Monday, October 4, 2010

Realist Art Around Philadelphia -Martha Mayer Erlebacher at Seraphin Gallery


Cycle of Life, Air : Childhood by Martha Erlebacher
Oil on canvas, 64 x 64

Martha Mayer Erlebacher was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1937. Trained originally in Abstract Expressionism, Erlebacher (along with her husband Walter) broke from this school in the late 60’s and quickly became recognized as one of the leading representational figurative and still-life artists in America. She regularly shows her work nationally and internationally and her work has been featured in many books and periodicals. Erlebacher’s work examines the deep metaphorical and social themes of contemporary culture through her painterly and aesthetic images. She currently works and lives in the Philadelphia area.

The Cycle of Life, Fire: Youth by Martha Erlebacher
oil on canvas, 64 x 80

The Cycle of Life, Water : Old Age by Martha Erlebacher
oil on canvas, 64 x64

Flora by Martha Erlebacher
oil on canvas, 22x22

"Flora (2004), is an allegorical portrait of a beautiful young woman with folded arms...in one hand, Flora holds a white vase-like calla lily, in the other, a sheaf of long, green, spear-like leaves, which she formally presents to the viewer. For the artist these symbols represent both the destructive and vital powers of nature. The calla lily is the symbolic flower of death.... The formal pose of Flora and the heart-shaped face and the iconography suggest a source of inspiration in Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera (c. 1482) and the goddess Flora, clothed in a flower-covered gown. The image is both pagan and spiritual, neoclassical and organic, reflecting the twin themes of Erlebacher’s oeuvre of the last forty years. Throughout her long career Erlebacher has sought to connect her art to what is lasting and timeless. Through her devotion to realism she approaches nature and the human figure; through carefully composed neoclassical compositions and mythological narratives she reconnects to the Western cultural tradition. Flora is a successful fusion of the two themes" ( Newington-Crospey Cultural Studies Center).

Looking at Erlebacher's show at the Seraphin Gallery, I was amazed at the ambitious scale of her pieces and I immediately wanted to paint a really large canvas with images from my entire life. Her paintings brought to mind an unusual combination of feelings and references for me: Odd Nerdrum, Bo Bartlett, Gustav Klimt, Greek and Roman Friezes, Freud and Jung, dreams that I can't quite remember. Images of people and stages in my life filled my thoughts as I marveled at her paintings; my childhood, marriage, my own children, my parents getting old; I also felt an overwhelming combination of emotions while looking at her "Cycle of Life" series: hope, passion, love, pain and loss. I couldn't decide, as I stood there mesmerized, if I felt young or old. I felt connected to something bigger than all of us, that continues in spite of us. I wonder what reactions other people have her work. If you've seen this or any of her other shows, I'd love to hear what your reaction was.

Seraphin Gallery
1108 Pine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 923 7000
Show Ends October 31,2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Inspiring Figures: American Women & Figurative Art -Philadelphia artists


Judy by Ellen Cooper
46"x32", oil on linen

Claude and Pamela Frank by Alexandra Tyng
52" x 48", oil on linen

Several Philadelphia artists, in addition to Studio Incamminati artists Leona Shanks and Lea Wight (see previous post), are also in this exhibition currently at the Butler Institute of Art in Youngstown, Ohio. The show runs through October 31, 2010. Lea Wight and Ellen cooper will be participating in a panel discussion on Saturday, October 8, at 10:00 am.