This past week, Midtown Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Center played host to the annual Art Expo, and I made the trek in from Queens to see what all the hoopla was about. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I assumed that there would be a lot of heavy, traditional art and colorful modern works suited more to the sterile walls of corporate America and the schmaltziness of a Holiday Inn or an Italian restaurant. And while my suspicions were confirmed even more than I could have possibly imagined, I met and was inspired by many artists who bring their own distinct perspectives to the face of contemporary art.
At this show, there was a great variety of art to be had, ranging from ethnic, to dramatic landscapes to wonderful examples of plein air and everything in between. The urban landscapes of Providence’s Nick Paciorek, in particular, caught my eye. If I had loads of dough and a home that could accommodate large pieces of art, I would fill it with pieces like his. He captures everyday moments on city streets that make me forget that I’m looking at a painting and transport me onto an urban sidewalk as a participant rather than a voyeur. He is truly a contemporary master of the paintbrush.
Of particular interest to me were the paintings of Polish-born, Toronto-based artist Peter Barelkowski. His work, in many ways reminded me of Haitian-born Francks Francois Décéus, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the National Black Fine Art Show a couple of weeks ago. Barelkowski delves into the emotional states associated with sadness and isolation, but he juxtaposes his subtexts with what he refers to as “one-dimensional, cartoonish-style” subjects who bring out “grotesque undertones.” I look forward to further exploring his work and perhaps becoming a collector of his work.
In my opinion, one of the main highlights of the show were the photo realism masterpieces by British-born Ken Orton of the Upstate New York Ken Orton Gallery. His large, bold pieces were hard to ignore because the artist captures reality in a better way than reality could itself. His subjects, ranging from abandoned pick-up trucks and cars, to jars and glassware of varying sizes and shapes, create an architectural feast for the eyes. Orton brilliantly categorizes his subjects in unique ways, so as to create thrilling composition and medleys of color. What is most stunning, is how he takes inanimate objects and makes them characters in their own dramatic tableaus. Various subjects like olive oil bottles make cameo appearances in multiple works establishing his own stars system that keeps the spectator wondering where they might appear next and in what guise.
In 2004, I had the opportunity to work with actress, artist and mogul of all things creative, Jane Seymour, on the launch of her Grand Hotel Mackinac Island Home Collection. Having the fortunate pleasure of working on this project was serendipitous, as I had fallen in love with her persona and beauty after seeing the film Somewhere in Time (co-starring Christopher Reeve), when I was a much younger lad. Of course, that added to the thrill of being in the general vicinity of Jane. The irony was that my mother’s great grandfather was one of the founders of Mackinac Island and supposedly owned The Grand Hotel at one point (we tend to think this lore was just that…lore!). In truth, however, he did build an 8-bedroom cottage on the island, which is now a popular bed and breakfast.
Saturday, I reintroduced myself to Jane and saw her “Open Hearts” works that inspired a collaboration with Kay Jewelers in 2008 and a new book with the same name, which she was signing at Art Expo. Her paintings depict two hearts connected that are open at either end. These exclusive designs reflect unconditional love with no boundaries, suggesting that “if we keep our hearts open, love will always find its way in.” Jane was kind enough to pose for this photograph:
For more information about Art Expo 2009 visit http://www.artexpos.com/