Sunday, February 05, 2006

91: “An Invitation to an Art Show – Part 1”


Time out for a little culture.

GettysBLOG can’t draw. Not only can GettysBLOG not draw, he can’t even draw a straight line. GettysBLOG is also a bit color blind, especially in discriminating between various shades of a single pastel color. Thus it may come as somewhat of a surprise when we declare that GettysBLOG is somewhat of a connoisseur of art, but mostly an appreciator of good art, and art well done, with talent behind it. You do not have to have any particular artistic talent or ability to know good work when you see it.

Some artists are painters. Some put colors on paper or canvas and call it art. Others have the unique and uncanny ability to not only manipulate color, but light and shadow, perspective, and of course, subject. They do not paint for the eye, but for what the eye sees and what the viewer brings to the image in his own mind. Someone who has never heard of, or seen an apple, or, especially who has never eaten one, will never understand the painting of an apple. Each viewer who has experienced these things, then, looks at the painting of the apple and applies to it their own memories of an apple, somewhere in their time, and the smell, and the taste of that apple, and perhaps its juicy crispness comes to mind – indeed it may even bring other memories with it, all evoked by an ordinary object: the apple. Those that can evoke these thoughts from their viewing audience can then honestly call themselves artists.

In our years on this planet we have had the great good fortune to meet, and get to know more than a few artists. There are four, in particular, that we admire, and two of them we will discuss in another essay. For now, we are content to discuss two bright stars of American art.

Jeff Fioravanti is a New England (thus characterized so I do not have to constantly type Massachusetts!) artist who is making waves as an artist of great talent. He has done much of his work in a unique group of studies detailing Civil War battlefields…as they would look before the battle was fought. Battles change terrain. During the Civil War there were many instances where roads had to be cut through woodlots, trails marked through wetlands and swamps, earth moved to make ramparts and defensive works. At the Battle of Gettysburg, just about every fence rail for miles around disappeared to make defensive positions, or to fuel the thousands of cook-fires needed to feed nearly two hundred thousand men. Trees are felled to make defensive positions, and for firewood. In some battles, artillery did enough damage to woodlots as to render them destroyed. Houses, cabins, sheds, and barns were burned, or blown apart.

Battles change terrain.

Jeff Fioravanti has the knack of seeing the battlefields as they were, before the battles. In most cases, as the farmers had kept the land, and in other cases, how nature had done so. He captures these scenes from rare perspectives, and with muted, respectful tones. He uses a focus on his subjects that make the land the object, not the buildings. And that is right as it is the land that has been so consecrated by the blood of those who fought there.

Jeff does not paint Civil War scenes exclusively. He would not be a New England artist if he did not paint subjects dealing with the sea. In Jeff’s case, a series of small boats, dories as they are called, along the docks in the inlets and coves of New England. But like the land in the battlefield studies, here the focus is intently on the boats, and it is left to the viewer to supply the contextual details about which he peripherally hints.

Visit the
Fioravanti Fine Art website and view his work in the various galleries there. I think you will agree with me, that Jeff Fioravanti is an amazing talent who has built a wonderful repertoire of American Landscapes and New England scenes. Also, you can often view his works in the magazine American Artist, where they have been featured on several occasions.

Another fine example of American art can be found tucked away near Washington D.C. Visit the
Yellow Barn Studio website, of Glen Echo Park, Maryland, and click on the panel with the name Mimi Betz. Mrs. Betz has been painting for a while, now, after leaving it to raise a family and a career in government. A bit more traditional than most artists, Mimi makes effective use of color, shadow and light to present studies to the eye that evoke some of the more renowned 19th century European artists, some Dutch, some French.

She has a demonstrated ability to move from a tabletop still life to a broad expanse of riverside in Autumn, and then to focus in on some of the most beautifully rendered sunflowers you will ever see. I believe most artists tend to shy away from painting sunflowers, except for practice, to avoid the obvious comparisons to Vincent Van Gogh. Not so the delightful Mrs. Betz – her sunflowers stand tall, and straight, and blare their colors out with unabashed pride, indeed, it is almost defiance!

Like Fioravanti, Mimi can also focus on the landscape and leave the context to the viewer’s imagination. That is not just any garden, that is the garden at Clara Barton House, and there, the land itself, and the color it wears are the focus. Mrs. Betz uses the element of light and shadow to impose a scene of serenity and calm on the viewer.

As you can see by viewing their work, there are subtle messages conveyed in the work of both of these very talented people. These are both artists we would love to see more of, and to see more of their work. GettysBLOG greatly admires their work and recommends that you save the links to your favorites folder for both of these wonderful talents, and revisit their sites often. The links to both will reside on the sidebar to the right under the links “Artists in Residence” list.

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