The Power of Realism: Stories from the Soul
EaThis online exhibition features student and graduate paintings from the Aristides Atelier, at Gage Academy of Art in Seattle, WA where master artist, Juliette Aristides offers foundational skills necessary for realist artists. We connect with this atelier through our collections of Richard Lack paintings, whose atelier was the source of her training. The term “Classical Realism” was coined by Lack and a group of atelier-trained realist artists communicating their connection to academic traditions, coupled with a modern way of seeing. It embraces classicism, realism, and an impressionist style using rigorous atelier apprenticeships, intensive mentoring, and an academic method of drawing and painting.
In our 2022 collaboration with Aristides Atelier we present the themed exhibition The Power of Realism: Stories from the Soul and the continued story of atelier training.
The exhibition is juried by by Dr. Leo Mazow, Ph.D. from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Dr. Mazow, a thought leader in his field, is the recipient of the prestigious 2013 Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art.
A statement by Dr. Mazow:
The Power of Realism reminds us that realism itself is a slippery concept. A work painted with painstaking lifelikeness can be as abstract in meaning as a supposedly non-representational composition. Just because forms are recognizable does not mean that a narrative is somehow straightforward. For all their differences in media, genre, and technique, the artists of Aristides Atelier, in turn, are united in their understanding of realism as a novel and timely means for probing the most important matters of public and private life.
BEST IN SHOW: The Party that Never Was by Robert Kamin
FIRST PLACE: Baby Bear 2019—Or is it Girl in a Towel? by Sandra Lee Bolton
SECOND PLACE: Fannie Reimagined by Valencia Carroll
THIRD PLACE: Monotheism by Charles Burt
CURATOR of EDUCATION CHOICE: Duty by Charles Burt
CURATOR of EDUCATION CHOICE: Perpetual Task by Leslie Kiesler
HONORABLE MENTION: Not Broken by Eve Alyson; Sasha by Maria Olano
Visitors can see the exhibition in person at the museum from May 6 – June 24, 2022.
Self-portrait with Headband
16” x 20”
Oil on linen
All my life I wanted to paint, but I didn’t study art as we had no art schools in Kuwait. I kind of let life happen and I followed. Coming from the Middle East, letting others choose your life path sometimes is not unusual. At some point in life I realized that my life should be my decision. And when I had the chance I decided to pursue my life’s dream of becoming an artist. Realism was what I wanted to do. This lead me to Aristides Atelier. Now I’m at my third year and decided to paint this portrait showing that sense of accomplishment. To say, YES! I did it! It’s never too late for dreams to come true.
SANDRA LEE BOLTON - FIRST PLACE
Sandra Lee Bolton
Baby Bear 2019
Oil paint on cradled birch panel
18” x 18”
Rory Is my youngest child. At 19 years old, he came out as trans. Growing up in a very conservative home, he faced a lot of opposition from his extended family and church community, but he persisted in his transition. At the time this was painted, he was a student at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland and just beginning hormone therapy. His transition pushed me into my own: a journey of acceptance and ultimately of advocacy. In this painting, I tried to capture some of his resilience, determination and courage. He stands above the West Sands in Saint Andrews and is wrapped in a hand-sewn family quilt depicting his parents’ embrace and support.
CHARLES BURT - CURATOR OF EDUCATION CHOICE
18” x 24”
Oil on Canvas
This is an oil painting of the uniform top I wore at my retirement from the Army in 2013. Creating a painting of my uniform after developing Parkinson’s Disease helped me bridge the gap between being a Soldier and being an artist. I really loved my job as an Armor Crewman, but I only had the opportunity to do that for a few years because I was selected to be a Recruiter and Drill Sergeant (the two badges on each breast pocket). These special duties were both extremely difficult for me and for my family – but it was my duty as a Soldier and Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) to excel in each. As a Recruiter, I focused on completing the team’s mission while ensuring the welfare of each recruit. While serving as a Drill Sergeant, I trained civilians to be Soldiers who would not only follow orders but also have the personal courage to stand up for what is right in any circumstance. Between these two badges is my rank as a Sergeant First Class, which reminded me to emulate all the good NCOs who made a positive impact in my own career and personal life. Above the U.S. Army patch is the Combat Action Badge, awarded to me for service in Ramadi, Iraq during a crucial time in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Peeking out below the U.S. flag patch is my combat patch, for service in Desert Storm. I hope the viewer gets a sense of the weight of my service through the badges, patches, and rank I wore while serving my country for over 20 years. “Duty” is the second painting from my ongoing series illustrating the Seven Army Values (Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage).
