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The Reality Show

September 3 - October 30, 2005


Within the overall theme of The Reality Show, the Peninsula Fine Arts Center is presenting a series of individual exhibitions, each dealing with a particular aspect of realism. This series includes: The Big Picture; Personal Views -- Paintings and Sketches by Nicholas James Harris; Street Photography by Matt Weber; Faces; and Virginia Real.

According to Pfac Program Director and exhibition curator Michael Preble, "The general premise of The Reality Show is similar to the essential character of "Reality TV" itself -- that is, reality is not about universal truths but is an amalgam of diverse points of view about how the world is perceived and how we choose to act based on that perception. Throughout history, artists have dealt with realism in various ways, including views of nature and emotionally-charged interpretations of places and events." (right: Clive Head, Paris, Sunrise, 2003, oil on linen, 69 x 121 inches, Lent by Louis K. Meisel Gallery, New York)

The Big Picture includes eight large-scale works, each dealing with a particular treatment of the artist's perception of reality. Photo-realism, a picture-perfect rendering of the world around us, is seen in Paris, Sunrise by British artist Clive Head. Another photo-realist painting, Wonder Woman by Alabama artist David Parrish, revels in complex reflections while focusing on a singular "pop" image.

In contrast, the large charcoal drawing by Arkansas artist David Bailin, Noah (Bone), is a surreal journey told through the artist's unique storytelling style. Richmond artist Lee Baskerville is represented by Winter Reflections, a painting that fuses an aggressive abstract brushstroke with a landscape subject that was painted just for this exhibition.

The Big Picture also includes a large playful collage by David Mach, a figurative drawing by Melanie Baker, a panorama painting by Cadence Giersbach and a multi-stone lithograph by Robert Rauschenberg. (left: Nicholas James Harris, Departure, oil on linen, 58 x 34 inches)

The art of Maryland artist Nicholas James Harris should be familiar to Hampton Roads audiences. His paintings were selected for Peninsula Fine Arts Center's 2002 and 2004 Biennial. This one-person exhibition in the Ranhorne Gallery, Personal Views, includes his exquisitely painted interior views and dramatic exterior paintings, which are distinguished by his exceptional treatment of light. In addition, a number of working sketches that highlight the artist's creative process will be included.

Street Photography is the name given to the exhibition of black-and-white photographs of New York by one-time cab driver Matt Weber. His photographs of this teeming city have an unrelenting honesty, sometimes containing shockingly gritty images. Other times, you'll see a remarkable vitality and grandeur, with occasional humor. Fellow photographer Donna Ferrato captured the essence of Weber's work in describing Weber's book, The Urban Prisoner: "[His] camera captures New York without pretense, and with love and attention to the small, yet extremely significant moments in the life of a city that never stops. It reminds me of the movie Mean Streets by Martin Scorsese. The pictures say it all. They say it loud and clear."

Taking a famous movie quote to the extreme ("Here's looking at you, kid"), the Ascending Gallery will be filled with Faces. These works by Virginia artists are not basic portraits -- they are the faces of the familiar and unfamiliar, of emotion and mystery. Among the paintings, drawings and sculpture, you'll find the work of Virginia artists Colin Ferguson, Lynne Kelly, David Dodge Lewis, Marsha Maurer, Allan Rosenbaum and Suzanne Stevens. (right: Lynne Kelly, Face Fault, terracotta clay, underglaze, oil paint, height: 24 inches, Private Collection)

Also on display, Virginia Real includes the work of several Virginia artists whose work is both picturesque and realistic, often summarizing the unique character of the land and life that we know as Virginia as well as more intimate views of the world around us. Included are works by Jeffrey Allison, Juli Schuszler and Patton Wilson.

Lenders to the exhibition include Koplin Del Rio Gallery, Los Angeles; Louis K. Meisel Gallery, New York; Roebling Hall, New York; Rentz Gallery, Richmond; and Norfolk Southern Corporation.

A variety of events will be held in conjunction with The Reality Show including a talk with painter Nicholas James Harris, a two-part seminar on realism, a drawing workshop, Community Days and Parents Night Out! activities, designed to shed light on the artists and techniques featured in the exhibition.


Wall text for the exhibition


The Reality Show

The Reality Show is a series of exhibitions about realism. Art historians tend to view realism in the context of paintings of certain 17th century Dutch artists, 18th century Spanish artists and 19th century French artists. Historians of the modern era have also designated Magic Realism and Contemporary Realism as viable terms for certain surrealist- and photorealist-styled works, respectively.

In recent times, the term realism has taken a turn for the diverse. No longer can realism or its companion, reality, be viewed simply as a focus on facts or real life and a rejection of the impractical or visionary. Reality TV changed all that.

