Ben Fenske (b. 1978) is hitting another level in his work this year, with two distinct series of paintings. His muse and girlfriend, Beatrice Champ is featured in a spectacular series of nude and semi- nude paintings. One can follow this intense and talented artist from a smaller sketch inspired by interesting light, as seen in Blue Light Nude to the fully finished and large composition Drying Hair. Like a complete symphony, this series of ten paintings has bright movements, somber notes and exuberance. Overall, the Bea Nudes leave us thrilled to show his work, and delighted to help him with his dedicated research into beauty.
Clearly motivated by his new surroundings, there is also series of paintings created in and around his new home in Chianti. Following on from last years hugely successful luncheon painting, Fenske painted Summer Afternoon which depicts his friends in a flickering mid-summer Tuscan light. Its an effective multi figure composition AND a beautiful ebullient work of art. There are several paintings of the laundry on line, which edge towards abstraction as he revisits the subject a third and fourth time. Several florals from these at home paintings knock on Van Gogh and Cezannes door, but remain Fenskes through and through.
As Fenske approaches the end of his thirties, his career is continuing to catch the eye of important institutions, having been selected to show at the National Portrait Gallery in London this summer as part of the BP Portrait Award contest. Later this year, the Grenning Gallery, with Fenskes guidance and leadership, is hosting 4 of Russias most notable painters on a plein air painting foray to Maine and the Hamptons in October. He has also invited several important American painters to join the group. This trip will culminate in a big show on November 6th.
Ramiro (b. 1974), originally a classically trained musician, brings us a lyrical series of spiritual figurative paintings this year. Hymn is an homage to the way one expresses their spiritual elations through song. The young woman’s face belies ecstasy as she levitates above the Earth into the abstract realm of spirituality. Red and yellow hues streak the atmosphere below, depicting her passion and complete envelopment in the musical manifestation of a higher power. This breakthrough work by Ramiro merges his highly refined classical figurative narrative with an abstract background, creating a 21st century religious painting. It also recalls the sculpture Ecstasy of Saint Theresa by Bernini in Rome, which describes the intense joy of spiritual elation, attainable only when one relinquishes the worldly plane. Also technically, Hymn is a virtuosic work with the foreshortened legs and face.
Melissa Franklin Sanchez (b. 1984) exhibits her latest work, created in her new hometown, Fiesole. Her sought after gem-like interiors are inspired by the likes of Hammershoi, with their dramatic lighting and deep sense of intimacy. Summer Light our favorite, sold before it even got a label put on it! Also, Franklin Sanchez made an important shift to painting on aluminum panels for technical reasons. While the copper is a warm toned base, it is also heavy and difficult to find large panels. There are also the final two candle paintings on copper, which literally glow. Franklin Sanchez’s Collecting Memories harkens back to the finest Dutch still lives. We see a bolder more confident landscape painter, with two especially strong works Forget-me-not and Fiesole Sunset. This group of paintings clearly shows an artist inspired by her new environment and we look forward to more paintings.
Continuing our very long tradition of spotting new artists, the Grenning Gallery is pleased to introduce John Morfis (b.1976). He strikes us as one of the most interesting rising talents. His eye for subject and composition, combined with an excellent classically trained hand, leads us to a fascinating series of single object tromp l’oeil paintings. The spartan compositions hanging together create a clean, chic, contemporary impression. Each painting has a story, and also stands up to close inspection. In fact, Morfis has a very active website where, in keeping with the classical tradition of passing on these invaluable techniques, he instructs the public on his process. Some of his lessons have over 200,000 views!
Morfis grew up in Bayville, Long Island, from a family of talented tradespeople, which explains why the hand tools are so lovingly rendered. There is an almost religious respect for these items, which is understandable, considering that some of them were used by his fore bearers, when they worked at the fine estates on the North Shore of Long Island during the20th century. Morfis’s deft hand and clear eye has rendered these black and grey beauties into the three dimensions. In addition to simple hand tools, sensitively observed, he includes paintings of horse tack and fishing lures.
Morfis has been showing at the Grenning Gallery in Sag Harbor, New York since 2014, and had shows in many galleries since 1998. He has a Bachelor’s degree of fine arts from University of Hartford, where he was a recipient of a Merit Scholarship. While there, Morfis studied oil painting under the highly respected American realist, Stephen Brown, whose work can be seen at Forum Gallery. Morfis received his Masters of Science in Art Education from Connecticut State University in 2011. Notably, Morfis’s work has also been shown at the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, CT. For more biographical details and images go to www.grenninggallery.com, and for more information about his process and stories behind select paintings, go to his website www.helloartsy.com.
