For decades, the art market has been saturated with works that portray negative positions on life and the world around us. Intriguing and arresting as they are, the sheer volume of such pieces compel me to ask, “How much negativity can the art world handle?” Thankfully, a new movement is finally on the rise and will answer the call of the counter-culture. In styles ranging from completely abstract to fi gurative realism, artists are embracing aesthetic beauty and spiritual expression.
“This does not mean that it is sweet or sentimental,” says Maureen Watson, owner of Watson MacRae Gallery on Sanibel. “We are talking about art that conveys beauty, truth or goodness. This is what humans always search for and what I search for all over the country. Technical profi ciency is a given. This work goes beyond the technical into the spiritual, the metaphysical.”
This idea of positivity is something that has informed my own work, as well as my thinking about art criticism. The editors of Gulfshore Life asked me to pick five Southwest Florida artists, including myself, who best exemplify this new movement. Although Todd Babb, Greg Biolchini, Hollis Jeff coat and Arturo Samaniego all differ from each other in style or medium, each uses masterful techniques to achieve a more affirmative vision of life.
I paint abstract, structured compositions with an aleatoric approach (incorporating chance and luck into the process). Thin, pulled layers of paint overlap to create a delightful depth, accented by drawn line. Carefully pre-mixing each color in large containers, I find the precise tone of each hue that will communicate a feeling of comfort and well-being before ever starting a series of work. I try to transfer to the viewer the elated feeling of love and joy in a non-objective manner.
Cube Constructs are paintings on paper, mounted on canvas that are then combined with hinges so that the form can close into a cube or open into a wall-hanging. As a sculpture, it can be rotated and balance on any corner, edge or plane.
I am represented by HW Gallery in Naples and will have a solo exhibition in March 2013 at HOWL Gallery and in August at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center.
Arturo samaniego spent years in the corporate world, specifically in the computer industry, before dedicating life to creating art. Finally, when the market pushed him to make a decision, he opened a studio and gallery in Naples. He is a painter dedicated to achieving beautiful aesthetics in his work. Samaniego, who uses a multitude of mediums, worked in oil paint for his new series, Emergence.
Placing his subjects in the pulsing waves of the ocean, Samaniego implies a sense of baptism or cleansing. The figures look as if they’ve immersed themselves into the water and are now emerging with a renewed self. The undefined horizon, hazy and opaque, suggests isolation and stresses the importance of self analysis and being alone with one’s self. The paintings feel stripped of ego and convey the core innocence of each human being.
Samaniego is represented by Collection Privée in Miami. His work can be found at his gallery, Samaniego Art, on J&C Boulevard in Naples where he also teaches painting classes and hosts contemporary exhibitions.
For the last year, Greg Biolchini has dedicated each morning and evening to photographing the skies off Sanibel. Biolchini then paints the towering cumulous cloud formations that cast miles of shadows across the landscape and reflect the divine colors of the day’s light across the sky. Each painting is realistic in style but has graceful painterly gestures elevating the work in the realm of controlled technique. The work goes beyond photorealism and embodies the emotional effect of the powerful landscape through the hand of the painter. “I witnessed a woman brought to tears by one of his paintings—Florida Sky No. 7,” says gallery owner Maureen Watson.
“I’ve painted over 20 of these paintings and have witnessed hundreds of sunrises and sunsets. I’m experiencing something quite powerful and maybe even spiritual that I never expected,” says Biolchini.
Using controlled and repetitive gestural strokes, Hollis Jeffcoat paints abstracted landscapes and creature portraits that speak volumes for nature.
In her paintings of sea creatures, her strokes create a sense of the rhythm of the ocean. Her color creates the feeling of the minerality of the water.
“In nature is where one finds positivity and the light at the end of the tunnel. I allow creatures in nature to come to me and tell me what they look like. They are their own characters and have their own lifeforce,” Jeffcoat says.
Jeffcoat has studied and worked with many great artists of our time including Jean-Paul Riopelle and Joan Mitchell. Her work can be found in museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Morgan Library and Museum in New York and Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Quebec City.
Todd Andrew Babb
Todd Andrew Babb sculpts elegant, gravity-defying figures that twist and stretch in space. With exaggerated positions and features, his carved sculptures feel energetically charged and look as if they are in constant motion.
“Art needs to return to focusing on the mastering of techniques. Knowledge of how to use your medium only opens doors to expression,” Babb says. He contributes to this new positive movement by exposing society to what is good and miraculous about us as the human race.
Babb’s work has been exhibited at the Naples Museum of Art as well as in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Southwest Florida. His sculptures can be found in galleries, at fine art fairs and festivals, and in collections around the world, including Panama, Ecuador, Greece and the United Kingdom.