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American Still Lifes

March 4 - May 25, 2014


Say "still life", and you may think of a typical representation of the art genre: a bowl of tulips, a pan of baked bread, an apple with draped peeling, and a knife and bowl of butter all displayed on a table topped with a linen cloth. When American Still Lifes, an exhibit by fifteen artists opened at the Norton on March 4, 2014 however, you also saw works that take the medium behind the expected in delightful, innovative, and thought-provoking ways. The Norton is honored to serve as the premiere site of this exhibit that will tour the nation after its three-month run. (right: Daniel Mark Cassity, Unattainable, Oil on panel)

American Still Lifes, created by David J. Wagner LLC of Traveling Museum Exhibitions (and dedicated to James E. Parkman, founder and chairman of the Susan Kathleen Black Foundation), brings together several artists from around the world, across the nation and down the street. The latter is Daniel Mark Cassity of Shreveport, a native of Bastrop, Louisiana, and graduate of Louisiana Tech University. Cassity supplys five of his works. Dan and his wife, Diana, have resided in Shreveport for several years, but recently moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas. "We moved for a job opportunity for Diana, but my brother and my mother are here in Shreveport, and we visit here frequently," he comments.

Among Cassity's works in the exhibit, Unattainable, an oil on panel, is a work from his still life series "Enter the Kingdom". displays an origami dragon, a key, an elegant pouring vessel, very inelegant oil can, and a pair of dice rolled to seven. You'll mull over that one for a while. It's all part of how Cassity uses common objects as characters in a story. "My still lifes represent the fall of controlled light upon a variety of textures," he remarks. In producing them, he arranges elements to stimulate the viewer beyond the painted surface. Colors in his "Enter the Kingdom" works exude a soft, filtered look he achieves with a tool few artists may employ. He builds up his glazes from a mid-tone ground and with a stipple brush, like those found in makeup artists' kits, he smoothes over individual brushstrokes. Cobalt and Bricks reveals his initial foray into his trademark of luminous shadows. The Wash Tuband The Chopping Blockboth won regional art shows in North Carolina, where Cassity lived for several years. Meanwhile, he explores other genres, including plein air landscapes. Outside, he uses his own creation of what he calls his "Plein Air Field Buggy" -- a child's little red wagon outfitted with drying racks.

Other artists of the exhibit also bring fascinating and fresh eyes to the world of still lifes. Soon Warren, a native of South Korea and resident of Fort Worth, renders her works in oil on canvas. Her favorite subjects are fruit and flowers from her garden. "I'm inspired by the beauty and complexity of nature and our surroundings. I try to paint the essence of the subjects and my sincere feelings for nature," she remarks. Ms. Warren is a signature member of the National Watercolor Society, the Southern Watercolor Society, and the Texas Watercolor Society. (left: Camille Engel, Chilhood Classics, Oil on panel)

Laurin McCracken, a native of Meridian, Mississippi, and a Fort Worth architect, is equally adept in his studio or in offices of Jacobs Global Building NA, where he is chief marketing officer. Inspired by the Dutch and Flemish still life painters of the 16th and 17th centuries, Laurin works in watercolors to capture the floral beauty of his beloved Mississippi. "My paintings of magnolias are full of drama and prove, once again, that white is not just white," McCracken comments.

Others in the show include Brian O'Neill, a signature member of The Pastel Society of America, who has seen his work showcased in galleries in America, Canada, Japan and England. He is most noted for his floral paintings and still lifes. He teaches fundamental drawing and painting skills at the Memorial Art Gallery Creative Workshop in Rochester, New York.

British-born Berry Fritz, who now lives in McAllen, Texas, names Netherland artists of the 17th century as well as American artists of the late 19th century as her inspiration. She works with oil on linen in her still lifes, in which her subject matter might be whimsical, and/or traditional, but always provocative.

Charles Kapsner of Little Falls, Minnesota, studied art in Florence, Italy. He notes that he taught himself to paint with still lifes. While he executes work in other media, he hews to the advice of his mentor, Nerina Simi, to "use still life as my educational tool for painting. It also allows the painter to tell stories whether they be personal interest, statements of today's world, Vanitas, and sometimes just a still life," he remarks.


