Margot Bergman

In many ways, Margot Bergman is a quintessentially Midwestern artist, eschewing trendiness and exhibiting the kind of independence, even outsider-like eccentricity, often associated with the region. Active in Chicago since the late 1950s and having shown with Corbett vs. Dempsey since 2006, she creates loosely rendered, neo-expressionist paintings that have portrayed various subjects over the years but most recently depict human, generally female, faces in close-up. There is a kind of straightforward, one might say Midwestern, honesty about these psychologically penetrating images, as if she is looking for truth at a time when truth is seen as outmoded or impossible. While she does display a bit of wry humor at times, she is not attempting to make a statement or be ironic.

After trying on styles for several decades, Bergman arrived at her signature expressionism in the 1990s, and has recently achieved her greatest recognition. She has had solo gallery exhibitions in New York and Los Angeles in the past two years, and in the coming year will have two solo museum shows in Europe. On display in her latest show at Corbett vs. Dempsey, “Thank you for having me,” were nine acrylic portraits ranging from roughly two to five feet tall. While in a previous series Bergman used paintings she bought from thrift stores and flea markets as her supports—trying, in a sense, to collaborate with the original artists and pull out some hidden meaning with her imagery—in this latest body of work she started fresh, with blank canvases, depicting fictional women and attempting to convey the essence of her subjects as she sees it. The visages, like those in her prior works, appear off-kilter, exaggerated, and sometimes bloated. In the single horizontal piece on view, Effie and Ida (2017), two faces blur together. In other works, like Brenda (2015), parts of the faces look shrouded and indistinct. Two eyes and two mouths appear on top of each other in Margaret (2017), like the features in some of Georg Baselitz’s portraits. It’s as though Bergman envisions multiple personas in the same person. Throughout this body of work, Bergman demonstrates a heightened virtuosity: see the agile lines and watercolor-like washes of acrylic in Constance (2018), for instance, or the beautifully realized green iris of the right eye in Monica (2018).

Bergman has expressed admiration for Baselitz, Willem de Kooning, and Lucian Freud, and their influence is certainly apparent in her fondness for distortion and the grotesque. At one point, she had a studio down the hall from Chicago Imagist Ed Paschke, and it’s impossible not to think that some of his work, which often comprised tight portraits and demonstrated a penchant for the outlandish, rubbed off on her as well. Some might call Bergman’s portraits monstrous. “Sometimes they are quite shocking to even me,” she admitted to an interviewer in 2014. But it is a benign monstrousness—the point being less to shock than to probe, to unblinkingly portray the inside and the outside, the dark with the light.

Nathaniel Quinn

Nathaniel Mary Quinn is one of the best portrait painters working today and the competition is steep.

The outsize number of black artists now working in the portrait genre awakens the art world with vital new means of representation. It makes sense that artists who have been kept on the margins of the mainstream art world for centuries might emerge with the idea of visibility front and center. Without a definitive canonical art history of Black self-representation, there are fewer conventions for the work to adhere to. Much of this output feels urgent and compelling, either expanding the language of figure painting or, in the case of Nathaniel Mary Quinn, using collage-like compositions to address the dynamic clamor of contemporary life.

Nathaniel Mary Quinn (b. 1977) is a Brooklyn-based artist who grew up in Chicago.

On Instagram, Quinn’s images look like collages. In real life they also look like collages. But they aren’t. The viewer strains to translate the illusionistic mark making created with charcoal, pastel, oil stick, and gouache on paper. The result lies somewhere between human and machine made with his compositions running both hot and cold. Quinn withholds evidence of the hand, releasing the means of his trompe l’oeil trickery to viewers willing to lean in and decode the marks. The controlled surfaces, sourced from picture clippings, ooze and flow in cut-and-paste, smeary amalgamations. One senses Quinn’s Chicago origins in noticing homologies with Ed Paschke’s irradiated, blurred figures and the general free-wheeling cultural appropriation of the Imagist group. From Dadaist collage to Romare Bearden and African American quilts, Quinn joins those who believe that reality might best be recognized by its disjunctions, patchwork sensations, and complex social strata, rather than by insistent, single-point perspectives.

