A LETTER TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

Dear President Obama,

I’m writing to recommend Mr. Juan Manuel Delgado – a young artist from Costa Rica — as eminently qualified to paint your official portrait representing you as the 44th President of the United States.  After researching Juan Manuel’s portrait of Pope Francis for my online magazine artcopyblog.com, I concluded that his style was appropriate for a monumental portrait of an American president who has unequivocally changed the country and the world for the better.   The artist’s portrait of Pope Francis exemplifies his ability to capture not only a likeness but also an individual personality.

The photograph is courtesy of Juan Manuel Delgado and a photographer for the Vatican
This photograph is courtesy of Juan Delgado.

Mr. President, you uplifted cynical generations on June 3rd, 2008 in your persuasive speech as the Democratic party’s presumptive nominee.  In so many elegant words, you said that change wouldn’t be easy, but it could be done.

Those words will be remembered for generations:

if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.  This was the moment — this was the time — when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals. 

In truth, your presidency has revealed that there is more work to do to protect human dignity for every soul than most imagined at the time. Nevertheless, you defied considerable opposition and set far-ranging and lasting reform in motion, and have forever transformed the way that many of us see our communities.

Juan Manuel’s experience with and reverence for Pope Francis also speaks to the dreams of another humble optimist who is guaranteed nothing but presses forward anyway.  His aspiration to paint and present Pope Francis with a portrait were not without real barriers, but he proceeded with faith and gratitude.  Some miracles happened along the way.

This photograph is courtesy of Juan Miguel Delgado and a photographer for the Vatican.
This photograph is courtesy of Juan Miguel Delgado.

As Shephard Fairey’s posters galvanized a hopeful nation on the verge of electing a great President, Juan Manuel would represent the likeness and personality of one of the most beloved Presidents in American history.

"Hope" by Shepard Fairey. This picture is courtesy of The Smithsonian Institute. Barack Obama as presumptive nominee
“Hope” by Shepard Fairey. This picture is courtesy of The Smithsonian Institute.

As Pete Souza has captured thousands of irresistible glimpses of a charismatic first family that make us smile and reflect,  Juan Manuel’s style would bring grace and quiet drama to a transformational American Presidency.

This photograph of President Obama was taken by White House photographer Pete Souza and is courtesy of petapixel.com
This photograph of President Obama was taken by White House photographer Pete Souza and is courtesy of petapixel.com
This photograph is courtesy of www.whitehouse.gov. This Official White House Photo was taken by Chuck Kennedy
This photograph is courtesy of www.whitehouse.gov. This Official White House Photo is by Chuck Kennedy

In my online article, I argued that Juan Manuel’s portrayal of Pope Francis is evidence of his awareness of his place in art history, as well as his ability to portray monumental people who transcend time.

When Juan Manuel was in Rome to meet and present His Holiness with the portrait that he painted, he received an e-mail from the Post Office in his home country of Costa Rica who had seen press coverage of the event and wanted to include a picture of the artist’s portrait on a special issue stamp.  These symbols of the exchange of love between His Holiness and the humble artist allow everyday people to hold a piece of this sacred embrace.

This photograph is courtesy of Juan Manuel Delgado and was taken by a Vatican photographer.
This photography is courtesy of Juan Manuel Delgado.

Mr. President, you’ve lived up to your promises.  I suspect that many Americans would like to be able to buy a stamp symbolizing the moment when the world changed, much as the people of Costa Rica wanted to share in Pope Francis’s embrace with the humble dreamer.  For these reasons, I hope you’ll consider Juan Manuel Delgado to paint your official portrait as President of the United States while capturing your transformational personality and a disarming historical legacy.

Warm regards,

Brenda Haroutunian

DEJUAN HUNT II’S ART AND INVENTION

DeJuan Hunt II’s art coalesces around invention, play, and superhero creativity that expand definitions of art.

DeJuan Hunt II's art and invention, "New Persuasive Art"
“New Persuasive Art,” by DeJuan Hunt II. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt II.

After exploring Hunt II’s stylistic invention New Persuasive Art earlier this year, I concluded that his art falls within the parameters of traditional art history. At the same time, it offers the possibility of lateral, rather than binary analysis.  The artist sees himself within art history. He recently said that he’s going through his variation of Picasso’s blue period. The selfie of him meditating with Rodin’s The Thinker shows the artist playfully tapping into the creativity of another artist who questioned convention. His friends liken him to Raphael because he realized success at a young age. His fascination with inventing new styles is not unlike Da Vinci who saw himself first as an inventor.

This photograph is courtesy of Dejuan Hunt II
This photograph is courtesy of Dejuan Hunt II

While art history is easy to understand, it is often misleading. The art world traditionally defines art through a process of qualification and disqualification and retroactively plots the art object on an evolutionary continuum that begins with prehistoric art and concludes with contemporary art. Typically, a coffee table monograph summarizes art history in a big picture book that is easy to understand and asks few questions. In practice, it pairs glossy photos with narratives that rely on too much speculation.

DeJuan Hunt II's New Persuasive Art, and invention.
“New Persuasive Art” by DeJuan Hunt II. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt.

The academic world subscribes to a similar invention. Unfortunately, we’re in quicksand from the beginning. While science provides general dates for prehistoric imagery, it knows little about the people who made it.