Triptych 18” x 24 “ each panel
Oil on canvas
Here we have three paintings of items representing the major Abrahamic religions. Christianity on the left, Judaism in the middle, and Islam on the right, but when the paintings are together the objects all appear to be on one table and lit from a single window behind the table and just outside of sight to the viewer. Each individual painting is designed to invoke an emotion depending on the viewers beliefs with personal and significant items like the Koran shofar and stones were from friends, and the Catholic rosary hand made. The fourth and final year in the Aristides Atelier is spent creating a body of work. My choice of studio space for this project was narrow, but I was able to control the amount of light well, so I created a false wall and put a small window and centered the light source on the window to backlight the set up. After completing the Judaism painting, I moved the light to the right side of the window before setting up the Christian composition. The pandemic started right before I started the Islam painting, so I had to tear down the set up to include the fake wall and reassemble it in my studio, but now with the light source shining from left to right. After all three were complete I went back over it to do some touch ups and unify the color and value. I also added a hand reflecting off the chalice to show the viewer reaching for the silver cup.
VALENCIA CARROLL - SECOND PLACE
8.5” x 11”
Oil on gessoed paper
Realism has the power to effectively allow one to re-imagine and visually bring history to life creating avenues for new dialogue that can assist with understanding the present and even influence the future. History repeats itself, but occasionally we learn from it. Widely known in the 1860s as a “redeemed slave child,” Fannie Virginia Cassiopeia Lawrence was literally a poster child for the abolitionist movement. She was photographed many times in various costumes and poses, one of which included an image of her kneeling to pray. When Fannie was born to a mulatto slave mother and a white slave owner, she would have been described as an “octoroon,” or someone who is one-eighth black. Because of the lightness of her complexion and the innocent sweetness of her “cherubic” face, it gave whites permission to imagine her as one of their own creating a discourse that forced reconsideration of the brutality and hypocrisy of slavery which eventually ultimately led to the abolishment of slavery. In this painting, I re-imagined Fannie as a child in vivid color sitting in a more open setting than the constrictive one, she’d been placed in by the observers and oppressors of her time. Imagine, what Fannie’s life would have been like had she not been looked upon and treated as insignificant simply because of an existing social construct that allowed her to be mistreated.
Mercy of Time
50” x 42”
Oil on linen *
Mixed Media: charcoal, graphite, ink wash and gouache
Mercy of Time was painted right after a vicious Lupus attack. After days of drifting in and out of haziness, I started to create this self-portrait using my bed-bounded self as the muse. With the limited art materials I had at the time, I played with multi-media in this almost life size portrait and go for an unembellished depiction of nature. Thankfully the immersion of the creative process had distracted me from the long, painful healing process. The intense self-observation also helped me face my own sickness with honesty, granting me courage to accept the challenging situation. Through the creation Mercy of Time, I was able to find peace and healing. For me, this is the power of Realism.
Self-Portrait with Versions of Self
18” x 24”
Oil on board
Before painting this portrait, I had just completed a large self-portrait posing myself in a masculine shirt and in a proud, traditional stance. I was inspired by images of classical traditions and wanted to create my own. One of my instructors encouraged me to think more deeply about why I was painting it. Does this represent me or does it represent a long-standing line of tradition that I am a part of? In response to this, I sat down in front of the mirror and painted myself exactly as I was, in my studio at the atelier, with that portrait in the background. This may not represent all of me but it seems a bit closer to who I am as a whole than that traditional portrait. I wanted the piece to feel casual and conversational as if you had just walked into my studio. Lately, I have been pursuing the interior as a subject. As an emerging artist, I am on a journey to discover myself and what moves me. I believe capturing humans and their spaces exactly as they are a worthy pursuit.