Quinn’s subjects are based on memories of people he has known. His mother, Mary, appears in “Bring Yo’ Big Teeth Ass Here!,” (2017), with a pig nose and square, squat body, staring out of the picture. Quinn notes that this is a tribute to her love of pork hocks and ears. Mary, who was influential and supportive, died when Quinn was 15 and living away at a boarding school. He subsequently adopted her name. “My mother had never had an education, so this meant she would have her name on every diploma I received,” said Quinn in a 2018 British Vogue article. Her name appears on his 2000 BFA degree from Wabash College, Indiana and his 2002 MFA degree from New York University. His parents did not read or write and no one else in his family had ever attended college.

Other characters are recollected from the neighborhood of his youth, the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago, built in 1962 to be the largest public housing development in the country with 28 buildings and more than 4,000 units. Gangs and drug dealers, including Quinn’s four brothers who had dropped out of school, ruled the terrain. One of the strongest paintings in the show, “Junebug,” (2015), is a portrait of Quinn’s uncle, a drug dealer. “He was a walking Christmas tree,” Quinn recalled. “He had nice clothes, gold chains.” Quinn only met him once because his mother tried to avoid men like him having any influence on her son. The portrait is a gleaming, joyous celebration of Junebug’s self-styled swagger against a gentle, star-flecked gray background. Multiple, pieced-together bits of eyes, ears, patterns and textures form a formal head and shoulders view held together by a large gold nose ring that is both slick and outrageous. One edge of the image’s border is ragged to interrupt the otherwise smooth, round-cornered perfection of the piece. If the Dutch Baroque artist Frans Hals walked into the room, I imagine he would fall to his knees in admiration of where Quinn has taken the notion of “likeness”: a blend of artifice and recollection. Human beings are compilations of inherited and adopted identities, of place and circumstance, luck and genetics, real messes of the vulnerable and volatile percolating within societal restraints. Quinn gets this down on paper. [“Discord in perfect harmony,”] is how one curator aptly described his style. What simmers under the human surface becomes the surface in Quinn’s work. The sensations are unsorted but adhere with compassion.

Quinn’s process begins with a vision: “maybe from the universe or from God,” he says in an interview published in the exhibition catalog. “I have a visceral, physical response to each vision, which means that I want to create it.” He then looks to magazines and the internet for source material. He may find a mouth or an eye and work from there. When he starts to draw he creates one segment of the composition and then covers it with paper before he moves to the next section. This technique ensures more pronounced seams and jagged transitions. He doesn’t want the compositions to fully settle. A controlled chaos of shape and pattern keeps them stirring. He tries to protect his process, he says, “from the pollution of my mind,” meaning he doesn’t want logic or predictability to interrupt. There are no preliminary sketches.

Charles was the brother who convinced his mom that Quinn’s pencil drawings on their apartment walls, made when he was five years old, were actually good. His mom encouraged his artwork after that. Eventually a teacher helped him obtain a scholarship to a private high school in Indiana. One month after moving there, his mother died. When he later returned home for Thanksgiving, the family apartment had been abandoned. He never saw his father and brothers again until Charles recently resurfaced after hearing Nathaniel on the radio. That all of Quinn’s portraits are composites that emerge through intuition and chance encounters with images that trigger recollections makes sense.


Kate Carvellas

20170516010439-All_Things_Bright_and_Beautiful"My work rises to the surface of my mind from deep within my sub-conscious.  It is intuitive and rather compulsive.  It is an attempt to make sense of the chaos that I experience in my mind and the world. Art allows me to explore what often feels frightening and overwhelming in a way that makes it visible, but also safe.  Transforming it into something tangible.  My artwork simultaneously expresses joy and angt; two states of being that I hold simultaneously.  Much of my work explores this dichotomy: chaos vs order, spontenaouty vs precision.  Trying to make order out of chaos."