There are similar problems at other plot points. Ancient culture employed skilled craftsmen to make magnificent work that glorified the city-state. The medieval faithful created imagery that served devotional and didactic purposes. Neither the ancient laborer nor the medieval maker of religious imagery would be considered artists according to a modern definition of who an artist is, though the art world assumes it so. It’s inconceivable that these societies viewed imagery as a contemporary culture would. The notion of art as the residue of humanity’s creative impulse dates roughly to the time of Michelangelo. The idea has been reinterpreted by countless artists since.

"New Persuasive Art," an invention by DeJuan Hunt
“New Persuasive Art” by DeJuan Hunt II. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt II.

Artists who don’t fit are excluded, or poorly represented. Artists from remote areas making modern abstract art, rather than preconceived notions of tribal art, are allotted an awkward slot in the archaeological branch of art history that takes explaining.

Ironically, these cultures manufacture objects for tourists interested in taking home a souvenir. Masks and spears are made and sold only as commodities. While these objects may be aesthetically appealing and well-crafted, they nevertheless do not reflect the local art community.

Finally, placing these objects in museum spaces for aesthetic analysis further supports a methodology that values easy categorization over nuance. While urban societies value technological advancement in their cultures, they expect faraway communities to remain fossilized in time. Although art scholarship has a legitimate stake in accurately defining art, the art world continues to perpetuate this myth of an evolutionary worldview.

DeJuan Hunt II's imagination and creativity, New Persuasive Art
New Persuasive Art, by DeJuan Hunt II. This photograph is courtesy of Dejuan Hunt II.

In his book entitled, New Persuasive Art: an Art Style I’ve Inventedthe artist challenges the binary order of things by shifting attention to an archaeology of meaning that persuades the viewer to see their world differently. He layers photographs, cut-outs, and written words on top of a painted canvas to create a unified image. He asks his viewer for an accidental or unexpected — rather than a calculated — response. Hunt II’s art reads like an inner monologue, or a directive, an alter ego, or any number of things, according to the audience’s imagination.

"New Persuasive Art," an invention by DeJuan Hunt
“New Persuasive Art,” by DeJuan Hunt II. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt II.

New Persuasive Art was exhibited in New York in January of 2014 at the Niagara Arts and Culture Center. In the video below, the artist says that every painting and drawing tells a story.  He says that the title, Another Way Out, frames his unconventional approach.   The style that he invented provided him with an avenue for creating deeply resonant art. New Persuasive Art gained international recognition in February with an exhibition at Flyer Art Gallery in Rome.  Presently, Hunt II is working on new projects  in New York in preparation for Art Basel.

Hunt II’s process offers an analog for art history. An archaeology rather than a false continuum permits fresh possibility. For starters, it challenges us to explore our bias. It allows us to be honest in acknowledging what we do and do not know about other people, about alternative artists and offers a valuable opportunity for new analysis. Instead of just comparing objects in aesthetic terms, it offers additional potential for learning about other people with a sense of wonder and respect.

DeJuan Hunt II's art and invention
DeJuan Hunt II. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt II.

Besides New Persuasive Art,  Hunt II also invented and wrote about Real Illustration with books available worldwide. This invention outlines a fresh approach to illustration. It appeals to people of all skill sets and encourages everyone to be an artist.

Invention, and Graphic Novel by DeJuan Hunt
Graphic Novel by DeJuan Hunt ii. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt.

The artist has also written graphic novels that feature miraculous inventions secret to man until this very moment. The artist describes Mr. Axe. Birth of a Titan, as a live action-packed story that also asks readers to look at creativity differently.  In this way, he encourages his audience to consider a larger picture.

"Old Buddy Grey," by DeJuan Hunt II. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt II.
“Old Buddy Grey,” by DeJuan Hunt II. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt II.

Finally, Hunt II is a community animator who makes art for cancer patients in Cleveland, Ohio. He feels that surrounding people with art give them strength as they undergo treatment.  His community art, like his New Persuasive Art, sees love operating everywhere within the global community.

Community Art by DeJuan Hunt. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt II.
Community Art by DeJuan Hunt. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt II.

Of course, change is slow in the art world as it is in reality. Art history, an invention by white men for white men, is no longer viable within global culture. Scholarship did not analyze or examine women, people of color, or others until the twentieth century. History has not remembered these other artists. As a result, coalitions still struggle today for equal representation within disciplines that continue to emphasize white patriarchy. By displacing the notion of an evolution of art, with a layered approach would allow art history to step closer to truthfully recognizing people across time with available context.

It’s past the time to offer nuanced explanations that are easy to consume. Because we are competing in an academic world that values objective reasoning, we have more explaining going forward to avoid inventing exclusive histories that privilege a few, and find a correct slot for those who contradict its persistent white male bias. Art history can be respectable. Because it stands at the crossroads of multiple disciplines and offers a fresh vision to a contemporary global culture. In many ways, DeJuan Hunt II creates identifiable urban heroes who persuade the viewer to think differently.

KALOUST GUEDEL’S EXCESSIVISM AND THE RISE OF DONALD TRUMP

Kaloust Guedel, the founder of Excessivism, sees Trump as the revolutionary movement’s poster boy.

Excessivist Art by Kaloust Geudel
The Wall Standard, by Kaloust Guedel. This photograph is courtesy of Kaloust Geudel

As the founder of Excessivism and the writer of the movement’s manifesto,  Kaloust Guedel sees art growing out of life experience and realization that includes consumer culture.  Excessivism is a new movement with few twentieth-century precedents.  Like other artists working in this style, Guedel’s art often serves as a commentary on commodified culture.  The artist combines vinyl, glass, metal, and so on, to create art that appeals to the eye and begins a discussion.

