My mission is to learn about living artists and the works they create.
The video below is about Lost in Composition, what it is, and what gave birth to it. Below the video is more about myself and my art biases.
Here are my biases…
The art which captures my attention generally has a healthy dose of realism or simply makes me feel good. I’ll dive into realism in a moment, but let’s discuss feel good art first. I think most of us start our appreciation of art because we saw a creation which made us feel good. Not necessarily a warm fuzzy feeling, but it moved us. I’ve been stopped in my tracks, with my mind grasping to comprehend a piece seen for the first time. How a piece moves us is what makes it personal, that experience is the goodness I’m talking about.
The piece I lean back in my chair and take in when I take breaks from writing is The Sound of a Lightweight by Tyson Grumm:
This is a piece with some realism overlayed by a whole lot of nonsense. I love this piece so much, it’s one of my favorites by Tyson. Here is why this piece makes me feel so good:
- I love music. I have an extensive collection of music which is painstakingly ripped in lossless format, cataloged, and backed up. My playlists consist of local files and are all created by myself. I don’t have any computer-generated play lists. I take as much pride in my music collection as I do my art collection.
- Early on in my tech career I wore a lab coat similar to the one in the painting. Those were good times for me.
- Headphones are an escape for me… They allow me to get lost in musical compositions or simply tune everything out.
- For many reasons, elephants are my favorite animals.
- My favorite book as a child was The Red Balloon by Albert Lamorisse.
- The first pet which was exclusively mine was a white rabbit.
- I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. The sky, land, and water visible in the window represent home to me.
- I love BIG windows.
It should be obvious why The Sound of a Lightweight by Tyson Grumm makes me feel good when I see it. It is a personal reflection of me and things I have loved throughout my life. I feel lucky to have stumbled across a piece so personal to me. I think that is the essence of why art can be so personal. I don’t think finding a piece so personal is common, but I bet it happens more than I realize.
The other (not so personal) art that makes me feel good is pop art. It’s self-apparent there is little to no realism in pop art but how could Flower Ball: Open your hands wide by Takashi Murakami not make someone feel good?
Personal and feel-good art is great, but I cannot imagine walking around my home looking at nothing but tributes to my life and smiley faces. Too much realism at home would bore me to tears. I’ve always believed variety is the spice of life. That’s where realism coupled with fun or thought-provoking imagery comes into play for me.
Realism in painting has had to evolve over the years. Nighthawks by Edward Hopper is consistently rated as one of the all-time best works of realism:
Another of the all-time greats in realism is Barge Haulers on the Volga by Ilya Repin:
Edward Hopper was born on July 22, 1882 and left us on May 15, 1967. Ilya Repin was born on August 5, 1844 and left us on September 29, 1930. Both left us before color television or color photography was widespread. I can only imagine gazing upon these works without my brain being accustomed to high definition everything. Seeing these without any concept of the vivid and detailed images we are accustomed to today would have stopped me in my tracks. Each are undeniably masterpieces. When looked at through the lens of time, they are nothing less than astonishing.
With all the rapid advances in imaging, painters needed to retool and redefine realism. Today we have artists producing detailed images of oysters on ice, gummy bears, insects, fish, humans, bubbles, water in motion, clothing, and on and on and on. At any art fair one can spot countless paintings which look like they are photographs. One of my favorites from an art fair years ago was a still life consisting of many modern objects, one of which was a Betty Boop doll.
There’s no denying I loved that still life with Betty Boop. If I had an unlimited budget, I would have snatched it up. But the reality of the situation is that very few of us have unlimited budgets. If I was going to drop 40k on a painting, it would not be a still life… No matter how modern and detailed the subject matter was.
If I’m going to drop money on a painting it can’t just tug at my heartstrings, it needs to make my brain come to a screeching halt and then make it gasp for air. I want something that is going to get me lost in its composition frequently. I want the details of the piece to make me pause repeatedly and fool me or show me something new in the piece which I had never seen before… Despite the piece having been in my home for a decade or more! I want a piece to teach me if it is better observed from afar and if I need to get closer for a more intimate experience. If the piece continues to make my brain contort itself time and time again; I’m in.