Creating intensely personal, vivid artworks from assemblages to abstract paintings, mixed media work, to sculptures, artist Kate Carvellas finds great beauty in the every day. Whether she’s creating mixed media work that springs up form her subconscious or working with found objects to shape assemblages that turn discarded materials into something that vibrates with new life, she’s moved to make the simple profound.

With bright-hued abstract paintings both delicate and bold and sculptural works that seem pulled from a rich inner-world, Carvellas says her work is “an essential and intensely personal part of my life.  It explores and expresses the inner workings of my mind and heart in a way that words cannot.” It is the artist’s hope that those viewing her work will find it resonates on an intellectual, emotional, or spiritual level.  

Artist Bio 

In 2004 Kate began creating two-dimensional thematic montages using imagery from various magazines and clip art sources. With further exploration she began to pursue a different direction, creating, original, three dimensional collages.  In 2007 she began exploring the creative world of mixed media and assemblage and fell in love with both of these media.

12 years ago her work was made entirely of borrowed images and objects.  Through the years, she slowly began leaving her own marks on the work.  Starting out with light pencil markings to more visible lines and shapes.  As her confidence grew, so did the strength of her marks and brush strokes.  While she is still deeply enjoying creating assemblages out of found objects, shes now creates abstract paintings made entirely from her own hand.  These painting, at first, sprang straight from her subconscious.  She has also been using her own photographs as the springboard for her abstract paintings.  Abstracting reality. 

Her newest work has, in a sense, brought her full-circle.  She is now creating abstract works that combine painting, found objects and whatever else she finds that will fullfill her vision for the work.  She is thrilled about this new direction.


Rick Bartow

Rick BartowIn 2013, artist Rick Bartow suffered a major stroke. Within days of nearly losing his memory and motor skills, he was back in the studio, drawing and painting his way back to health. Until his death, just three years later, Bartow continued to produce artworks drawn from his personal history, Native American ancestry, and friendships with artists and indigenous peoples from around the world.

“ABC 123,” a self-portrait made shortly after Bartow recovered from his stroke, documents his experience of losing and recovering his memories. Letters and numbers serve as mnemonic devices, repeated alongside the artist’s handprints. Bartow’s face, identifiable by his wire-frame glasses, is frozen in terror as he confronts the possibility of losing recollection of the past. A graphite drawing from 1979, the exhibition’s namesake, echoes this later portrait by featuring another figure whose face is a rictus of terror. This work reflects on Bartow’s earlier life, specifically the despair following his military service in the Vietnam War.

By all accounts, Rick Bartow was an unwilling combatant, working as a teletype operator and hospital musician in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his time abroad, but suffered from PTSD and substance abuse upon returning to the US. While his artworks avoid representing specific wartime experiences, graphite drawings from the artist’s early career express raw emotion, translating ineffable feelings of despair into visceral portraits of physical and psychological horror.

Nearly losing his memories might have encouraged Bartow to confront parts of his history he did not embrace during most of his life. A year before his death, he painted “Buck,” a portrait of himself as a veteran, with a striped badge on his right arm to indicate rank and a wheelchair for his ailing health. In faint letters, “Indian” and “Hero” flank Bartow in mock salute. The self-portrait is one of few examples of the artist acknowledging his status as a veteran and physical vulnerabilities as an older adult.

Lena Viddo

Jessica Bush interviewed artist Lena Viddo:

The-Kiss-700x699New-York based artist Lena Viddo carries a sensual passion for life that shines through her provocative oil paintings. Equally beautiful and disturbing, her work explores the light and dark sides of our modern society. We caught up Lena for an insight into her creative life.

Describe your work to someone who has never seen it before.

My canvasses are where animal and human realms collide among surrealist landscapes. My work depicts a focused reality not tethered to realism, and it evokes a life on the edge of the incarnate. I like to disturb and entertain all in the same show.