While Excessivism offers a critique of material culture, there is a sense in which it also celebrates excess.  Most of us like some excess, especially if it’s pleasurable.  Guedel’s The Wall Standard with its elegant line of gold dropping to pool into a shimmering mass of folds against a dark background conveys a sense of lavish drama.

Excessivist Art by Kaloust Guedel
“Excess 282,” by Kaloust Guedel. This photograph is courtesy of Kaloust Guedel.

Celebrity excess — for better or worse — occupies the cultural spotlight 24/7.  Kim Kardashian’s tremendous booty has been a source of interest and inane speculation for years now.  Human interest in celebrity excess can nevertheless translate to profound art.  Prince’s fans will likely sing his songs and admire the prodigal and abundant ambition that went into making his music until Kingdom come.  Celebrity excess can also be dangerous.  Everything about Donald Trump — from his hair to his demeaning insults — is excessive.

Guedel recently wrote about the relevance of Donald Trump — the ultimate celebrity — and GOP nominee for the 2016 election.  In the article, he says with economic and political excessivism at the core of this new art movement; it naturally relates to Trump’s political path While the artist acknowledges Trump’s relevance, he is nevertheless critical of the level of his excess.   Trump appears as proof of Excessivism’s assertion that consumer culture is flawed.

Excessivist art by Kaloust Geudel
“The Big Bang In Practice,” by Kaloust Geudel. This photograph is courtesy of Kaloust Geudel.

The idea of a Trump presidency is scary.  Trump wants to dismantle the safety measures that the United States has implemented in the wake of WWII.   At the same time, he wants to start new wars that could involve nuclear weapons.  Sam Kleiner, in a June article for The Atlantic, says the Republican nominee is effectively advocating the spread of arms, so destructive they haven’t been used since their horrifying debut over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.  The Onion in one of its jarring serious moments reported that an alarming new global risk report published Tuesday by the United Nations .., presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump may be just seven months away from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Excessivist Art by Kaloust Geudel
“Excess 278,” by Kaloust Guedel. This photograph is courtesy of Kaloust Guedel.

Excessivism is appropriate to the moment.  While Excessivism both criticizes and celebrates excess, it also asks its audience about how much is too much.  Trump, viewed through the prism of Excessivism, appears as a caricature rather than a serious presidential candidate.  It points instead towards the waste that it deplores, the existential threat that confronts humanity due to climate change, and the possibility of a new arms race.

MUEEN SAHEED NARRATES HISTORY IN ABSTRACT STYLE

Mueen Saheed’s abstract narrative painting invites lasting contemplation rather than dazzling the eye for a fleeting instant.

Mueen Saheed's abstraction
“Conquest of Galle,” by Mueen Saheed. This photograph is courtesy of Mueen Saheed.

Saheed, a contemporary abstract artist from Colombo, Sri Lanka, was recently commissioned to paint two pairs of doors and four shutters on the exterior of a new boutique hotel in Galle.  The hotel owner, who commissioned the work, imagined vivid painting that evoked the atmosphere of the city with its riveting, multi-layered history.  Because of the importance of the location, Saheed was compelled thoroughly researching the city’s history and studying its artifacts before he started painting.

Mueen Saheed's abstract art
“Conquest of Galle” by Mueen Saheed. This photograph is courtesy of Mueen Saheed.

Sri Lanka has been a mysterious, dynamic location for as long as anyone can remember. It attracts many sojourners every year, and Galle is one of the most visited cities in Sri Lanka today.   The city is home to an impressive mix of architecture left behind by Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonizers.

The city’s magnificent fort was built by the Portuguese during the 16th century, highly fortified by the Dutch in the 17th century, and has undergone extensive restoration since.  Today, it is a cosmopolitan ensemble embodying the interaction between European and South Asian styles.  UNESCO’s world heritage organization designates the fort as an architectural monument to be carefully preserved.

Additionally, merchants from around the globe have been anchoring at this fascinating port of call for centuries. Sri Lanka has been a vital exporter of quality goods throughout history.  Coffee, tea, culture and more have shipped to destinations the world over.  Indeed, some came and decided to stay.  Moorish descendants continue to inhabit the fort to the present day.

Mueen Saheed's abstract painting
“Conquest of Galle,” on shutter doors, by Mueen Saheed. This photograph is courtesy of Mueen Saheed.

When I look back at my work as it has matured over the years and the flow of consciousness from my mind to the brush has increased in speed and richness of expression.

— Mueen Saheed

Saheed has drawn upon his research, as well as color, song, and so forth, to weave storylines together in his painting.  The artist views abstraction as a bridge between the conscious and unconscious mind.   As he painted the doors and shutters of the chic new hotel for the city with old world charm, he drew abstract form and color from his subconscious for the purpose of evoking the spirit of Galle.

Mueen Saheed abstract painting
“Conquest of Galle,” by Mueen Saheed. This photograph is courtesy of Cantaloupe Hotels.

What I do differently in my abstract painting is express the emotive quality of the space behind the doors.

The artist says that instead of relying on realistic representation, he wants to present thoughts in color and brushstroke.  Unlike most historical depictions that do rely on representation, Saheed’s narrative paintings are mostly abstract.  They seek a higher state of consciousness rather than traditional didactic purposes.  The artist says I am a lover of the Sufi ways and the works of the Persian poet Rumi. I believe in equality and all the finer whispering of life.  Abstract form and color provide the artist with an avenue for expressing sacred meaning in nuanced form.

