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I am a painter. www.StephenCefalo.com, http://twitter.com/#!/CefaloStudio

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Teachers of Mine: Kerry Dunn

I took a few two-week workshops at Studio Incamminati in Philly, and became pretty good friends with Kerrry Dunn, one of their instructors. He's the same age as me, but I learned a great deal from him. I love that he is dedicated to strict life observation, and in terms of technique he probably is the closest painter to Nelson Shanks himself. If you're ever in Philly have a beer with him some time. He's a laid back dude, and loves to talk painting.

Cool bit of experimentation. Kerry talked about doing something like this. I dig it.

I admire when people can honestly take the world's most mundane objects and make something beautiful out of them. I've never really pulled it off because I get too bored. For Kerry, seeing itself is exciting. The phenomena of light and color are enough to hold his attention, and ours too. The water bottles are stunning.

Poor birdie. Beautiful painting. Good call choosing an oval composition.

Kerry's a Converse man. You've gotta love him for that.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Martha Erlebacher

Martha Erlebacher was the mentor of Bonnie Sklarski, a mentor of my own. The nude figure in landscape the quintessential and timeless metaphor for man's relationship with his environment, and in my opinion the most effective way to ask the eternal questions.

‘I wish it need not have have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.

‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.’

Living Grand Masters: Yuqi Wang

I am totally convinced that painting is better than it's been in a century. A few strong painters carried the torch through the twentieth century, but since I began art school in the mid-nineties, great painting has exploded. That said, however, it is hard to think of many contemporary painter that are more powerful than Yuqi Wang, and he is the first in my "grand master" series.

In my opinion there are a rare few grand masters. There are many masters in the sense that many have mastered aspects of drawing, color and form, and composition, but there are others who possess a special kind of genius in pulling all of these components together to create something much larger than the sum of its parts and that is timeless and universal. Their works could easily share a wall with the great masters of the past, and yet are distinctively a product of their own time. In my opinion there are only five or six of these visionaries who lead the march, but I'd love to hear if you have a different list.

This painting is entitled "Black". It's one of my favorite contemporary paintings.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ye Olde Classmates: Matt Ballou

Matt Ballou attended graduate school together at Indiana University and I didn't get to know each other very well due to our mutually extreme introversion, but we probably should have been friends. We were both outsiders who bore the scarlet letter known as "old master syndrome"

I am glad to have recently gotten back in touch again, and I have been enjoying his new work. Especially Poignant are his drawings.

This drawing is my favorite . It has the feel of an old engraving to me. I really enjoy the world he builds with the brick landscape.

This is a study/sketch for a painting that I look forward to seeing.

This reminds me of atlas, but he's carrying a bunch of brick's instead of the world on his back.

It reminds me of the Junk Lady in the 80's movie, Labyrinth.

"The Omen" reminds me of Jean Francois Millet's peasant paintings. (Compare below)

Jean-Francois Millet

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ye Olde Classmates: David Cunningham

David Cunningham was completing his second and final year of graduate school at Indiana University the year I began my first year. In retrospect it is hard to believe how many incredibly talented people I had the privilege of sharing a classroom with, and David was one of the best of them.

Primarily a still-life painter, David's paintings possess an almost mathematically precise perfection in form that is surreal in effect, free of spot or blemish. His compositions are light-filled arrangements of unambiguous color-shapes.

The drawings on David's site are not among his most recent works, but as a figure person myself I am partial to them, especially for the innovative ways that he uses the figure. The two drawings above are entitled "Annunciation I" and "Annunciation II", foreshadowing his wife's pregnancy with their first child. David mentioned to me that he used the shadow across the thigh to suggest a garter belt as well as a pregnant belly, which blew my mind. I had never thought of using shadow in such a way. I 'm not sure if it is intentional, but I can't help but think of the painting below by Andrew Wyeth

"Lovers" by Andrew Wyeth

"Past, Present, Future"

I find it interesting that when men represent their own bodies, there is often a bestial or animal quality in the pose, and the viewer is an uninvited guest. The drawing above always reminded me of a Bigfoot sighting.


In Masaccio's Expulsion from Paradise, Adam's hunched over in a similar apelike fashion, suggesting the animal nature of fallen man. The figures almost try to fold in on themselves.


"Division", also part of this series of graphite drawings seems to speak of the divide between the spiritual and animal side of man, at least that's my interpretation. I find it quite Gollumesque.

Lastly, I'd like to show you a piece that David worked on in graduate school. It was considered a fire hazard to paint in the hallways unless evacuation was necessary. David hung his in progress painting directly next to the fire hose to produce and exact visual replica, including an actual metal handle installed into the panel. Clearly disobeying the warning on the door reading "FIRE USE ONLY" he creates another possible fire hazard in producing a replica that may be mistaken for the real thing. David has since taken this one off of his website, but to me it is a memory worth recalling.