26” x 34”
Oil on canvas
After over three years of painting Academic figure poses at the Atelier, my intention was to place the figure in a more dynamic context. The model is posed to suggest an emotional transition and she is lighted only by the cool Seattle gray sky.
19” x 14’
Pastel and charcoal on toned paper
An artist takes inspiration from great paintings and drawings from the past, learning from these works and taking the opportunity to continue the visual conversation. This studio pose, captured in pastel and charcoal, makes direct reference to Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and the classical tradition.
GRACE ATHENA FLOTT
Grace Athena Flott
Look at Me, Down Here
36” x 24”
Oil on aluminum
This is part of a series that explores loss, memory, and disability. Empty rooms where the human presence is felt, not seen, open the door for us to reflect on our assumptions about this symbolic equipment. Although I associate my own temporary dependence on these objects with grief and isolation, it is important that this painting communicates a sense of hope and agency. The glittering light that illuminates the scene is my way of honoring what these objects make possible for the folks who need them. The lack of a visible human subject allows us to see the chair as both apart from, but also integral, to the identity of the individual. The story here is left open, full of possibility.
View from the Geo Studio
11” x 14”
My landscape Painting, “View from the Geo Studio,” reflects how lucky I was to have a lovely studio during the Covid crisis. There are a number of views of Lake Washington from the Geo Room at the Gage Academy of Art, I shared with fellow artist, Jackson Dargie. I was finally able to paint a view of the sunset from Lake Washington. I loved to watch sunrises and sunsets when I was there. The changing landscape view from the various windows in the Geo room gave me peace which I hope is reflected in my painting.
I started making art in my 30s as a way to get me out a deep depression. I had started in watercolor because I found a great watercolorist and teacher who showed me that with the right teacher and training just about anyone can paint. Now, nearly 30 years later, I love drawing and painting. It has become my passion later in my life. I love the exploration of life through art, it’s freeing and allows me to capture a moment in time. Pastels are my main art medium though I do art in a variety of other mediums including oils, acrylic, and watercolor depending on what I want to convey in my art. I love to innovate so I continue to study and improve upon my skills as an artist. I also read and research art history which provides me inspiration and knowledge.
32.5” x 24.5”
Oil on panel, 23-k water gilded arched Tabernacle frame
This is a painting of my wife when she was pregnant with our son. We both wondered (hoped) if we could take on the mantle of being good parents. In particular, her own childhood was difficult, and she no longer has a relationship with her mother. Strength, resilience, and tenderness glow like a beacon in the darkness of the past and the unknown future. The arched frame was traditionally reserved for the theme of the Mother and Child, and seemed to be an appropriate contemporary rendition of a classical motif. It was my first attempt at making such a frame.
Is It That Dream?
23 1/8” x 35”
Oil on panel, hand-incised Cassetta frame
A memento from our wedding, this bowl of white roses was painted in an attempt to capture the gentle, fleeting exuberance of the day, and takes its title from the following poem: “It’s that dream we carry with us That something wonderful will happen, That it has to happen, That time will open, That the heart will open, That doors will open, That the mountains will open, That wells will leap up, That the dream will open, That one morning we will slip in To a harbor that we’ve never known.” (It is That Dream, by Olav Hauge)
Tell the Truth, But Tell it Slant
30” x 30”
Oil on linen on aluminum
My work is an interpretation of the river stones I’ve observed on the banks of waterways in the Pacific Northwest. Although grounded in realism, I push scale, chroma and value beyond what exists in the real world. Imprinted with the river, stones are the language of water. I regard them as living sentient beings and she is painting their portraits. Human spoliation of nature is my driving concern. I make art to process my strong emotional responses to the degradation I’m witnessing and to confront the viewer with this awareness. Whereas a traditional landscape may allow the viewer to remain passively detached or calmed into complacence, these large-scale interpretations put nature squarely in the viewer’s face.