Mueen Saheed's abstract art
Painted door, by Mueen Saheed. This photograph is courtesy of Mueen Saheed.

The artist also draws upon symbolism in his effort to elevate the conversation to a philosophical platform.  In contrast to an immovable canvas, he sees a door as a metaphor for a passageway.  He invites the viewer into moments from Galle’s past, or a whimsical garden, or perhaps an intimate kitchen.

Mueen Saheed's abstract art
“Cabin Song,” by Mueen Saheed. This photograph is courtesy of Mueen Saheed.

Saheed shifts attention towards the essence of places, with their finer whisperings, with painted metaphors for songs sung in friendly places.

Mueen Saheed's abstract art
“Kitchen Tumeric,” by Saheed Mueen. This photograph is courtesy of Mueen Saheed

He evokes the heart of a kitchen fragrant with masala.

Mueen Saheed's abstract art
“Afternoon Hearth,” by Mueen Saheed.

He also recalls cozy afternoons by the fire in his painting.

Mueen Saheed's abstract art
“Garden Frolick,” by Mueen Saheed.

He conjures a playful garden out of form and color.

"Auntie's Cupboard, by Mueen Saheed. This photograph is courtesy of the artist.
“Auntie’s Cupboard, by Mueen Saheed. This photograph is courtesy of the artist.

Finally, he paints what he cherishes on the surface of his metaphorical passageways.

Saheed’s process allows him to evoke an infinite number of moods in abstract form. Although he usually paints in purely abstract style, he included figurative bits from Galle’s history in the recent commission.   A sampling of literal references allowed the artist to emphasize the significance of the location.

Close up from "The Conquest of Galle," depicting the city during Dutch rule. This photograph is courtesy of Mueen Saheed.
Close up from “The Conquest of Galle,” depicting the city during Dutch rule, by Mueen Saheed.

While the artist’s abstract style is meant to convey the aura of Galle, the representational pieces refer to its variegated history.  Sri Lanka has been a sacred location for many since time immemorial.  If colonization is ethically disgraceful in a post-colonial era, the site has worked its magic over the people who came to its shores for numerous reasons.  It likely enchanted the Portuguese, Dutch, and British, as it fascinates and mystifies many people today.

Abstract painting by Mueen Saheed.
“The King in the Coat and the Portuguese officer,” close-up from “The Conquest of Galle,” by Mueen Saheed.

The artists paintings reflect the manner in which European influence has integrated with Sri Lanka’s tradition.

Figurative and abstract painting by Mueen Saheed.
“Ocean Skirmish and Green man with Turban,” close-up from “The Conquest of Galle,” by Mueen Saheed. This photograph is courtesy of Mueen Saheed.

At the same time, his painting stirs an unexpected reaction.  The mix of abstract form and color meant to evoke a subconscious reaction with literal references to identifiable reality have the potential to provoke an unusual response from the viewer.  While the conscious mind identifies with what it recognizes, the unconscious observes the aura of the place represented.  Saheed’s paintings encourage the viewer’s conscious mind to trip over into the unconscious to make any number of associations.

This photograph is courtesy of Mueen Saheed
“Independence Memorial and the new Nation,” close up from “Conquest of Galle,” by Mueen Saheed

Evocative aesthetics in combination with realistic symbolism lends itself to contemplation. The artist’s trademark abstract narrative style is different than most contemporary abstract art.  Lasting contemplation allows for a nuanced exploration of the subject.  The longer the viewer contemplates his painting recognizing hidden pictures and observing its vibration, the more they discover.

Saheed is not seeking a traditional response with fixed meaning.  Instead, the purpose of his art is to prompt focused reflection in a world where everything is photographed and hash-tagged.  More, Saheed feels that society’s mass consumption of imagery makes abstraction more relevant than ever in its capacity to stir lasting contemplation.

The artist’s paintings have become a familiar landmark in Galle attracting many visitors to this special city. More, he yearns to travel the world visiting other intriguing cities.  Saheed also aspires to paint other abstract narratives on other doors that echo the spirit of other vibrant places around the world.

ALLAN GORMAN’S HYPERREALISM

While Allan Gorman is preoccupied with excellent composition and aesthetics, viewers are mesmerized by his brand of hyperrealism, and its capacity to stir original interpretation.

Williamsburg Red ©2015 Allan Gorman Oil on Linen 30 x 30 inches
Williamsburg Red ©2015 Allan Gorman Oil on Linen 30 x 30 inches

I’m drawn to hidden abstract patterns, random shapes and aesthetic tensions I see in real objects—particularly industrial and manufactured structures and objects.  

— Allan Gorman

Gorman is preoccupied with graphic design over a career that began decades ago in advertising.  His skill has been valued by big brands like  Proctor & Gamble, Bristol-Myers, Smirnoff, Sprite, and numerous others, as a Senior Creative with impressive agencies like The Marschalk Company, and Young & Rubicam, before owning his agency Brandspa, for thirty years.  At the beginning of the new millennium, he ventured into fine art.