The general premise of The Reality Show is similar to the character of Reality TV itself -- that is, reality is not about universal truths but is an amalgam of diverse points of view about how the world is perceived and how we choose to act based on that perception.

Within the overall theme of The Reality Show, the Peninsula Fine Arts Center presents a series of individual exhibitions dealing with different aspects of realism. Curated by Pfac Program Director, Michael Preble, this series includes:


The Big Picture
Personal Views -- Paintings and Sketches by Nicholas James Harris
Street Photography by Matt Weber
Virginia Real



Pfac is grateful to the many lenders who made The Reality Show possible. In addition to the artists, we acknowledge the participation of Forum Gallery; Koplin Del Rio Gallery, Los Angeles; Louis K. Meisel Gallery, New York; Roebling Hall, New York; Rentz Gallery, Richmond; and Norfolk Southern Corporation. A special appreciation is extended to Peter Ryan, Roebling Hall; Jennifer Glave, Rentz Gallery; and Rhonda Broom, Manager, Advertising, Norfolk Southern Corporation, for their assistance.

Pfac also extends its appreciation to the exhibition sponsors: Cox Communications, Hudgins Contracting Corporation, Raoust + Partners, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.


The Big Picture

At the heart of our exhibition theme, The Reality Show, lies The Big Picture.

During the planning for this exhibition, it was determined early on that there was no single or simple truth nor common perception about reality that was universal. Our reality is a "perceived" reality and our actions, our choices and our legacies are filtered through that perception. (right: David Parrish, Wonder Woman)

A similar perception holds true in art ­ the "realist" artist does not simply re-create an objective view of nature. Rather, the realist artist filters experience through his mind and spirit, adding the infinite variables of artistic vocabulary and technique to achieve a statement. Realist art is not a reproduction, but a re-creation, necessarily transformed through the artist's language.

In considering the role of "confrontation," it was decided that one of the most effective ways to confront different realities was through scale. Not that bigger is better, but in this case, bigger is expressive in a different way. The monumental scale of the Ferguson Gallery opened the way to grandiose expressions.

The challenge of the curatorial process was not only selecting the right eight artists, but selecting the specific individual objects that contributed to the study of realism and offered the proper range of perspectives.

Each work in this exhibition is accompanied by an explanatory wall text, written by Pfac staff and interns from Christopher Newport University.

The Big Picture includes the work of eight remarkable artists:

David Bailin - Little Rock, Arkansas
Melanie Baker - Brooklyn, New York
Lee Baskerville - Richmond, Virginia
Cadence Giersbach - Brooklyn, England
Clive Head - Scarborough, England
David Mach - London, England
David Parrish - Huntsville, Alabama
Robert Rauschenberg - Sanibel, Florida

Lenders to the exhibition include the artists and Koplin Del Rio Gallery, Los Angeles; Forum Gallery, New York; Louis K. Meisel Gallery, New York; Norfolk Southern Corporation, Norfolk; Roebling Hall, New York; and Rentz Gallery, Richmond.


Personal Views -- Paintings & Sketches by Nicholas James Harris

In the work of Nicholas James Harris, nothing is simple. A view of a quiet domestic interior, an exterior courtyard, or a particular play of twilight on a scene belies a rich and complex body of paintings.

Here is an artist who leaves nothing to chance. His promise to the viewer is this: I will take you on this artistic journey and you will see what I see. The selection of details is his first challenge. As several works show, Harris is not afraid to work out a composition, a variety of details or a color palette in a series of sketches. The quality of light is of paramount importance in his paintings. So too is the sublimation of certain information for dramatic impact.

In Departure, for example, the hint of life in the well-worn chair is left without further definition. The mirror reflects the room but reveals nothing; the door leads to another room but you cannot see inside. The design of the space creates less a sense of pure technical calculation than an air of mystery. In Night Fog, the house seems to exude a light that seems more Hitchcockian than impressionistic. The spreading branches of the tree have a foreboding character.

Harris clearly understands the tools at hand. A superb draftsman and colorist, he chooses his subjects, be they people, places or things, with a deftness that is akin to Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth.

The Hampton Roads audience may be familiar with Harris' work. While his exhibition history dates from 1981, his work was selected for the Peninsula Fine Arts Center's Biennials of 2002 and 2004 and the Chrysler Museum's Irene Leache Memorial Exhibition in 1998. The Butler Institute in Ohio and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts have exhibited his work. His paintings are in private, corporate and public collections in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Charlottesville, San Francisco and New York. He received his BS in Economics in 1977 from Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service. In 1987, he was awarded a Certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He resides in Hyattsville, Maryland.

All works in the exhibition are lent by the artist.