One artist who fits my collecting narrative would be Kellie Talbot. Her paintings of neon signs are so spot-on they fooled my shrink. I had been using my phone to show her pictures of the works my husband and I have collected over the years and new pieces as we acquired them. We had just acquired another piece by Kellie, and I was showing her the picture and she commented about it lighting up. My mind contorted. I thought I had told her they were paintings! This woman listens to (and remembers) conversations better than anyone I know. I reiterated that they were paintings. She then elaborated and told me she thought the neon tubes were mounted over the painting. We both chuckled.
We currently have more works by Kellie in our home than any other artists. To me, her work integrates realism, pop, and nostalgia perfectly. It makes me want to take a road trip through the United States. She’s also from Seattle and we are lucky to have some pieces of iconic neon signs from my hometown of Seattle by Kellie. Two pieces by her in our collection are some of my all-time favorites of her work. Someone else owns my favorite by her but I cannot express how grateful I am to have the pieces we do have by her. My favorite piece by Kellie is Pink Champagne:
Another artist who has captivated me for decades is Bill Braun. Technically he’s a trompe l’oeil (to fool the eye) painter but to me he has also mastered realism in a way few artists can. His works look like something a grade school art teacher might construct on a corkboard in their classroom. Construction paper cutouts, staples, scraps of wrapping paper and tacks appear to be the bulk of his work. The catch is everything you are looking at is painted on a canvas:
Landscape paintings don’t really float my boat. However, if an artist did a landscape of another world or one of candy and trees made out of candy canes, that grabs my attention. Artists like Jean-Pierre Roy and some of his students, have taken landscape painting to whole new levels. One example being Landscape with Temporal Circumvolution by Jean-Pierre Roy:
Karen Hackenberg is another artist who does fantastic landscapes. I was nearly brought me to tears when we hung one of her pieces in our home. Karen’s landscapes are very familiar to me because they are from my native Pacific Northwest. She has waterfront property with stunning views. What most of us don’t realize is that those stunning waterfront properties are always littered with discarded plastics. I’ve been to beaches as far away from mainlands as Bora Bora, and not one beach I’ve visited has been spared the pandemic of plastics. These plastics are killing animals in our oceans and working their way into our bodies as we eat our food.
Karen Hackenberg knows plastics are choking our oceans. She takes plastic items found on the beach, stages them on what appears to be her pristine beach, captures images of them, then paints them with stunning realism. Some may call her work protest art, others may call it environmental art, but there is no doubt that her work has its roots in realism. When I first saw her work, I was left nearly speechless. The only words that made it out of my mouth when the gallery employee brought a painting out for me to view were “Holy crap.” He responded with “No… Holy Water.”
After a few discussions with my husband about Holy Water, we welcomed the piece into our home. I assisted the gallery employee who delivered the piece with hanging it. As I held it against the wall he stepped back to see if the height was right. I could barely hear what was uttered under his breath. It was so quiet and what was said was shocking to me because I didn’t think the guy knew how to swear. I asked him “Did I just hear that?” His response was “I didn’t say anything.” We both laughed. We also both knew the color contrasts worked perfectly. He had whispered “That looks f—ing awesome.” The nice thing it that the wall was this color prior to acquiring the painting. Here is Holy Water in our home:
Realism, pop art, trompe l’oeil, and art with a political and/or social message are a magnet for me. Surrealism and fantasy are something I gravitate to as well. But there are other types of art which grab me and take me for a ride and I will elaborate on those in upcoming posts. Some would consider my tastes eclectic but there are common threads which run through our collection. Those threads are:
- Artists subverting or refining the dominant paradigm.
The problem with my tastes in art is that I need to try and explain them in an elevator pitch when I walk into a new gallery. I don’t walk into a gallery exuding money or art snobbery. I walk in as myself. The staff has no clue who I am or what I like. In short order I will let them know I am a collector, but I’ve found that is precisely when the mood shifts from casual to hard sell and snobbery. Then the fifty-million-dollar question drops, and I am asked “What kind of art do you like?” I respond with “Fucked-up realism.”
A smidge more about me:
I’ve worked in the tech sector for over thirty years. That implies I worked in tech when it was the equivalent of working in a garage with grease monkeys. It also implies I’m older. I’ve been incredibly lucky to collect art, however I do consider our collection humble. I’m gay, married and childless. We do have a French Bulldog named Boom Boom.
He’s very loved and spoiled. He does not have an Instagram account or YouTube channel. He sleeps on a chair beside me as I write.