Rocket ©2015 Allan Gorman Oil on Linen 104 x 74 inches
Rocket ©2015 Allan Gorman Oil on Linen 104 x 74 inches

The focus isn’t necessarily on an accurate rendering, but rather on sharing the aesthetic information created by and within the object

Gorman marries his passion for aesthetics to his strong design skills.  The artist’s journey led him to a nuanced exploration of parts used to make machines and manufactured objects.  He discovers intriguing forms, reflective surfaces, angles, and more.  Form borrowed from pocket watch mechanisms, motorcycle engines, and so forth, expand and morph into new shapes.  The perpetual discovery of new form allows him to create mesmerizing works of art.

A Nice Day for a Ride ©2013 Allan Gorman Oil on Canvas 40 x 40 inches
A Nice Day for a Ride ©2013 Allan Gorman Oil on Canvas 40 x 40 inches

I like to think of my works as abstract compositions in the guise of realism, and I use this criteria to inform my choices of what to paint. 

Gorman’s abstract compositions often emphasize the symbolism associated with the object represented.   Blue Button, for example, is a metaphor for the larger mechanism of time.  Symbolism allows the artist to evade literal interpretations and elevate the discussion.  By emphasizing symbolism and superior aesthetics that bend, stretch, and shape-shift, his painting leads to unexpected associations and reactions that encourage the viewer to inhabit another galaxy.

Blue Button ©2012 Allan Gorman Oil on Panel 18 x 18 inches
Blue Button ©2012 Allan Gorman Oil on Panel 18 x 18 inches

Gorman has been successful as an ad man and as a fine artist.  His art has been showcased in museum and gallery exhibitions too numerous to list.   It is also featured in so many magazines and blogs.  While he is an accomplished artist, hyperrealism has not yet achieved critical consensus within the contemporary art world.   The stigma of appropriation still hovers over the style despite original discovery.

As a result, hyperrealism includes a disparate group that ranges from literal, documentary photojournalism to more conceptual definitions of the style.  There’s a little bit of everything in between.  Allan Gorman’s ideas and his brand of realism invite the eye to roam free.

JUAN MANUEL DELGADO’S PORTRAIT OF POPE FRANCIS

I felt, although being in the presence of more than 100,000 people, that only he and I were present.  At that moment, the Pope looked straight into my eyes and I said, ‘My name is Juan Manuel Delgado, I’m a young artist.  I have come from Costa Rica to give you this portrait, with all of my heart, affection and admiration.’

This photo is courtesy of Juan Manuel Delgado. It was taken by a Vatican Photographer.
This photograph is courtesy of Juan Manuel Delgado.

The intimacy of the exchange between Pope Francis and the artist Juan Manuel Delgado would be difficult to imagine had it not been documented by a Vatican photographer. Seriously, can you imagine yourself in this situation?   You’re humbly offering a portrait that you’ve painted to perhaps the most beloved Pope in the memory of the Catholic Church and His Holiness is looking straight into your eyes.

Whatever your personal beliefs, there is a consensus that Pope Francis is one of the most influential people in the world today. He is on the side of good in a world that has gone mad. When he is not officiating as Pontiff; he brokers peace between hostile countries, evades the Swiss Guard in ordinary dress to minister to the needy, and touches everyday people with his spellbinding humility.  Pope Francis is loved the world over by people of every age.  Finally, young adults like Delgado are moved by the way that His Holiness is transforming the world.

This photograph is courtesy of Juan Manuel Delgado and was taken by the Vatican's photographer
This photograph is courtesy of Juan Manuel Delgado.

During our conversation the Pope always looked at my eyes. After several minutes staring at the portrait, seeing his own reflection, he extended his hand, and I said, ‘please bless everyone in Costa Rica. Bless me with the strength to believe in my dreams.’  He gave me a hug, and although it lasted only a few seconds, I felt that it lasted much longer.  I felt the greatest sense of peace as if I were in heaven.  He smiled and said, ‘thank you very much for your kind gesture.’ The hug of His Holiness Pope Francis was one of the greatest moments of my life.

The exchange between Pope Francis and the artist is disarming.  Delgado’s words, along with the pictures, reveal that he had the presence of mind to jump into the ocean of Pope Francis’s mercy when the big moment arrived.  He wore his heart on his lapel courageously asking His Holiness for blessings for his family, his country, and strength to believe in himself.  Pope Francis revealed the infinite power of kindness by concentrating his full attention and affection on this earnest young admirer.

My decision to paint a portrait of His Holiness Pope Francis is based on my admiration for His simplicity and humility, as a source of inspiration to the world.  At the same time, this painting is a gift in gratitude for being the first Latin American Pope in the history of the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church.

This photograph is courtesy of Juan Manuel Delgado and was captured by a Vatican photographer.
This photograph is courtesy of Juan Manuel Delgado

Delgado’s inspiration to paint the Pope’s portrait grew out of his admiration for His Holiness’s humility, simplicity, and his gratitude to the first Pope from Latin America in the history of the Catholic Church.  Of course, the concrete project required a fair amount of planning and a bit of red-tape.   He discovered a few miracles along the way.

For starters, when Delgado sought advice about from the Pope’s sister, Maria Elena Bergoglio; she replied with blessings, encouragement, and direction.  Her advice eventually led Delgado to a meeting with Apostolic Nuncio, Msgr. Pierre Nguyen Van Tot.   During the meeting at the Nunciature in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, Delgado was able to discuss his project and receive specific guidelines for portraying the Pope.

I always start painting the eyes first, and then I started to feel a dialogue emerging with the Pope as His facial expressions began to take shape.  As more color was added, the more I felt a connection with Him.

This photograph is courtesy of Juan Manuel Delgado. It was taken by Vatican photographer.
This Photograph is courtesy of Juan Manuel Delgado.

