Friday, October 23, 2015

New American Art at New Britain Museum

Last month the New Britain Museum of American Art hosted a gallery talk with a panel of established contemporary artists who are advocates, and some might say leaders, of the current representational art movement. Graydon Parrish (3rd from left) moderated the panel which included Patricia Watwood, Richard Thomas Scott, Sadie Valeri, Daniel Maidman and Tony Curanaj. Impressively, each of these artists has work that is now part of the permanent collection.

Cycle of Terror and Tragedy: September 11, Graydon Parrish
Artist panel in front of Parrish's "Cycle of Terror and Tragedy: Sept 11"
NBMAA's panel discussion centered on the current representational art movement, which has earned new respect, significant followers and a profound level of excellence thanks to academies devoted to old-world, atelier-style, academic methods of painting - the kind of techniques that produced masters of allegorical, figurative and representational work from Michelangelo to Millet over a 300+ year span. Who could argue with that?!

Oh, lots of people! As with any "movement" there are conflicting points of view... mainly from proponents of other movements. And those conflicting opinions can sometimes strike one as a bit self-serving, IMHO. You've heard it before: my "xxx" is newer/elite-er/holier than yours. My favorite remarks came from Sadie Valeri who compared art to music and suggested that fine art should be acknowledged, appreciated and peacefully coexist in the way that music does. No one tells Joshua Bell that his style is "old" and he should embrace hip hop because it's "newer" aka better. Point made.

Sadie also won me over describing her personal artistic journey which included being disillusioned by her acclaimed art school (Rhode Island School of Design!!!) that required classical drawing in admission portfolios and then ignored classical art instruction in favor of ...oh, let's say the emperors new clothes (oops, that's me sounding derisive of modern art - just my personal opinion, folks).

This group has christened it's style of painting  "Post Contemporary." Love the work. Questioning the moniker. It's meant to differentiate from "modern" art (post-modernism was already taken). But they tend to shorten it to "Po-Co" which in Spanish means "little" or "not much." And believe me, their work is definitely NOT "not much".
contemporary realism
Post Contemporary Art by panelists Richard Thomas Scott (l), Tony Curanaj (c), Sadie Valeri (r) © the artists

While I was there I enjoyed the rest of the museum's collection, specializing in American art. Exhibits are sometimes organized by style rather than date making it all the more interesting. On the wall below they've grouped master trompe l'oeil work by John Haberle with today's artist Michael Theise. It's part of their Appropriation and Inspiration series which pairs contemporary work with its historical counterpart from the permanent collection. I love this perspective.

trompe l'oeil, oil painting, peg board
Michael Theise's Madame X Desk Blotter, l. John Haberle's Time and Eternity, r.

Kudos to NBMAA for their recognition and support of realist artists working today! If you haven't been, it's worth the trip. This is a wonderfully intimate museum, as close as NYC ...and parking is free. Plus they host gallery crawls with Happy Hours! More importantly, they provide art education programs for home schooled children - so valuable in a time when art education has been pared down or eliminated altogether. This is a museum worthy of support!

If you'd like to read more about classical (or classic) realism there is an interesting three part series on the Oil Painters of America blog, which is a source of info self-described as "Dedicated to the Preservation of Representational Art".

Thanks for wandering this corner of the art world with me.


  1. Thank you for your comments and photo of my art. I am proud to have it in the museum collection. Michael Theise

  2. Thanks for commenting Michael! I first saw your amazing trompe l'oeil paintings at The Cooley Gallery a few years ago. LOVE your technique ...and sense of humor! What a wonderful surprise to see your exquisite homage to Sargent in the permanent collection at NBMAA! Congratulations!!!!


I'd love to hear from you!