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Alison Van Pelt: The Women


Georgia O'Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, Louis Nevelson, and Helen Frankenthaler are among the famous women artists whose portraits will be on display in The Dayton Art Institute beginning January 10, 2004. Created by New York artist Alison Van Pelt, the large-scale portraits honor the gifted women they portray while showcasing Van Pelt's own talents as a painter. (left: Alison Van Pelt, Frida Kahlo, 2001, oil on canvas, 108 x 84 inches, Collection of Paul Rusconi)

Alison Van Pelt: The Women includes ten paintings of female artists who built their careers prior to the women's liberation movement. "I was interested in them as artists, but also as exceptional women," explains Van Pelt. "They were mavericks at a time when women were marginalized from the mainstream art world." All of the paintings are large scale -- 9 feet by 7 feet -- and primarily focus on the face of the subject. "I painted these women on a grand scale, somewhat as a form of idolatry," says Van Pelt. "I admire them now and have looked up to most of them since I was young. In terms of framing the face, there is subtle variation. I am trying to capture character. With some I went close in on the face like Helen Frankenthaler, while with others like Frida Kahlo, I pan out slightly, depending upon what I find to be essential. Kahlo's hair, ribbons, and the line of her neck were all a part of her character as were her facial features."

Van Pelt begins her portraits with a precise drawing on canvas based on photographs. She then paints virtually non-stop until the portrait is completed. Using one coat of paint, Van Pelt drags her brush across the canvas, using sweeping horizontal or vertical brushstrokes, blurring the image and often creating a holographic effect. From a distance, Van Pelt's images appear photo-realistic, yet upon closer examination their forms become less tangible, and the surfaces reveal only the lush texture of oil paint and variations in color and tone.

"The Dayton Art Institute is honored to present this magnificent series of paintings by Alison Van Pelt. This is the first time these portraits have been on public display, and it's the only opportunity to see this series in its entirety," said Alex Nyerges, Director and CEO of The Dayton Art Institute. "Alsion Van Pelt has captured the essence of some of the most important women artists in history. The portraits are a tribute to these strong women and how they influenced generations of women artists that followed."

A fully illustrated catalogue, produced by The Dayton Art Institute, will accompany the exhibition. The catalogue includes an interview of Alison Van Pelt by Michael Komanecky, Deputy Director of Collections & Public Programs at The Dayton Art Institute.

Alison Van Pelt: The Women is on display at The Dayton Art Institute through June 6, 2004.



Alison Van Pelt was born in Hollywood, California in 1963. Her family relocated to Hong Kong in 1964 and returned to Los Angeles in 1968. Raised in the liberal climate of the 1960s and 1970s, Van Pelt's upbringing centered around the arts, education and the study of yoga and eastern philosophy. Van Pelt taught yoga from 1979-1999 and received formal training in painting, drawing and sculpture from the University of California at Los Angeles; Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California; Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, and the Florence Academy of Art, Italy. She currently lives and works in New York City. (right: Alison Van Pelt, Georgia O'Keeffe, 2001, oil on canvas, 108 x 84 inches, Collection of Jeff Schranz)

Van Pelt's work is included in the collections of several museums, such as the Indianapolis Museum of Art; Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, California; Fresno Art Museum, Fresno, California, and the Armand Hammer Museum of Art, Los Angeles. Her work is displayed in corporations ranging from Bank of America, San Francisco to NBC Studios in New York City. Her art is exhibited in numerous private collections, including the Estate of Diana, Princess of Wales; President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton; singer Sting and his wife Trudie Styler; and the Estate of Frank Zappa.

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