Our modern neuroimaging reveals that infant recognition of faces starts almost immediately after birth. From the very beginning of our lives, we look to the human face for signiﬁcant clues to our social environment. Facial expressions teach us what is acceptable, pleasing, heartbreaking or frightening. We begin to understand how we are supposed to react to the world unfolding around us. Later, we then process this information through our own lens and decide how we personally feel about the whole thing.
Figurative art holds an incredible power to do the same. By relating to the artists’ ﬁgures, we make connections and can feel each other’s life experiences. Throughout galleries across Park City, artists are exhibiting novel and captivating representations of the human condition, and how our collective pasts, presents and futures combine to present a picture of authentic humanity in the 21st century.
SHARING IN THE MYSTERY OF BEING HUMAN
J GO Gallery | Olivia Mae Pendergast
The element of mystery remains one of figurative art’s most compelling characteristics. Such works of art lead our natural curiosities to wonder endlessly about what the figure is thinking and feeling, then draw us in closer and invite us to stay and watch a while longer. Somehow soft and gentle, yet bold and strong at the same time, Olivia Mae Pendergast’s thought-provoking paintings soothe us with their comforting colors and appealing shapes, but also challenge us to look for more within the work. Pendergast shares, “The paintings that I create are a direct reflection of the experience I am having.” Her work encompasses an almost poetic quality pulling us nearer into her figures’ experience.
INVITING EMOTIONAL CONNECTION
Gallery MAR | Fred Calleri
Calleri creates figures with the uncanny ability to transport you to another time and place, while simultaneously welcoming you to into their private happy place. He explains how he wants his viewers to “let imagination carry you right into the figure’s narrative.” With a vintage vibe his devoted collectors adore, he understands how his paintings’ promise to “transport viewers to an easier, less stressful time… even if we are not exactly sure of when we share their common story, it’s meant to feel warm, familiar and inviting.” Reaching back to a simpler season of life, his enchanting paintings feature colorful subjects poised and ready to jump right off their canvases and share their most intimate secrets.
REVEALING THE HEART OF THE MATTER
Mountain Trails Gallery | Susan Kliewer
“I think viewers are attracted to figurative work because it appeals to a primal instinct we humans have to reproduce in art that which represents what we regard as beautiful in our world,” explains Susan Kliewer, an inspiring sculptor whose work aims to display the common thread underlying the human experience, searching for greater understanding between viewers of all kinds. She often uses her Navajo friends and grandchildren as models to reveal a special intimacy with her subjects. Kliewer describes one of her special connections with each of her sculptures, “I always sculpt a small human heart and place it inside the sculpture. I may seem superstitious, but I feel the heart gives the pieces life, heart and soul. My clients agree.”
EXPRESSING AN UNSPOKEN LANGUAGE
Julie Nester Gallery | Chad Little
“The work often decides for you,” explains Chad Little as he describes the narrative focus of his striking figurative paintings. He believes figures can possess an enchanting ability to act as our mirrors, allowing viewers to interpret stories lying just below the surface of a painting. Little wants viewers to wonder just what these figures might have been contemplating, and what part of the story was left mysteriously out of sight. He describes using an artistic strategy that makes use of a “visual language that can communicate more than the spoken word.” Using colors you might find in an old Polaroid, he guides viewers through each corner and crevice encouraging you to delve further into his multi-layered approach, often capturing an encouraged and pleasantly unexpected smile.
DISCOVERING A QUIET PASSION
Thomas Anthony Gallery | Rodd Ambroson
It just all makes sense when you understand that Rodd Ambroson spent 20 years as an award-winning medical illustrator before devoting himself full time to his incredible talent and love of sculpture. With a master’s degree in biomedical communications, he understands the hard science behind his mastery of the human form, but then infuses his warm soul into his compelling works of art. “My work is the experience of my senses. The sculptures I create reflect the amount of quiet passion I can transfer into them,” said Ambroson. His dramatic use of sweeping line and form creates stunning shadows, while the curves of his figures softly exude serenity and grace.
CAPTURING THE FORGOTTEN MOMENTS
Trove Gallery | Trent Call
Artist Trent Call looks for what he describes as “haunting and non-delineated figures in minimal environments.” With mesmerizing splashes of rich color, he searches to capture almost ethereal forgotten moments in time. He describes these as “the moments that took place between a memorable moment, a lost memory or a story with a lost meaning.” Explaining that he rarely sets out with a specific narrative in mind with his figurative work, but rather is very focused on process, he explains “I start with strong shapes and explore lost edges, light and shade, figural structure and color, with a heavy dose of abandoned Americana.”
REFLECTING OUR SHARED HUMAN CONDITION
Meyer Gallery | Brian Kershisnik
Both a talented figurative painter and sculptor, Kershisnik believes a human presence in artwork acts as an anchor to bring us in closer to the human experience. Themes in his absorbing paintings have included everything from family gatherings around the dinner table to sibling rivalry to lovers’ quarrels and beyond. “I don’t go into my paintings with a predetermined narrative, I instead go looking for the story,” said Kershisnik. He describes part of the beauty of figurative art by relating how it can be just like two people having the same conversation, but both walking away with a completely different interpretation and memory of the exchange. “Even with more abstract art forms, we most often have to circle back emotionally to an experience that feels human, and that we can relate to, for it to matter to us.”
Montgomery-Lee Fine Art | Mike Malm
“My purpose in painting is to communicate the emotions and beauty that I experience to the viewer with the hope that the painting will trigger a similar emotional response in them,” said Mike Malm. With a calming use of light and shadow, his works seem to exude a peaceful sense of atmosphere and comfort in the surroundings of his figures. Malm often paints his figures within his beautiful northern Utah landscape where he lives. He said of his artistic goals, “Ultimately, I hope my work uplifts and inspires.”
FINDING BEAUTY IN UNIVERSAL RHYTHMS
Main Street Gallery | Wayne McKenzie
“I believe viewers are attracted to artwork that includes figures because of our basic need for human connection,” said Artist Wayne McKenzie. “My artworks regularly feature figures within a landscape as I love to explore not only the connection that we have with one another, but also the connection we have with the environment around us.” Looking at one of MacKenzie’s luscious oil paintings has been aptly described as a visual journey of joy, with its lively, loose brushwork and use of bright, inviting color. He explains, “Often ideas for my figure-based works will come as I observe the rhythms of people walking dogs, riding bikes or simply taking a stroll…It’s amazing to me to observe different environments and the way that humans interpret and relate to them.”
ENGAGING FIGURATIVE ART AS A LIFE METAPHOR
Summit Gallery | Holly Manneck
Using vintage images along with her own photos, she seeks materials that evoke powerful feelings and contemplation. “My process may be complex, but my images are simple,” explains Manneck. Her intriguing mixed media approach often uses iconic images that she portrays with a strong sense of empowerment and voice. The result creates stunning visual relationships revealing the fascinating ways our culture and art intertwine. “They are a slice of life past and present that tell a story. My art is a metaphor for life, the complexity of everyday life reveals that we are all simply human.”
The power of contemporary figurative art is so strong right now in part because we’re living in a time with much debate over what it means to be human—and what it looks like in our modern, complicated world. You don’t want to miss the opportunity in Park City to explore how some of our artists explore this great mystery.