Sarah Lamb‘s role as one of our country’s leading Poetic Realists is demonstrated clearly with this solo show. In addition to her deft use of the abstract composition and design, we are now seeing her deeply American sensibility emerge. Lamb’s juxtaposition of European illusionistic still life and tromp l’oeil techniques applied to distinctly American objects is mesmerizing. Her recent move to Texas is starting to widen that gap even further as she supplants her familiar East Coast objects with Southwestern Americana. Lamb’s national following, comprised of collectors, the press and museum curators, eagerly await new works from her consistent and insightful hand.
This show is anchored by the grand scale weather vane paintings, which build on the theme she started in 2010. These giant tromp l’oeil paintings are technically entrancing, AND compelling compositions from across the room. Lamb is able to marry her highly refined craft to a more modern aesthetic by simplifying her palette and her design. “Dexter III” a moody interpretation of a popular subject, a galloping horse, is a quiet and powerful image of this very New England antique weathervane.
"Chocolate Cake and Milk” a contemporized version of the Dutch still life, however, somehow feels so… American. The coolness of the milk and the rich chocolate frosting is almost palpable. “Lobster”, “Mussels with Pitcher” and “Seckel Pears” each capture the feeling of her Mid-Atlantic States origin. To contrast, the partridge and pheasant still life paintings mark a shift toward a sporting life that is more particular to her new home in Texas. Of course the beautifully rendered copper pot is not new to her oeuvre. To round out the show, as a nod to her ardent followers, Lamb offers a series of stellar white flower still lifes, for which we continue to see an endless appetite.
Born in Petersburg, Virginia in 1972, Lamb always demonstrated a passion for art and art history. She graduated from Brenau Women’s College with a BS in Studio Art in 1993, and during that degree program studied in Florence, Italy. Subsequently she studied with the renowned classical painters Jacob Collins in New York and then Ted Seth Jacobs in France.
Sarah Lamb recently moved to Houston Texas with her husband, the artist David Larnard, and their 5 year old daughter Sadie, from their home in Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley.
Comments by Laura Grenning, May, 2015
Fenskes solo show is rich in color and variety, as always, but with an added heft this year, as we unveil his largest painting to date. Inspired by a visit to Plastovs studio, a 20th century Russian artist in Moscow last September, Fenske painted the physical and emotional anchor to this show, the glorious figurative work “Florence, Olive Tree” which is 67 x 79 inches. This scale of the painting is rarely seen from these classically trained contemporary realists. Fenske was invited to Russia by the Minister of Culture to join notable Russian painters on a plein air painting trip. After researching his interest in the Russian painters, we have a newfound respect for Fenskes role in this Poetic Realist movement.
Ramiro solo show this year steps forward into a more mystical and hopeful realm. Anchoring the exhibit is a suite of four substantial figurative works, with each painting representing a season of the soul. Although well known for his expert likenesses in portraiture and grand figurative work, Ramiro’s distinguishing characteristic is, ironically, his ability to let go of the discreet reality of the eyes when necessary. With this, he infuses his narrative compositions with mystery that allows the paintings to endure the critical test of time.
“Spring” symbolizes the start of a new effort, which is made despite risk, seen in the hornet, which is hovering around her head. Rather than fear, her face emits hope and positive energy as the figure looks as if this pale waif is going to step out of her pale world. A translucent bubble barely supports her, as she rests a foot on a hint of a step, a top a sand colored world with hints of a warm sunset.
“Summer” rises up out of her cool night waters, with several moons dotting the steamy sky. Woman coming from and creating the source of water is a theme that we have seen for 16 years in Ramiro’s work. In this piece however, the moody setting is a perfect foil for his figured direct and arresting gaze which transfixes the viewer.
“Autumn” is a fine figurative work of a dreamscape evoking the coming hibernation. Here, her legs are beautifully rendered out in the light, but the torso of the figure is laying back in the space. She disappears into an abstract painting which is rich and dark with splashes of brilliant autumn colors, like leaves falling.
“Winter” is an indoor painting, unlike the others, depicting a single figure reading a book in front of his studio’s book case, packed with art postcards, art history books and jars of pigments. Beautiful spring flowers drift in the foreground, as the reader, lost in her alternative reality through the literature, is thinking the flowers into existence. Ramiro’s poetic translation of his winters spent in his studio in Florence is a perfect contrast the plein air landscapes made on the East End and in Italy that finish this show.
