2020 Best of America Small Painting Exhibition: Virtual Critique 2

It is said that the artist creates the art but once it is finished, the art belongs to the viewers. The viewers will respond, react, feel and see the art according to their own experiences, their background and their own life stories. They will come up with their own conclusions which might or might not match the original reasons or desires that led the artist to create the piece of art.


A Little R and R, 12×16 by John Caggiano

The beach grass shadows in this painting by John Caggiano immediately caught my eye. From a soft violet to a luminescence turquoise green, they are not only pleasing but they create a powerful statement in harmony and in unity with the colors of the ocean.  These shades also help to create a compositional line that starts at the lower right of the painting and takes us along a zig zag path to the ocean. The two chairs, while important in their meaning, are merely part of the zig zag line and their blue and yellow seem to be a pick of the surrounding colors. Adding to this feast of blue/green hues, the complementary color red towards the foreground creates energy and perspective. The white sand is actually a multitude of pastel colors. An impressionistic sky full of light and the bright colors in the ocean tell us the time of the day. It is probably a peaceful midday at the beach.
The brushstrokes are fast and loose adding to the vibrancy of this 12×16 soothing yet  dynamic painting.



Street Life, 10×8 by Donald Curran

Street Life is a 10 x 8 inches painting and it is amazing how much this small painting can tell us about contemporary life in the city. Imagine this painting being viewed 200 years in the future and gather all the information it would convey about our city life. Of course, the buildings, the traffic signs, and the cars are all there. Stores, light posts and even what looks like a garbage can or a fence are visible; however, the figure would give an entire narrative. Positioned at the center like in most classical portraiture, this figure and its background is very much from our times. A young man dressed in black with probably a t-shirt underneath and an open jacket with a hoodie. The beard is the style of many young men nowadays. The backpack over one shoulder hints a nonchalant approach. The cup in his left hand indicates he probably stopped to get some coffee, common practice of our days. On the right arm a skate board speaks of youth and of a carefree spirit “surfing” along city sidewalks. Even the face expression, captured in the eyes, would speak to each individual in a different way.
NOAPS Master Artist Donald Curran tells us much more in this painting. He makes us feel the cloudy weather of a snowy day. The edges are softened and broken with white speckles and even the skin has a tint of red from a cold day.
To top it all, Curran signed his painting in the top right corner but wait, is it his signature or a store sign?



Summer Afternoon, 14×18 by Barbara Nuss

In certain way, Summer Afternoon,  by NOAPS Signature Artist Barbara Nuss brings to mind the pastoral landscapes of the Dutch Golden Age. It was back in the 17th century when landscape became a genre of its own and it has been a favorite subject for both artists and collectors since that time. Barbara places the viewer on a hill providing a semi-aerial view of the meadow. The break of shadow and light further emphasizes our location as a viewer. It is like  viewing the scene through a lens.
The diagonal line of the hill creates interest and the trees on both sides frame the focal area. Dutch artists often placed cattle or horses at a distant and Barbara placed three horses leading the viewer’s eyes through an unmarked path from the first horse to the other two, then to the water, continuing to the distant forestation and finally to a cloudy sky. From our perch on the hill, we can easily deduct the time of the day given by the bright sunlight. Barbara even gives us an indication of an early Fall through the placement of colors around the canvas. Perspective is very well achieved with details and brighter colors in the foreground and a softening in the background.
This landscape makes me want to sit in the shade at the edge of the hill and from there be one with Nature and the pastoral life.



Yield, 14×6.50 by Blair Atherholt

Did you know that Still Life, while existing since ancient time, also became an important and distinct genre during the Dutch Golden Age? Artists create the Still Life paintings in their studio paying much attention to lines, shapes, color and of course light. In Yield, there are several interesting lines composed by NOAPS Signature Artist Blair Atherholt. While organic, there is no doubt that we see a vertical line in the small hanging branch. Its suspension in an apparent stopped fall adds mystery. Does it carry a symbolism? The title itself might Yield or imply a deeper meaning to this composition of course opened to the imagination of the viewer. Doesn’t the word Yield mean cease to argue, give right of way, relinquish possession as well as produce or provide? The apparent vertical line is stopped by the horizontal line of the ledge suggesting a feeling of stability and rest; however, not before the circle of the very well rendered plum is placed in between the vertical and horizontal lines.  We cannot miss the arch line at the bottom creating energy. The design carved in the stone also creates direction with a pointed leaf leading to the most illuminated part of the painting. All these different compositional lines make this painting. Imagine these same lines in different places and you will see that the entire feeling of the painting would totally change.
The chiaroscuro adds to the mystery and drama of Yield. The small details draw our attention and the light in each rounded fruit is treated with perfection taking into consideration the reflective light and the different changes in value to create a true three dimensionality for each shape in this painting.


Written by Hebe Brooks, NOAPS Master Artist and NOAPS Membership Director


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