Delgado’s feeling of connection with the Pope while he was painting the portrait touches upon an intriguing aspect of the power of an image to provoke an emotional response.   In The Power of Images, David Freedberg examines how the representation of eyes spark a response.  He argues; These are the clearest .. indications of the vitality of the represented figure.  The livelier the eyes seem the livelier the body. In The Destruction of Art, Dario Gamboni credits him with elevating the discussion saying; Freedberg valorized .. elements and modes of ‘response’ to images that had .. been neglected, repressed or condemned.  

The artist’s recollection speaks not only to the concept of life evident in the eyes but also implies a sense of communion.  He drew upon the Pope’s vitality to create a portrait that captured his sublime likeness and personality.  The hyper-realistic style, and skillful use of chiaroscuro,  somewhat resembles paintings by Baroque masters expert at portraying dramatic moments.  The contrast between the dark background and the light radiating from His Holiness creates a sense of hushed drama.

Delgado’s paintings point to art history in other ways.  His portrait of King Simeon II of Bulgaria makes him the second youngest artist in history to have painted a monarch since Velasquez’s portrait of King Phillip IV in 1623, at age 24.  Delgado’s art is rooted in tradition in an era quick to dismiss the value of continuity.

It took Delgado about one month to paint the portrait.  Afterwards, he emailed a picture of the finished painting to the Nuncio in San Jose, who, in turn, invited him to display the portrait publicly at the Nunciature on August 15, 2013.  On September 10, the artist received a call from the Nunciature saying that the artist received a letter from the Vatican.

The first time I read the letter and saw that my proposal to present the painting to Pope Francis was granted, I was extremely happy and very emotional.  Of all the struggles I’ve had as an artist, I kept working hard, and receiving this great opportunity was an incredible experience for me and to be able to represent my country was such a great honor.

Again, can you imagine yourself in such a situation?  Indeed, the artist’s narrative indicates that it was an emotional moment for him.  The portrait represented more than a likeness; it represented Pope Francis; the humble missionary who is transforming the world with his simple goodness.

Stamp commemorating the first anniversary of Pope Francis's Pontificate.
This Photo is courtesy of Juan Manuel Delgado.

The artist received another surprise while he was in Rome. The Post Office in Costa Rica had seen him presenting the portrait to Pope Francis on television and was interested in issuing a limited edition stamp to commemorate the first anniversary of Pope Francis’s Pontificate.

This Photograph is courtesy of Juan Delgado.
This Photograph is courtesy of Juan Delgado.

They subsequently announced a limited issue postage stamp, entitled The Pope Francis: a year of the Pontificate, to mark the anniversary.  It issued 15,000 stamps on March 19, 2014, with a picture of the portrait that the artist personally presented the previous year at the Vatican.  Predictably, the limited edition sold out.  The stamp would have afforded everyday people with their piece of heaven, and an opportunity to engage with His Holiness, Pope Francis, the sublime missionary from Latin America.

This photograph is courtesy of the Juan Manuel Delgado

Juan Manuel Delgado knows his place in art history.  His representational style asks different kinds of questions than most contemporary art that is conceptual in nature.  Representing a sacred person like Pope Francis would raise questions about what would qualify as the appropriate style for a person celebrated far and wide.   Delgado’s representation conveys his humble reverence for the Pope while simultaneously emphasizing His Holiness’s sparkling vitality.  The artist appears to be a master at marking monumental moments in time.

I confess, the artist’s skill for portraying historically significant moments with just the right tone has sparked a secret wish that Delgado paints Barack Obama’s portrait.  Like many others, I’m dreading the day that this American President leaves office.  Obama has transcended many boundaries, created lasting change in our country, and in our relationship with others.  Although there are many excellent American portrait painters, and probably few better photographers than Pete Souza,  Delgado, I believe,  would translate President Obama’s likeness into an official portrait that would resonate across time.

For more information about the artist, please visit; www.facebook.com/pintorjuanmanueldelgado

 

MATI RUSSO’S ART MAKES A SPLASH AT SOTHEBY’S, PASADENA

MATI RUSSO’S ART MAKES A SPLASH AT SOTHEBY’S, PASADENA
Sotheby’s installation of Mati Russo’s emotive, mixed-media art echoes the city’s commitment to creativity as an ongoing community venture that is continually growing in unexpected directions.
Mati Russo's art installation at Sothby's, photo copyrighted by Brenda Haroutunian
“World’s Apart,” and “Forgive Quickly,” by Mati Russo, Sotheby’s Pasadena

I’m a big fan of Mati Russo.  For starters, I’m impressed by her ability to touch on the suffering of the human condition with art that evokes constructive contemplation, rather than fear, or other negative alternatives.  The artist’s technique for expressing gratitude with multi-media painting composed of disposed items that have lost their first shine strikes me as especially thoughtful.  Finally, I love her color and charisma.  So, when I heard that Sotheby’s had installed her mixed-media painting at their new office here in Pasadena, I was eager to see her work up close.

"Worlds Apart," Mati Russo Art, Sotheby's Pasadena. This photograph is copyrighted to Brenda Haroutunian
“Worlds Apart,” by Mati Russo, Sotheby’s Pasadena

I was also curious about Sotheby’s response to the artist, and her creativity.  Jeff Maynard, the Vice President, and Brokerage Manager, of the Pasadena office, was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.  When I asked him what he most liked about Russo’s brand of creativity, he said that he was impressed by the work that he found on her website, and in her studio. Maynard added that part of the design aspect of our new Pasadena real estate office was to create a museum-like space to highlight local artist and their works.  When he shared his findings with Bradley Cooper,  Senior Vice President of Marketing, enthusiasm, and support for an installation of Russo’s art at the Pasadena office solidified.