Marc Dalessio (b 1972) has spent the last year travelling the world in search of beauty, and looking at this show, he has indeed found it. Ironically, the most beautiful subject was found right at home. In his 15th year with the Grenning Gallery, Dalessio exhibits one of the finest figurative works we have ever presented.
“Tina Under the Olive Tree” is a rich, evocative plein air painting that, interestingly, also demonstrates Dalessios superior hand at portraiture. The painting vibrates as light falls through the olive branches, dapples across her patterned Max Azaria dress, and the shade frames the subject’s aquiline features. It’s rare that an outdoor scene, with such bright colors and high contrast, would also contain a delicate and accurate rendering of a beautiful young woman’s face. The subject is Tina, Marc’s newly wed wife, and the setting is the olive grove in the farmhouse in Chianti where Dalessio has been staying and painting for over 20 years. This is one of those paintings, where the artist’s body (as demonstrated by his high level of craft), mind (seen in his choice of subject and composition) and his soul (the emotive energy vested in the painting) all come together. The power of this concordance is palpable when standing in front of the painting.
Continuing with the theme of contemporary classical realism is Lambs, “Antique Sulky Weathervane”. In this work we see an antique weathervane of a one-horse carriage atop a seemingly weathered pedestal. Lambs ability to capture the light on her subjects draws one in, while the vast inclusion of painstaking details keeps onlookers immersed in her compositions. With a limited palette, Lamb also manages to capture a sense of life and warmth in an otherwise cold and inanimate form. With the brassy oranges and hints of subdued yellows and green-tinted grays, a feeling of nostalgia is evoked from a subject that existed in a time entirely different then our own.
Fenske, hunger for creative knowledge continues to push him into new realms of study. Sparked by his in depth study of the anatomy at the Russian Academy of Art, Fenske was motivated to take his understanding of form and break away from the two-dimensional. Fenske makes his sculptural début with “Wild Boar,” a collaborative piece made along side his friend and fellow artist, Richard Zinon. This life sized bronze not only captivates the viewer with its muscular build and wild energy but also represents what is sure to be the first of many sculptural undertakings by Fenske. For a view of this amazing process watch: http://vimeo.com/67850415
Marc Dalessio’s solo show this summer is full of life, light and love. This wonderful plein air painter is back to travelling the globe with his painting box. This exhbit has works from recent trips to Sweden, Switzerland, Ireland, as well as Italy, and his original home of California. “The Terrace in Dubrovnik” the anchor painting of the show, measuring 47 x 59 inches, is a large scale virtuosic plein air painting. It depicts a shaded porch, with bright light pressing in on the comfortable subjects, a woman at the table and the dog sleeping at her feet. The variety of lavenders and blues in the shaded walkway, as well as the soft light filtering through the many greens that overhang them is spectacular in it’s subtlety. Bright dashes of light punctuate the sweet coolness of the shade, with the values and colors perfectly capturing the scene for many generations of viewers to come. Those of us who have followed Dalessio’s life and paintings understand the significance of the peace and harmony that is conveyed in this lyrical painting of his new bride and their dog.
Ramiro will exhibit a few selected works this year, as he is busy working on a major series of paintings for next year’s show. Most interesting, however, is the groundbreaking dual portrait painted by Ramiro and Sanchez. Both husband and wife had a hand in this piece, one painting the other’s likeness, resulting in a breathtaking image of the partnership. Standing together in an elegant pose, emanating an energy of quiet togetherness, the couple captures a visual representation of the vital sense of community between artists. This masterful piece is original on various levels. A rare depiction of a married pair of artists, this painting not only showcases Ramiro and Sanchez as a union, but captures a very 21st century behavior, collaboration. This joint effort demonstrates the deep humility these painters have about themselves in the face of creating art. Through a painting as such, it is clear to see that this new generation of artists relate to the world and to each other with more respect and less ego than many artists of the 20th century.
In this solo show of recent works, Ben Fenske’s promise of years passed has come to fruition, as fleeting sketches have become fully finished large canvases. Fenskes work has become richer, more colorful, and most importantly, the compositions have become more resolved. As you can see by the interiors, landscapes, and figurative paintings, Fenske continues to be inspired by the world that he inhabits. From an abstract lavender hued “Spring Still Life” to the elegantly reflective “Open Window”, Fenske’s paintings continue to mesmerize us.