What do you hope to affect within the viewer with your paintings?

My allegorical portraits celebrate the beauty and the horror of modern life. I attempt to represent the ambivalence I feel about mainstream popular culture and its focus on narcissism, self interest, body image and the tyranny of beauty.

My concerns span huge territory and include things such as materialism, lust for power, fascination with celebrity, technology’s impact on love, mental health, and relationships in this virtual age where children no longer run and play, but sit passively entertained by screens.

The Cesar A. Cruz’ quote “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” speaks to me.

Where did you grow up?

With a Colombian father and a Swedish mother I had strong connections to the coastal land in Colombia, and the rolling hills of Dalarna, Sweden. These opposite worlds speak to me and are reflected in my work.

How is creativity celebrated in your culture compared to other places you have lived and worked?

Creatively speaking I lean towards Colombia, where creativity and individuality are highly revered. Expressive and bold Colombians are making statements everywhere they go. Sweden on the other hand is very conservative and reserved where creativity and individuality are concerned. Swedes are reserved emotionally and this I must say was never easy for me.

I am extremely disciplined, hence I am one of the least spontaneous people I know. Perhaps the down side of getting a great deal accomplished is that I miss chance moments and happenings. I often envy my free spirited friends.

What are your favorite materials to work with?

Oil paint has a sensuality and flexibility that no other paint has. It can even be sculptural. When I look at great works in oil, I know they are good when I experience the visceral reaction of my mouth actually watering. I feel the impulse to want to eat the paint. Also, for me, translating three dimensions onto a two-dimensional surface is more effective with oils.

The medium of light has been calling to me for some time now. I have an upcoming project installation for an arts festival, Bonjuk Burn in the Middle East. I am excited to be visiting Turkey for the first time where I will be exploring the new medium of light installation for the first time.

Who inspires you?

Children inspire me with their free, perfect and uninhibited approach and view of the world. Through them I transport myself to a time when I was more complete and whole, unaffected by social conditioning and all of the societal impositions impressed upon us to conform to rules and our parents standards. I also use them for feedback and critique sessions with regard to my work. They always teach me new ways to see it.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

The best piece of advice I have ever received is to invest long hard hours into my endeavors. From Lance Armstrong to my martial arts master, Sabunim, this has been a recurring theme and personal mantra of mine.

The message is that with time, hours, perseverance and service, one can achieve true mastery.

If you could offer a piece of advice to the ‘you’ at the beginning of your career, what would you say?

The Dalai Lama said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

Also, get rid of the people and things that don’t serve you and your vision in life. Cut out television, too much social media, talk to people and look into their eyes.

Be present and always be yourself. It is your greatest asset. Never betray yourself by trying to be someone you are not.

The Dark & Sensual Paintings of Lena Viddo

Follow Lena’s work via her website www.lenaviddo.com

E. Thurston Belmer

E thurstonAs described by Bryce Grates, E. Thurston Belmer is an independent artist currently based in New York who is best known for his strikingly dark oil portraits and prints. With a Masters from Washington University in St. Louis and a BFA from Lyme Academy College of Fine Art, Belmer is well equipped for success and hitting the gound running this year, with already participating in three shows.

Belmar’s portraits have an intriguingly dark twist to them, unlike any traditional portrait. Often including surrealism, nudity, pained facial expressions and lots of contrast, the oil paintings are aesthetically interesting in an unconventional way that one doesn’t traditionally experience in a portrait. The paintings evoke emotions from the viewer that pry them to consider the life of the subject, and question their identity and place in society. The portraits also have dark titles that lend themselves to the pieces, such as “You may cut down my branches and build a house. Then you will be happy.”, which depicts a nearly-nude female body seemingly “floating” about a half-visible male body that is curled up on the flood below her, and “I am. I am. I am.”, which shows a woman alone, slouched on the ground of a hallway.

Belmar lives and works in Brooklyn, New York and has shown his work nationally.

