so his paintings reflected that. The bone used was a
casting of a wolf femur and his triptych and smaller piece grew
from issues of science and religion.
Michael Bergt, who paints with the old masters’ technique of egg
tempera, said he is primarily a figurative painter, rather than
rendering images of still lifes, and his work reflects an interest
in Japanese iconography.
The artists initiated the idea and American Artist Magazine
editor M. Stephen Doherty curated it. The show catalog, available
for $15 at the museum, includes his thoughtful essay, “Common
Subjects, Uncommon Results,” which details the process for
organizing the show.
If you go
“Object Project” will remain at Museum of Outdoor Arts’ gallery
through May 23. It is on the second level of the Englewood Civic
Center, 1000 Englewood Parkway, close to the Englewood Light Rail
Station. Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 9 a.m.
to 4 p.m.
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