Sunday, January 01, 2006

Gold Medal Show

These are my picks for the annual Palette and Chisel Gold Medal Show. I know it sounds like a joke -- an artist's co-op awarding each other gold medals -- but I don't think we're any worse than the O.P.A. -- and I know most of the people involved -- so it's important to me regardless.

This was my favorite painting in the show -- Kathleen Putnam's landscape just sucked me in and made me feel uplifted. I've seen other contemporary landscapes in local galleries that feel a little stronger -- but no matter who you are, there's always someone better, isn't there ?

Romel De la Torre's high-chroma figure sunscapes remind me of early 20th C. American Impressionists like Frieseke or Miller --- but they also feel saccharine like Qing dynasty painting ( or Bouguereau) . I used to consider that period decadent -- but now that I know something of the history -- I've made my peace with sweetness.

Like all the best paintings at my club -- this one comes so close to being first-class -- but just barely cannot clear the bar. Let's face it -- this is a really tough genre in which to stand out. Everything is right - it just needs that extra little kick.

George Clark is a pervert -- there I've said it -- but --- is there any better reason (than voyeurism) for painting or sculpting the nude figure ?
His set-up is always the same: the young, way-too naked woman perched uncomfortably, and vulnerably, on a meticulously drawn stool. This one looks like she's waiting to perform in some Pagan Spring ritual (perhaps as the sacrifice) (note: actually, George Clark is NOT a pervert -- he's a very thoughtful, devoted artist whom I've known for 30 years -- and he should not be held accountable for the imagination of those who like his paintings)

I consider this a rather clumsy effort by Scott Tallman, one of our most admirable young painters --- but it nails how we all feel about Mary Qian, the Chinese girl painting at the top of the pyramid. The club has a long history of paintings depicting members at work --and this is one of the most endearing.

This is Mary Qian's entry in the competition -- and it's the one I voted for -- not because I enjoy it the most -- but because dramatic, volumetric, figurative work is the highest calling in European painting -- and she's got the drive and talent to answer it. Thomas Eakins has a challenger.

Every weekend, throughout the year, a hardy crew of fanatical plein-air painters descend upon the streets and parks of Chicago to capture the feeling of a time and place in a briefly done painting -- and this one by Tim Leeming works pretty well for me -- almost like one of those psychological confessionals of Vincent Van Gogh -- with a toned-down, mid-western mood. Maybe I like it because I've spent my share of time wandering aimlessly off-the-path through humble urban parks.


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