KEVIN LEE JOHNSON
Kevin Lee Johnson
11” x 14”
Oil on linen
Perspective grows wider and deeper with the passing of years. It also tends to span back over decades of living as one’s mobility decreases. The individual here depicted is a lifelong neighbor and friend and has the good fortune of being well loved by his wife, kids, grandkids, and great grandkids. I paint what I deem of value. The human experience in whatever stage of life.
STEPHANIE K. JOHNSON
Stephanie K. Johnson
Family Portrait after Friedrich von Amerling
16″ x 20″
This piece was created in my third year of the Atelier. I was intrigued by the variety of emotions, and I felt the sense of strength from the family Amerling depicted. The composition of multiple people fascinated me and how he had an interesting play of light on the figures, each person was illuminated by a different percentage of light.
32” x 24.5”
Charcoal on paper
“Realism” creates its own version of truth. This image of a person contains the soul of one seen through the eyes of the artist and reflected in the viewer’s. The sitter’s daily moods over the course of the drawing, mine, the weather, and the constitution of souls in the room all play a part in the portrayal. Three hours a day for ten days. Each drawing of him looked different. The process of drawing is like a journey the soul travels. And then there is a remnant, proof you’ve been there and what it looked like. The Atelier is a place where you travel together. It was an amazing opportunity, and it altered my soul.
ROBERT KAMIN - BEST OF SHOW
The Party that Never Was
48” x 48”
Oil on aluminum panel
In “the party that never was”, I used the setting of a birthday party to explore the nature of distorted reality, and the subconscious. Several narratives are woven into this work. A young Rembrandt overlooks a multi-generational family gathering— many who had never shared each other’s company. Hanging next to the artist, a copy of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment hints at underlying family tensions. While the duality between the military-industrial complex, technology, and the natural world is alluded to in the arrangement of small figurines taking aim at the Black Stallion. Under the fairy star, I am held by my grandmother, who passed before my birth. My son, donning a raccoon skin cap, lost in play, zooms the space shuttle about a cluttered table. The dreamlike state of the painting allowed me to experiment with the distortion of time and the rendering of the painting’s surface texture, color, and composition.
LESLIE KIESLER - CURATOR OF EDUCATION CHOICE
22” x 34”
Oil on linen
Perpetual Task was a painting completed during the first year of the pandemic, inspired by the Sisyphean pile of dishes that became our daily chore as we ceased venturing beyond our kitchen for sustenance. The creative fulfillment of the magic of cooking always comes with a price never before so prominent in my routine as it has become in the past few years. There is always another task looming, waiting. It’s a reality we all face.
18” x 24”
Charcoal on paper
This academic figure drawing was completed during my first year in the Atelier. Originally, I was disappointed that it was unfinished but now I reflect on it often as one of my favorite academic works as it shows the structural logic of the drawing process.
MARIA OLANO - HONORABLE MENTION
Ode to Augustine
16” x 20”
Oil on linen panel
In “The Confessions” of St. Augustine, he tells of a critical epiphany he had after stealing pears from a neighbor’s orchard. An awakening that changed the course of his life. This painting is an “Ode” to such life altering epiphanies.
Female Model before a Mirror after Ludvig August Smith
20” x 26”
Oil on canvas board
The first time I encountered this painting, “Female Model before a Mirror” painted by Danish artist, Ludvig August Smith in 1841, was in the winter of 2011 at the Scandinavia House in New York City in a show titled, “Luminous Modernism: Scandinavian Art comes to America”. I was struck by the simple but graphic composition contrasted with the softness and quiet gaze of the female form. By making a master copy of this painting in the Classical Atelier at Gage, I explored the mystery of the human form. A form sensuous yet strong, vulnerable, yet hidden, like the soul.
As Written in the Book of Destiny
38” x 38”
Oil on canvas
In a work that copies the form of a single page from a medieval prayer book, complete with macabre marginalia, the three Fates conspire with the Daughters of Destiny—who include Jackie Onassis, Toni Morrison, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, and Maxine Hong Kingston— to write the destiny of the recumbent figure dressed in white. The Daughters represent the women who shaped the life of the artist of this piece, who taught her that the only power to bow to is that of destiny. This work is the artist’s homage to these deathless women.
