Tag Archives: oil painting

Cruz-ing

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The retrospective currently on exhibition in two of the upstairs galleries at the Everson Museum of Art (401 Harrison Street, Syracuse, New York 13202) was fifty years in the making.  Puerto Rican born Juan Cruz has spent the past forty years dwelling here in Syracuse, New York, making murals, teaching and working on a collegiate degree in Fine Art from Syracuse University.  And painting – he has been creating the mother-lode of paintings.

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This show exemplifies what I have always wanted the Everson to be – a museum that believes in local artists, supporting their careers and offering ample space to breathe love and life into a body of work that illustrates the strength, character and beauty of an artist’s life-long vision.

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There are paintings that show Cruz’s proficiency with realism – watercolor landscapes and oil on paper portraits.  These pieces are the yellow bricks of the journey.  They offer the first dance on a path that takes a left hand cruise into abstraction.

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Those abstracts even go 3-D via a few sculptures as well, but the artist’s main strength is in the confident energy of the gnarled face forms peering out of these canvases, evidently pleading to be understood.

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This energy alludes to social injustices felt both personally and as a member of a Caribbean culture with economic drama.  There is abundant repetition of shape and color interspersed with black outlines, as well as bright white.  This co-mingling rhythm creates a cartoon-like flavor undermining the angst, which gets more pronounced in the newer pieces, suggesting a shift to a more positive perspective for this working artist.

I would imagine pure full-on non-representational abstraction is the goal, obliterating the need to be understood by the masses, because when the goal is freedom of expression, the limitation of pleasing others gives way to one’s own knowing.  Knowing the rightness of choices made with deliberate intent.

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It’s all about the journey, and this one is an enormously satisfying one.  I am delighted that I was able to witness this body of work as it is displayed.   And for Juan Cruz, the best is yet to come.  Because the dance is by no means over – it has just begun. ❤

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Juan Cruz:  A Retrospective concludes on August 4, 2019.  (Up next – Yoko Ono!)

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****From the Everson website

Syracuse-based artist Juan Alberto Cruz (b. 1941, Puerto Rico) combines rich symbolism with a bold and colorful abstract style to create work infused with his Caribbean heritage. Moving from Puerto Rico to Manhattan’s Lower East Side and subsequent travels to Spain, Mexico, Cuba, and Central America have had a major impact on Cruz’s work, which reflects a mixture of his cultural heritage and life experiences. From his earliest portrait paintings to recent abstract collages, Cruz uses the emotional realities of his past to articulate his feelings about economic inequality and systematic injustice.

As a child, Cruz taught himself to draw by copying the comic strips from discarded newspapers onto brown paper grocery bags, and later he drew portraits of everyday people that he sold for pocket change on the street. It was not until his thirties, when he enrolled in an art program led by then-Everson Director Jim Harithas that Cruz learned art could be more than replicating the world around him. Harithas taught Cruz how to paint and introduced him to a world of modern artists, which led Cruz’s drawings and paintings to evolve into a complex amalgamation of figurative and abstract forms. For the past five decades, Cruz’s boundless creativity and production has led him to compile a massive body of work. 

Since moving to Syracuse in 1975, Cruz has made a significant impact on the local community. He has painted numerous murals throughout the city, including on the Onondaga Commons building, in Skiddy Park, and several in the Near West Side. He also completed a new mural with the Everson Teen Arts Council currently on view on the Museum’s Lower Level. Cruz served as artist-in-residence for the Near West Side Initiative for five years and ran the Patch-Up Studio, a community center that provided children and adults with a safe space to make and learn about art. By choosing to live and work in Syracuse, Cruz has brought together a multigenerational community inspired by his public art initiatives and workshops.

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EVERSON MUSEUM OF ART HOURS:

SUNDAY 12-5
MONDAY CLOSED
TUESDAY CLOSED
WEDNESDAY 12-5
THURSDAY 12-8
FRIDAY 12-5
FIRST FRIDAY EACH MONTH NOON–8:00PM
SATURDAY 10-5

Call (315) 474-6064 for more information.

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The Power in Penny

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By day, Penny Santy is a graphic artist.  By night and weekends, she becomes a powerhouse superhero – an oil painting phenomenon who captures the essence and beauty of (as well as the struggle to find) the perfect relationship in a work of art.

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I love having conversations about art with Penny.  She was recently in Baltimore for the Diebenkorn and Matisse show and spoke passionately about the brush strokes and the artists’ implied intention resulting in their ultimate successful choices on canvas.  It is this attention to things that Penny brings to her own work, a constant questioning of what instinctively works at any given time.

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This is reflected in her literature.