"Tantric Garden" by artist Mati Russo. Photograph copyrighted to Brenda Haroutunian
“Tantric Garden,” by Mati Russo, Sotheby’s Pasadena

Russo, in turn, said that she was overjoyed when Maynard first asked to show one of her pieces, later deciding to furnish the entire office with her art.  She’s overjoyed that her art would be seen by new audiences.   Russo was pleased with the idea of sharing her art with clients searching for new houses and resonant art that would transform them into homes.

The installation was composed solely of abstract and decorative works. Russo said that Sotheby’s wanted to add color and beauty to their office while avoiding subjects that had the potential to evoke an unwelcome response.  She added; there are no political pieces reminiscent of artists such as Basquiat.  Those are displayed elsewhere and in my home.

Mati Russo art, Sotheby's Pasadena. Photograph copyrighted to Brenda Haroutunian
“Amaretto,” by Mati Russo, Sotheby’s Pasadena

If Sotheby’s was careful to select a collection that wasn’t incendiary, they have nevertheless showcased art meant to evoke an emotional response.   After September 11, 2001, the artist shifted direction portraying subject matter for the purpose of stimulating thought and reflection, rather than appealing solely to the senses.   Maynard appreciates the thoughtfulness in Russo’s process.  He said; For me, the beauty in Mati’s work is the thought process she brings to it. Psychological states are often an important subject in her art.  Paintings like Forgive Quickly and Worlds Apart speak to human vulnerability, along with joy, gratitude, and compassion.  If Sotheby’s purpose was to fill its office with beautiful art, it has also included work that urges it’s audience to think and respond.

Mati Russo's art at Sotheby's Pasadena. Photograph copyrighted to Brenda Haroutunian
“Laguna Beach,” by Mati Russo, at Sotheby’s Pasadena

On a whim, I asked Maynard what he would ask the artist to make if he could commission her to create a monument to donate to the city.  Although he was reluctant to dictate a creative direction for a hypothetical project, he nevertheless leaned towards something that emphasized the city’s impressive history.  Maynard’s answer is appropriate.  Russo’s savvy installation of serious and vibrant mixed-media painting reflects the city’s  history of engagement and innovation with the arts and literature.

So, I asked myself instead what I would ask the artist to make if I had such an opportunity.  Eventually, I decided on a series of paintings in industrial frames,  placed at some of the city’s driest and dustiest locations.  Russo’s evocative, colorful compositions would be welcome, for example, along Eaton Canyon’s trails during the hot summer months.

Mati Russo galleries and art. Photograph copyrighted to Brenda Haroutunian
“Purple Haze,” by Mati Russo, Sotheby’s Pasadena

The city’s choice museums, educational opportunities aimed at every age group and skill-set, along with events such as Artnight and One City, One Story,  present gratifying opportunities for exploration and growth. Sotheby’s has nodded to Pasadena’s traditions with an artist who is innovative and perpetually growing in exciting new directions

Of course, Sotheby’s has been in the news lately.  Everyone seems to be chattering about recent shakeups. There is general agreement that these are uncertain times for Sotheby’s.  Nevertheless, the installation in the local office acknowledged that this diverse community takes art seriously.  It’s yet another opportunity to view choice art, not in a museum or a gallery, but rather a savvy business space that has integrated the artist’s work with gallery-like flair.

Mati Russo Art, pictured copyrighted to Brenda Haroutnian
closeup of “Zap,” Mati Russo, Sotheby’s Pasadena

The city’s creative enterprises still surprise me nearly twenty years after settling in this small town.  So, I’d like to present opinion pieces about this local culture, while continuing my research on the contemporary artist in the coming months.  The city of Pasadena, with its culture of urging the community to engage with the world around it, is endlessly unique and refreshing.   I’m going to grab my camera and find secret pockets of creativity, explore what the community is interested in thinking about and making.

HELEN SHULKIN’S ART AND TECHNOLOGY

Helen Shulkin has made impressive inroads in the international art world with a process that mixes of technology with an original creative process thereby defying persistent gender disparity.

Station_III_

Shulkin’s grasp of science, technology, and fine art, translate to evocative painting with high dynamic range and color.

Her ideas and art remind me of the challenge of taking a photograph that does justice to the scene represented given the camera’s inability to capture the nuanced range of tones and colors visible to the human eye.  The raw photograph often appears dull and has little of the sparkle of the split-second that it purports to represent.  Shulkin’s algorithm, known as “limpidity,” provides the artist with a formula for deconstructing and reconstructing imagery, such as Station III  with clarified light and added color in a process that loosely resembles editing a photograph.

Terminal

Like photographic processes, Shulkin’s creative processes are also informed by optical equations drawn from physics.

The artist’s process, predicated upon her concept of limpidity, emphasizes how patterns of transparent light with luminescent color centers coalesce within fluid environments. The artist takes imagery apart and puts it back together with light and luminosity while simultaneously freezing the fleeting instant. More, the artist renders the invisible visible in her portrayal of the flashing, one-of-a-kind, patterns found in nature and urban places, in paintings such as Terminal.