Marc Dalessio’s work is breaking out, onto a new and higher plane this year. Since we opened our doors in 1997, Dalessio has remained one of the Grenning Gallery’s most consistent and popular painters. Given this background together, it brings us great pleasure to present this show which is anchored by two grand landscape paintings. They clearly usher in a new more ambitious period for Dalessio. “Lifting Fog, Garrapata Beach”, 55 x 70 inches, and “Swarthmore Bluffs, Pacific Palisades”, 55 x 70 inches, signify that Dalessio has hit his stride as he approaches the end of his 30s. The depth, refinement, and scale command one to compare these paintings to the Hudson Valley School, and Dalessio’s work stands up well to this high standard. Interestingly though, the paintings are somehow more fluid and expressive, which distinguishes them as 21st century rather than 19th century in their spirit. The fine technique and the bodacious size combine beautifully to express Dalessio’s deep love and endless awe in the face of nature.
Ramiro delivers a solo show that is well worth the four year wait. His perpetually curious intellect turns inward with this most recent work. This exhibition is broad in subject matter, introspective in tone, and deeply connected to his present life. His much heralded precocious painting technique is now maturing. Ramiro’s masterful compositional sense remains in full force and this more mature period is still drenched in his many aesthetic influences, whether it’s music, classical mythology, 19th century poetry or contemporary psychology.
Since his first solo show in 2000, Ramiro has developed major themes through allegorical female figures and he has looked closely at male vanity, while also painting interiors, portraits and more recently, plein air landscapes. Currently, in his two major studio interiors “Los Amigos” and “The Windows of My Studio”, he now adds the spiritual concept of witnessing life and light. “Los Amigos” marks a departure in that he is drawing on his own personal experience here rather than classical literature or music. While this is a realistic painting of chairs in his studio, they symbolize our friends, who are there to support us, always welcoming even if they are not physically present. The deep red tones evoke a warm friendly feeling. In a subtle nod to magical realism, which has always suffused his work, there is a leaf floating in the foreground. This represents the perennial nature of true friendships, which may lose their leaves in a season, but grow stronger after each year.
Although he has received instruction from some very important artists, Whites work is highly individual. White paints with great spirit. When one sees his work one quickly senses he has a great love for nature and the outdoors. Through his eyes we are able to view and interpret nature in an intimate manner. Whether Nelson H. White is painting the Connecticut shore, a beach in Italy, a pond on Shelter Island or the hills of Vermont, he allows the observer to view a soft, yet dramatic side of nature. His ability to use color, coupled with rich brush work and a graduation of light, air and atmosphere allows one to enjoy a certain mood which is clearly conveyed in Whites paintings. It is a mood that leaves us with a lasting impression.
Marc Dalessio has crafted an enviable life as a painter. In addition to his prolific output, he is also a generous teacher, a craftsman, an entrepreneur, an art historian, an internet blogger and occasionally even finds himself an international emissary of classical painting. The engine behind Dalessio’s efforts is a love of nature combined with an unfettered passion to paint everyday, most of the day.
Dalessio’s search for beauty has taken him to some of the more exotic corners of our planet. He travels - sometimes on his own, but often with a group of like-minded plein air painters - to world renowned landscapes, including but not limited to Kuki Gallman’s ranch in Kenya, a castle in Rajasthan, a barge on the Seine in France, a chalet in Switzerland, and a village in Myanmar (Burma). Dalessio has been painting on the East End of Long Island since 2000, adding Shelter Island and Sag Harbor to his visual travelogue.
In “Ben Fenske: Recent Paintings” we exhibit a series of powerful interiors in addition to his strong body of plein air landscapes and portrait heads. Fenske’s trademark brush strokes, which are bold and unfussy yet accurate in tone and color, show even more confidence this year. These paintings mark a turn toward more psychological subjects, adding a somewhat more serious tone to his oeuvre. Notable amongst these strong interiors is “The Break Up”. This nearly 3 x 4 foot painting has it’s sorrowful subject, with her head buried in her crossed arms, slumped over a table, which is ironically draped in the Florentine color of rebirth, lavender. The extra chair at the table raises a question. Could the chair be for the recently departed mate, or perhaps for someone to console her? The anxiety of the subject is countered by the joyous play of color and light warming the scene. “My Room”, 31 ½ x 39 ½ inches, is another intimate view of a private space, evoking sanctity and solace, with the archetypal Vermeer juxtaposition of light flooding in from a un shuddered window in the upper left hand of the painting. “Cary’s World” recalls some of the great impressionist works of the 19th century, while depicting a contemporary expatriate’s apartment in Florence.
Ramiros recent works reveal a shift towards brighter, more hopeful images, a continued exploration of contemporary figure painting and a further refinement to his masterful abilities. This group of paintings is infused with a refreshed, higher key pal- ette, and a deeper questioning of some of the prescribed compo- sitions often seen in classical realist painting today.