Theresa Friess

Theresa friessTheresa Friess creates beauty from discarded objects. Her works are a compilation of everyday objects arranged to offer the viewer a compendium of surfaces, colors and shapes.

Friess works in Bushwick Brooklyn where she participates in Bushwick Open Studio.

David Molesky

David moleskyDavid Molesky is an internationally recognized fine artist based in New York City known for his landscapes and figurative works.
David has a self-proclaimed preoccupation with the magic of painting; the way a gooey substance is transformed to an illusionary image that arouses states of contemplation and empathy.
His representational paintings of humans and environments have been featured in many museum exhibitions including: the Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; Pasinger Fabrik, Germany; Casa Dell’Architettura, Italy; and Telemarksgaleriet, Norway. David’s paintings are in the permanent collection of the Long Beach Museum of Art among other museum collections on both coasts and in Europe and Asia. He is the recipient of artist residencies through the Morris Graves Foundation, California; Fine Art Base, California; and the Fundacja Nakielska, Poland. Many publications have featured Molesky and his paintings including, to name a few: LA Times,The Washington Post, OC Weekly, New American Painting, Hi-Fructose, and Juxtapoz.

David Molesky

David moleskyDavid Molesky is an internationally recognized fine artist based in New York City known for his landscapes and figurative works.
David has a self-proclaimed preoccupation with the magic of painting; the way a gooey substance is transformed to an illusionary image that arouses states of contemplation and empathy.
His representational paintings of humans and environments have been featured in many museum exhibitions including: the Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; Pasinger Fabrik, Germany; Casa Dell’Architettura, Italy; and Telemarksgaleriet, Norway. David’s paintings are in the permanent collection of the Long Beach Museum of Art among other museum collections on both coasts and in Europe and Asia. He is the recipient of artist residencies through the Morris Graves Foundation, California; Fine Art Base, California; and the Fundacja Nakielska, Poland. Many publications have featured Molesky and his paintings including, to name a few: LA Times,The Washington Post, OC Weekly, New American Painting, Hi-Fructose, and Juxtapoz.

Jack Whitten

Jack Whitten John Yau writes about Jack Whitten:

In the more than fifty years since Jack Whitten’s work was first included in a four-person show at Allan Stone in 1965, the year after he graduated from Cooper Union, he has proven impossible to characterize. While this is very much to Whitten’s credit, I also think that the radical stylistic and material transformations his work has undergone partly contributed to why — for many decades — he remained an underappreciated artist. Another reason was because he began exhibiting his unaffiliated paintings in the 1960s, when painting was considered dead or dying, and critics and institutions began championing artists who didn’t paint. Adding to this neglect is the fact that it is easy to miss the achievements of a black abstract painter if you are a white critic busy celebrating Conceptual Art. Because of a variety of so-called color-blind prejudices such as these, the art world did not begin to seriously deal with Whitten’s merger of formal inventiveness and emotional content until the past decade, when he entered his seventies. And, if you ask me, he still hasn’t gotten the attention he deserves.

The Sixties in America, in contrast to the optimism of the immediate postwar era, was frightening for everyone, full of fear, death, anger, resistance, and mourning — a daily consciousness of terror that never quite abated. During that time many of the most celebrated artists were the ones who were disengaged from this reality. They were content to fill the white box with their historically important works. This was the dilemma that Whitten, who was born in 1939 in Bessemer, Alabama, deep in the heart of the legally segregated South, faced. In an interview with Robert Storr that appeared in the Brooklyn Rail (September 2007), this is how he talked about the Sixties:

At that time, I was doing the best I could to contain the kind of imagery I was seeing. It wasn’t an intellectual situation, but rather, it was an emotional necessity. As a matter of fact, they’re my autobiographical paintings. I mean, I was going through a serious crisis in my life. But then everybody was. The whole race issue forced me to pick myself apart subconsciously until I met people like LeRoi Jones, Romare Bearden, and Jacob Lawrence who had found other solutions for their creative lives.