More information about the exhibition

This is a remarkable exhibit with works and artists from down the road and across the country, featuring masterpieces by a range of artists recognized especially for their sumptuous still life compositions and their dazzling technique. Artists in alphabetical order include Berry Fritz Charles Kapsner, Laurin McCracken, Brian O'Neill, and Soon Y. Warren among others. (right: Laurin McCracken, Silver, Crystal and Magnolia on Linen, Watercolor)

Berry Fritz is a British-born artist whose specialty is lushly rendered still lifes, portraits, and character studies in the classical tradition. She draws inspiration from the Netherlands artists of the 17th century as well as American artists of the late 19th century. Although largely self taught, Berry has taken courses at the City of London School of Art, the University of Texas Pan American, and workshops with Zoltan Szabo, William Earle and Dick Turner.

Painter and fresco artist Charles Kapsner's portraits, still lifes, florals, figurative works and frescoes unite exemplary draughtsmanship and painting techniques. His formal training at the studio of Signorina Nerina Simi in Florence, Italy, immersed Kapsner in the study of traditional realism, and under Simi's watchful eye, he learned precise drawing, observation and accurate rendering of forms in space, patterned in the style of the Renaissance masters. In recognition of his work, the Florence Biennale presented Kapsner with its Career Achievement Award in 2003. His signature still lifes -- painted in the Vanitas realm -- integrate telltale accoutrements of our fleeting existence, and through his imagery, fusing the old and new -- wine bottles, drapery, mirrors, fruits, and flowers -- the viewer is invited to more fully appreciate the beauty of the adornments of daily life while pondering the possibilities that lie ahead. His intricately balanced, richly colored compositions-grounded in the principles of the Renaissance -are clearly reflective of our time.

Laurin McCracken is an architect who has put the skills, learned over the years as an architect, in drawing, photogr aphin g and observing to use as a watercolorist. Born in Meridian, Mississippi, he attended Auburn University, he holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Architecture from Rice University and a Masters in Architecture and Urban Planning from Princeton University. His award winning work has been included in juried shows across the United States. His work has been included in the Beijing Biennale in 2010 and 2012 and the Shanghai Zhujiajiao International Watercolor Biennial Exhibition in 2010 and 2012. He is a signature member of more than a dozen watercolor societies.

Brian O'Neill is a Signature Member of The Pastel Society of America and his work has been showcased in galleries across the U.S., Canada, Japan, and England. O'Neill is most noted for his floral paintings and still lifes. In the spring of 2009 O'Neill was accepted as an apprentice at the world renowned Art Academy Waichulis under the guidance of acclaimed realism painter, Mr. Anthony Waichulis. O'Neill's work has garnered numerous awards which include a Jurors Choice Award at the prestigious Naples Museum of Art premiere of Blossom II: Art of Flowers Premier Exhibition, The Pastel Journal Magazine, Top 100 Competition 2nd Place Still Life / Floral and was featured in the magazine's coverage of the competition with a full page article and image of the winning painting (April 2011 issue) (keft: Berry Fritz, Seduction, Oil on linen)

Soon Y. Warren was born in South Korea. She immigrated to the United States in 1987, and enrolled at Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Virginia, where she earned an AAS degree in Commercial Art. Soon's favorite still life subjects are those found in nature: fruit for example, and especially flowers from her garden . She says that "I'm inspired by the beauty and complexity of nature and our surroundings. I try to paint the essence of subjects and my sincere feelings for nature." Soon is a signature member of National Watercolor Society, Southern Watercolor Artist, Texas Watercolor Society, and Society of Watercolor Artist. Soon was a Finalist in the Still Life category of the 22nd Annual Artist's Magazine's Art Competition for her watercolor, Baby Breath, which also received First Place in North Light Book Cover Competition in 2006, and a Finalist in Still Life category in the Artist's Magazine Competition 2008 for Left It Alone.

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