Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Latest Addition

My wife and I have been putting together a modest collection of original art over the last few years. In this case "modest" means that we buy within our means and usually stick to smaller works, often by local artists. In the process of building our collection we've maintained a "wish list" of artists whose work we appreciate and would like one day to own. Paul Emory has been one such artist.

So, it was our good fortune that we managed the winning bid for his painting "Tonya" at a recent Ohio Art League fundraiser.

If you're not familiar with Paul Emory's work...well...honestly it's hard to talk about. I say that because the words that one might be inclined to use (words like weird, naive, creepy, and childlike) can make his paintings sound...well...unattractive. Similarly, the works themselves present something of an acquired taste. The first encounter with them can be jarring. In his narrative paintings, haunting, stylized figures exist either in dreamlike interiors or shabby small-town tableaus.

His fauna series depicts vaguely anthropomorphic animals crowding the foreground and gazing directly at the viewer as if sitting for portraits.

Beyond first impressions though, it's clear that Paul Emory knows a lot about painting and a lot about art history. Looking at "Tonya" it occurred to me that one could present a pretty comprehensive lesson on painting from 1860 to 1930 using just this single work.

Tonya 2003 

It has the impressionistic brushwork of Monet, the flattened figures of Manet, Matisse and Modigliani, the creepy Surrealism of DeChirco and Balthus, the patchwork of patterns favored by Bonnard, and the fractured compositions of Cubism. Going back even further, it's hard not draw the connection between the mischievous children in "Tonya" and the putti who appear in many classical and renaissance works.

For me I suppose that's part of the attraction of Emory's work. It carries on a dialog with painting's past while presenting a vision that is both refreshing and singular. I'm thrilled to finally have one we can enjoy in our home.

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