Street Photography by Matt Weber

Imagine you're in Manhattan, taking a cab to Lincoln Center and suddenly the traffic jams, as it often does in New York, and your cab driver shouts for joy as he rolls down his window, pulls out his camera and shoots the gathering on the street corner. (right: Matt Weber, Incident)

That's how Matt Weber got started. Beginning in 1984 at the age of twenty-six, Weber drove a cab and photographed the streets. Eventually, he gave up the cab to go "on foot."

There is a long and active tradition in photography of capturing images of urban life, particularly the life in your own "backyard" ­ where you live, work, walk and play. Though Alfred Stieglitz, Berenice Abbott and Paul Strand set certain standards for urban photography, Weber feels more influenced by the work of Walker Evans, Robert Frank and Gary Winogrand. Matt Weber may have a shared sensibility with them all, but his eye is clearly his own.

Weber's particular brand of street photography is a no-nonsense, unscripted, unedited look at life on the streets in one of America's great cities. He captures both the physical and the emotional in all its humor, curiosity, high spirits and pathos.

In his introduction to a book of Weber's photographs, Ben Lifson wrote: "His framing of a person or city detail distills subject to its essence. His strongest pictures have no minor subjects or incidental matter and thus achieve a seamless coherence of subject and context. He is interested in situations but not in situating them except, via an upraised fist, or a pause in a subway musician's performance, in the stream of time."

Matt Weber was born in 1958, is self taught, and lives in Manhattan with his wife and son. In 2004, with Sanctuary Press, he published The Urban Prisoner, a collection of his photographs. His website is www.urbanphotos.com.

All of the works in this exhibition are silver gelatin prints lent by the artist and executed by the artist between 1985 and 2005. (left: Matt Weber, High Hair)



There's no art
To find the mind's construction in the face.
-- Duncan, in William Shakespeare's
Macbeth, Act I, Scene IV
Here's looking at you, kid.
-- Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) in Casablanca, 1942

Throughout the history of art, from the earliest depictions of people on neolithic cave walls to the most recent contemporary portraiture, the face has been a familiar subject for artists. It is one of the most expressive parts of the human body. Its depiction in art has the potential for expressing a remarkable range of physical, emotional and spiritual meanings.

Faces includes the paintings, drawings and sculpture of:

Colin Ferguson - Richmond, Virginia
Lynne Kelly - Newport News, Virginia
David Dodge Lewis - Farmville, Virginia
Marsha Maurer - Newport News, Virginia
Glen McClure - Norfolk, Virginia
Suzanne Stevens - Virginia Beach, Virginia
Cary Ragland - Newport News, Virginia
Allan Rosenbaum - Richmond, Virginia

The many faces that appear in Faces show how diverse that range of expressions can be. Though traditional portraiture is included, our intention was to show many different types of faces ­ the comedic exaggeration, the metaphorical mask, the psychological portrait, the surreal visage, the simple innocent, to name a few.

Each of these works encourages you to face up to reality, to have a face-to-face confrontation and to make contact with each of these diverse realities.


Virginia Real

Virginia Real is an exhibition of the work of five regional artists whose content and styles reflects various points of view about realism.

Jeffrey Allison
Allison's interior subjects are filled with marvelous light and give a heightened sense of meaning to seemingly mundane objects. Similarly, in his outdoor pictures, Allison is fascinated by the color and composition of familiar objects, and his keen eye for design makes us look twice at the world around us. A resident of Richmond, Allison is the Paul Mellon Collection Educator at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Ron Jensen
Jensen's unabashed love of color and brushstroke define the visual character of his works. Whether it is an architectural subject, a landscape or a still life, Jensen infuses each with a dynamic composition that shows an underlying appreciation for the qualities of abstraction inherent in the world around us. Jensen lives in Hampton and is an active member of the Tidewater Artists Association.
Juli Schuszler
Schuszler's love of nature endows her work with remarkable presence. Whether focusing on a single botanical object or the landscapes of Miami's Fairchild Tropical Garden, she captures your attention through color and composition, compelling you to look deeper into her work. Schuszler lives in Gloucester and is a full-time artist, active in regional exhibitions.
Liz Wallace
The strength of Wallace's paintings is the creation of a sense of place in her landscapes. Her gentle touch and precise rendering lend to our familiarity with her locations. This sense of place, combined with a sensitivity to light and color give Wallace's paintings an original quality. Wallace lives in Newport News and lives to paint.
Patton Wilson
An artist of exceptional drawing skill, Wilson renders his subjects with remarkable precision. Through variations of subject and composition, he offers us a level of visual excitement that counters his precise touch. These are remarkable works and he uses a variety of painting techniques to create his images. A resident of Sperryville, Wilson is active on the national exhibition scene and is in many private and museum collections.


rev. 9/28/05

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