My motivation for creating art is a search for what makes humans tick, and for finding emotion in the painted image. My work is derived from an exploration of human strengths, struggles, accomplishments or destruction. What is great about making art is that it goes much deeper than the outward appearance of things. I’m always searching through the process of painting for what is below the surface. The process allows me to discover, and I am excited by what I find. My paintings aren’t trying to present answers, but to ask questions.

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Penny reworks paintings until they are to her satisfaction, whether it is the better choice of blue for a sky or the slightest value change in a complementary color scheme to tweak the flow of rhythm that is constantly in her vortex.  Her presence as an artist is truly captivating.

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I am really impressed with this new body of work, how it defines her vision, a place hovering between reality and abstract, which generates considerable movement with breathtaking perfection.

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She sold several of these paintings at the opening last night at the Wilson Art Gallery in the Noreen Reale Falcone library at Le Moyne College (1419 Salt Springs Road, Syracuse, New York 13214).  I observed patrons fighting over pieces (“okay, I’ll get that one and you can have that one” type stuff).  It was really magnificent to witness her success.  She is the real deal and I encourage anyone who wants to acquire her work to do so now before she skyrockets to the fame she deserves.

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The show is titled Between Us.  In addition to the butterfly series, Penny is sharing works she’d made for juried exhibitions including the winning entry from that Adirondack show and the Bowie-inspired one from the Tech Garden show last year.  Her hen and sunflower paintings work as well here, as they reflect her proficient technical skills while fulfilling her criteria to share rhythm with respect to relationships between objects, nature and people.

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The exhibition continues through February 24, 2017 and can be viewed during library hours.  Call (315) 445-4153 for more information.

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Make it a Penny Santy day today!  Head over to see this show then take a drive out to Earlville, New York.  You can meet Penny at the Earlville Opera House Art Gallery  (18 East Main Street, Earlville, New York 13332) where she is exhibiting her series of bull paintings.  There is an art reception from noon to 3:00 pm today!

The Destruction of Devices

The famous story goes that Jasper Johns destroyed all the pieces he’d made prior to 1955 to start over, creating his new works as encaustics – the target and flag paintings that Leo Castelli put in his gallery subsequently selling them to major NYC art museums…and an art god was born.

http://www.jasper-johns.org/

Recently I read that Jean Michel Basquiat drawings had surfaced and were going on the auction block.  I think they were sketchbook thing-a-ma-bobs, not intended to be shown as potential masterpieces or anything but I guess once you are dead your immortal soul can command millions.

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So what’s the right thing to do?  Keep every single thing you’ve ever made – did Picasso do that?  (I think so.)  Or chuck the stuff you think is junk and not representative of your work?

I do this with my clothes all the time.  I give most of my stuff to the Salvation Army.  Sometimes it isn’t even a year old.  I live in a small space and I don’t keep things that I don’t wear.  Like if I don’t think it will ever be my go to for an event, it doesn’t matter how nice it is; it needs to move on.  I regret some of those chucks.  I’d gained some weight a few years ago and thought I’d never get my twenty-five inch waist back so I said good-bye to some pieces that would have transcended time if I would have allowed it.  Oh well.  There are always new clothes out there.  New ideas in shape and fabric that make a person feel current.

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If I were immortal, I think I could hack the changes, at least in fashion and art.  In technology, not so much.  So I guess that’s why I choose edit/delete.  The three paintings illustrating this blog post are long gone.

I gessoed over their surfaces because I just didn’t feel good about them.  They were 24″ x 48″ paintings, all framed in maple wood gallery style frames that cost a small fortune once upon a time in the ’90s.

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I came across the pictures while hunting for the one of Evangeline Peters.  These three were part of that exhibition I had at the May Memorial Unitarian Church in Dewitt, NY circa I don’t remember.  I want to say 1999.

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I kind of miss them, but that might just be the silliness of all of this retrospective melancholy.  This series was born from taking devices from all of the other works of art I had created up until then and placing them into segments puzzle pieced together.  The idea is much like my own life.  It is compartmentalized in such a way that you’d really have to get to know me pretty well to really know me.  And I can’t say that there is a single anyone in the world who truly does know me.

Do we all think that of ourselves?  Do we all wear masks as Billy Joel sings in The Stranger or are some people truly transparent?  I’m not sure.  At any rate, these pieces just didn’t make the cut.  There are portions of them that I feel a connection to and other areas that fall flat.  I have the pictures at least, and if I want to incorporate them somehow into the newbie Futura series this summer then maybe they will in a small way be resurrected.

I plan to reuse the frames so I will replicate these dimensions – and puzzle it out.