Shulkin’s treatment of time is also original.  In paintings such as Station I  below, she does not represent impressions of a passing hour, nor does she fix a moment in time with photojournalist accuracy.  Instead, she gives form to otherwise subtle whispers of light that emphasize the existential properties of the transitory.Station_I____

Shulkin often employs seemingly low-art media like graffiti paint and industrial film, as well as science and technology, to produce high art that appeals to an international audience.

Shulkin’s art will be included along with seventeen other select young artists in an upcoming exhibition for Arte Internazionale in Matera Italy emphasizing technology and creativity.  Pino Nicoletti, the curator of the exhibition, is aware of the power of technology in the creative process.  Nicoletti argues that technology provides opportunities to dream.  Arte Internazionale is the latest in a string of exhibits that Shulkin has participated in that engage with a diverse range of artists and thinkers from The European Union, The United States, and The Russian Federation.

Station_II

While some of the art world’s best scholars were examining persistent gender disparity within its midst last summer, Helen Shulkin was packing her Station series in a sturdy piece of Samsonite luggage to carry from her home in Baden- Baden Germany to Parallax Art Fair in London.

As the art world grappled with statistics indicating that galleries pass over 78% of talented women artists, Shulkin was selected as one of 60 artists to participate in Marler Kunstverein’s prestigious arts and cultural festival.  She was also one of 75 women artists presented in 25. Art Fair in Bonn. While women artists have been routinely rejected by biased collectors, the artist was recently profiled in Aesthica Artists’ Directory, a publication that engages a global network of professional artists and provides critics and collectors with a network for interaction and discovery.  Shulkin has succeeded by drawing upon a sophisticated understanding of technology, along with fine art, painting scenes with resonate color and high dynamic range.  The artist effectively communicates her vision and evokes the dream of the places that she represents.

DEJUAN HUNT II’S NEW PERSUASIVE ART

New Persuasive Art is a contemporary art style .. that persuades the viewer’s mind to think outside of the box and see the bigger picture of the art itself. — Dejuan Hunt II

New Persuasive Art, DeJuan Hunt
“New Persuasive,” by DeJuan Hunt II

Reading the above words, I realized that the artist had re-framed my notion of outside of the box.  At first glance, his compositions reveal a fine balance of visual elements. The dramatic black and white style with discriminating punches of color appears somewhat Baroque.

Moreover, Hunt’s urban characters participate in miracles; complete with doves, effulgences, hearts, and innocent signatures, that are not unlike Rembrandt’s Raising of Lazarus. Both artists present the miraculous moment at the height of dramatic tension.  Yet, Hunt’s presentation is unpretentious and identifiable by comparison.

The hearts and simple signature convey a sense of innocence within the artist’s dramatic compositions.  The subject is not of biblical significance, but rather emphasizes the unassuming urban hero.  The New Perspective apparently embraces unexpected possibility.

Hunt elaborates upon his ideas in a new book entitled;  New Persuasive Art:  an Art Style I’ve  Invented.  The artist reassesses the order of things emphasizing an archaeology of meaning rather than predictably linear moments in time.  Similarly, his creative vision is reflected in a process that incorporates layers of imagery to produce not only unified, original imagery, but also fresh meaning.

In New Persuasive, for example, a cut-out picture of a bird has been layered over a scene with a street light to suggest that unlikely, everyday characters participate in humble miracles.  If Hunt’s New Persuasive Art operates within art history and its traditions, his reverence for love hidden everywhere around us is dazzling.

 

BRITTINI RENEE’S PAINTING AND POETRY

I show and talk about subjects people of today try to ignore. — Brittini Renee

"Black Beauty," Brittini Renee
“Black Beauty,” Brittini Renee

Brittini Renee has defiantly chosen bright colors over depression.  The emerging artist’s experience of racism has galvanized her creativity and empowered her to valiantly prevail over grim reality with soul-searching painting, poetry, and creative writing.  The artist’s reverence for beauty, and creativity, defies racial dehumanization in favor of human dignity.  Her creative voice allows her to express her personal concerns presenting minority groups not as others, but rather as precious human beings.  Black Beauty, for example, presents an African American woman in savvy, vibrant colors and polished style.

Similarly, Brittini Renee’s creative writing challenges false stereotypes.  Her piece entitled Society reflects her nuanced view of racism with poignant questions about insidious assumptions commonly made about minorities.  At the same time, the artist emphasizes a shared humanity.

Society

Society dines and wines on segregation and separation.

They speak of  How one race has more than the other.

How your neighbor is richer than you.

Society complains about how your race is perceived in the media.

We complain that no one understands the struggle of your race.

But do you understand the struggle of your race?

Were you on the hot plantations pickin’ cotton and answering

“Masta”?

No, you were not, so stop claiming that you were.

 Instead of society standing on separation we should stand

on assimilation.

The assimilation that we are all the same. 

No color, gender, or nationality defines who we are.

DNA defines individuals.

Blood types, heart rhythms, brain patterns, and fingerprints

‘separate’ us.

Our color is less significant,  because if we were burned beyond recognition,

they would learn who a person was with science.

Not how much money you had or wanted.

Not by your education level, or the car you drove.

Just science. 

Society does not stand on a mountain but instead on a

active volcano

-Brittini Renee

Brittini Renee voices concerns that are easy to ignore.  In re-framing her vision in creative terms, she has discovered a strategy for not only surviving an often depressing reality, but also dispelling ignorance with creativity.