20” x 11”
Oil on linen
In my atelier training, I learned how the act of drawing and painting can get us to challenge our ordinary habitual modes of seeing, and allow us to come into closer contact with the particular subject we’re viewing. By being better able to encounter the unique qualities of the particular, I believe we’re more likely to foster empathy and develop our own unique and meaningful relationship to the world. Working from life is integral to this process for me, as the connection and focused attention of a human spirit in an age of speed, distraction, and the virtual is something I aim to maintain and pass on to the viewer. One of the things I love about painting and drawing en plein air is the element of surprise in every experience, and the endless amount to learn from nature. This landscape painting was done in the studio using a combination of different plein air paintings and drawings.
60” x 38”
Oil on panel
‘The artist has the potential to act as a sail for culture, and can help steer our journey towards greater collective understanding. Through story, myth and symbol, artists have always wrestled with the unknown aspects of humanity, striving to open portals that transcend our current known reality. Contemporary makers of narrative paintings carry the capacity to act as modern-day shamans.’
Porcelain Bowl with Lemons
14” x 20”
Oil on Linen
This painting is for a collector of blue and white porcelain, who also keeps chickens. It is to commemorate moving into a first house. A special occasion filled with joy and anticipation for the life to be shared there.
CARRIE MARIKO WILLIAMS
Carrie Mariko Williams
Williams After Hawkins
11” x 17”
Oil on aluminum
I am a figurative painter living in Astoria, Oregon. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in archaeology from the University of Washington, I travelled and worked in third world countries before deciding to pursue a career in art. From 2014-2019, I studied classical realism in the atelier of Juliette Aristides at Seattle’s Gage Academy. I feel that learning to draw in a technically skilled way improved my ability to communicate as an artist. Lifespans are dedicated to developing masterpieces, but personally art has become how I express myself due to a lack of vocabulary – how I convey my emotions and set a tone. This painting was one of my first master copies in color as a student in the atelier. Following a year of drawing in charcoal, and a second year training in grisaille, I was allured by the arrangement of shapes and primary colors so vivid in Portrait of a Young Man by Louis Welden Hawkins.
22” x 26”
Oil on canvas
As an artist I am inspired by people around me and the pressing issues of our time. My work attempts to render the incredible complexity and uniqueness of the human spirit. The story of a person in that moment, captured in a single pose. The balanced mix of the model’s story and my own creative process and voice. My hope is that the viewer sees my work and builds that story in their mind, adding to the narrative that I hope my work brings, experiencing something new upon each return. I work mostly in oils and delight in the challenges that creative realism has to offer.
DR. JOHN ZADROZNY
Dr. John Zadrozny
I Act as Isaac
31″ x 28″
Oil on linen
This work finds a link between our time and our experiences with covid-19 and the 1660s which saw the last major outbreak of the bubonic plague in England. Just as we do today, people of that time quarantined themselves to stem the spread of the disease. Isaac Newton sheltered in his room in Trinity College, Cambridge, where he undertook seminal experiments in the field of optics. It was there that he discovered, through the use of a prism, that sunlight is composed of a broad range of colors. My painting, a self-portrait, shows a re-enactment of an experiment that Newton probably performed. The figure holds a narrow slit to a brightly lit window and permits a thin shaft of light to fall onto a prism, which in turn spreads that light into a full spectrum of colors as seen on the panel to the right. The room I depicted is a reasonable approximation of the rooms found in Trinity College, at least as we see them today. The clock on the wall shows the time to be 5:15pm (we know it’s the afternoon because of the angle of the incoming sunlight) and suggests the year 1715 when Newtons’s “Opticks” was published. On the blackboard a calculation is visible, a calculation that identifies the material that the prism must be made from. And yes, there is only one material that will bend light just as we see in the painting. Do you know what it is? The stack of books on the table are standard graduate-level texts on electrodynamics, the field of physics that Newton’s work in optics eventually inspired. They are readily recognizable to physics grad students of my generation. And there are yet more Easter Eggs to find.