Painting is alive and well at new Appleton realism exhibit

Ellen Catherwood's "Girl With Piercings," at the Appleton Museum of Art, is an interpretation of Johannes Vermeer's 1665 "Girl With a Pearl Earring."

Special to the Sun
Published: Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 12:09 p.m.

The Appleton Museum of Art's latest exhibit features paintings of contemporary realists, artists whose works reflect, for the most part, the subject as it is. And the 65 paintings in "The New Reality" are a varied showcase of vibrant, sometimes humorous, modern art.


'The New Reality: The Frontier of Realism in the 21st Century'

What: Exhibit features 65 paintings interpretating classic art works.
When: Saturday through March 21; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, noon-5 p.m. Sundays.
Where: Appleton Museum of Art, 4333 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala.
Cost: $6, $4 for seniors and students 19 and older, $3 for ages 10-18.
Info: 291-4455

But there are some surprises in the realism now wintering at the Appleton.

A touring display created by International Guild of Realism, "The New Reality: The Frontier of Realism in the 21st Century" is all about interpretation. It is a nod to new ideas, the evolution of art and top international realists.

It also is a proclamation: In an age of wild mixed-media, painting is alive and well, noted artist Larry Charles, co-founder of the guild and guest curator for "New Reality."

"I want people to look freshly at painting," he said.

Artists created work just for "New Reality," a juried exhibit representing 56 artists selected from 350. The works are interpretations of art - mostly Realism - of more than a century ago.

The 21st century modern art is hung next to small photos of works from the 1500s to the 1800s. For example, a small version of Johannes Vermeer's 1665 "Girl With a Pearl Earring" is displayed alongside Ellen Catherwood's very modern, large original painting "Girl With Piercings."

The paintings are not re-creations. They are open and varied interpretations, stressed Ruth Grim, the Appleton's curator of exhibitions. And therein you will find the surprises.

For example, while Catherwood's painting does mirror Vermeer's painting in basic composition and color scheme, the "girls" are distinctly of a different era.

Yet close examination reveals the biggest surprise, one that even caught Grim a bit offguard: Vermeer's painting is a lush oil painting, rich in the detail that medium allows. Catherwood's work, however, is a watercolor with the amazing detail and rich colors of an oil painting.

Vincent Van Gogh's post-impressionist painting "Sunflowers" showcases the Dutch artist's signature dreamy style with broad brush strokes of thick oil paint. In "New Reality," its modern interpretation by Camille Engel, "Sunflower at the Old Factory," is a crisp, photo-quality oil painting of a sunflower soaking up rays against a decaying wall so detailed you think you can reach out and scrape off the peeling paint.

Also notable: Engel's 2006 work portrays harsh shadows casting the illusion of depth. Van Gogh's paintings tend to be one-dimensional.

There are other works in "New Reality," including another Van Gogh interpretation, that are realist visions of non-nealist works.

"Sometime the artist's inspiration isn't literal," Grim said last week as staff members were starting to remove the art from 11 crates.

One of Grim's favorites works in "New Reality" is the interpretation of Sir Edwin Landseer's dog painting "Eos." The 1841 work depicts one of Prince Albert's proud whippets standing over a top hat and white gloves. The painting is bathed in a rich, velvety red color scheme.

Its contemporary counterpart is a 2006, two-piece diptick (multiple images in one work) by Charles, the exhibit's guest curator. It shows an Airedale terrier against a red background looking at the viewer, head tilted with "play-with-me" eyes that could melt the iciest of souls. The second component is a panel simply bearing the text "Beige is stress management for yellow."

"I want to be a little bit satiric," Charles said of his work. Here, he is toying with reactions to different colors and different dogs; one painting is regal, the other is whimsical.

"I love this one," Grim said of Charles' painting. "It makes me laugh every time."

Charles, incidentally, will speak about the exhibit at 6 p.m. Friday during a members' preview and then at 1 p.m. Saturday during the Appleton's Community Weekend, which offers free museum admission.

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