Jed Perl’s keynote speech abstract:
On the Challenges of the Real and the Ideal
“Representational art can no longer be taken for granted. In the wake of the avant-garde century-and the challenges of modernism and postmodernism-the artist’s relationship with reality is by its very nature problematical. So any painter or sculptor who wants to work from reality must begin by reimagining representation. This is the great struggle that confronts representational painters and sculptors in the 21st century. They need to reconsider each and every aspect of artistic experience, from the fundamentals of studio practice to their attitudes toward the art of the past. When such a process is embraced wholeheartedly, it is metaphysical as well as empirical, as much a yearning for the ideal as a celebration of the real.”
Jed Perl is the art critic for The New Republic. Among his many books are Antoine’s Alphabet: Watteau and His World, Eyewitness: Reports from an Art World in Crisis, and New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century, which was a 2005 New York Times Notable Book and a 2005 Atlantic Monthly Best Book of the Year; a new essay collection, Magicians and Charlatans, will appear in Fall 2012. Mr. Perl is currently working on the first full-length biography of Alexander Calder, to be published by Knopf.
Mr. Perl is the recipient of awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy in Rome, the Leon Levy Biography Center at the City University of New York, and the Ingram-Merrill Foundation. He has been a Contributing Editor at Vogue, and has written for The New York Times Book Review, Harper’s, The Atlantic, The New Criterion, The Threepenny Review, The Yale Review, Salmagundi, and many other publications. He has appeared on Charlie Rose, the McNeil Lehrer News Hour, CNN, as well as National Public Radio; and has been a Slade Lecturer at Oxford University, and spoken at the Phillips Collection, National Gallery of Art, Kennedy School at Harvard University, Kansas City Art Institute, Stanford University, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Kimbell Art Museum, and many other places. He is currently a Visiting Professor of Liberal Studies at The New School in New York.
John Nava’s keynote speech abstract:
Representing by Hand:
Painting in the Digital Age
“What does it mean to make still, handmade pictures in the digital age? One part of the answer lies in the essential fact that painting is a tactile art – work of the hand. The content of this manual technology is vision – both in the optical and moral sense – and it takes form in a unique physical object. Unlike the succession of light-capturing technologies from earliest photography to the latest digital scans this process of mark and touch has hardly changed since prehistoric times. Handmade representation is a depth form, layered in meaning and structure. As such it stands outside the overwhelming flood of our world’s high-speed image stream. In contrast it is “slow” and authentic. It both resists and reveals the fast-food style consumption of our now customary routine of pattern recognition. Image invention, not capture, is the work of the painter. It makes visible and tangible the invisible worlds of vision, perception, spirit and feeling.”
John Nava studied art at UC Santa Barbara and did his graduate work in Florence, Italy. His work is found in numerous private, corporate and public collections throughout the United States, Europe and Japan including the National Museum of American Art in Washington D.C.
His work is represented in such publications as Post-Modernism: The New Classicism in Art and Architecture (Rizzoli, New York) by Charles Jencks who coined the term “post-modernism” and American Realism (Abrams, New York) by Edward Lucie Smith, a comprehensive history of realist painting in the United States..
Nava has done large-scale public works including a 45’ wide mural for the Tokyo Grain Exchange in Tokyo, Japan and a 56’ wide fountain sculpture at 100 Brand Blvd. in Glendale, California. In 1998 he was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony to paint a life-size double portrait of Jack and Rebecca Benaroya for Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle.
In 1999 Nava was commissioned by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to create three major cycles of tapestries for the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The primary cycle of 25 tapestries depict The Communion of Saints and comprise 136 saints from all parts of the world. The tapestries were woven in Belgium and range in size from 18’ to 48’ high with figures averaging 10’ tall. Our Lady of the Angels, the largest Catholic cathedral in the United States, opened in September of 2002.
In 2003 Nava’s tapestries for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels won the National Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture (IFRAA) Design Honor Award for Visual Art.
Virgil Elliott’s presentation abstract:
The Concept Of Quality In Art; Inspirational And Practical Concerns
“The future of art depends on the quality of the art of today and its power to inspire and influence artists and art lovers, now and in the decades and centuries to come. Just as contemporary representational artists have been inspired and influenced by the great works of artists of centuries past, so must we strive to create compelling masterpieces that will carry forward the torch of Quality into the future.
I maintain that artists’ most worthy contribution to the world is to serve as standard-bearers for the concept of Quality, and to provide examples of the finest and most extraordinary possibilities of the human mind and its capabilities. Modern culture pays too little homage to these concepts, and indeed works counter to them in many ways. Thus it falls to artists to remind people of what Quality is, and not let it be forgotten or under-appreciated, now or ever.
The greatest examples of visual art from centuries past endure and continue to inspire because of their sheer pictorial excellence. They have what I have termed intrinsic appeal. They are compelling on visual terms, quite independently of all other considerations. They do not depend for their impact on any verbal explanations. All one needs to do in order to appreciate them and be profoundly moved by them is look at them. By the same token, the effectiveness of our own creations in moving our viewers in our time and into the future will depend on the intrinsic appeal, the sheer pictorial excellence of the works themselves, more than on any philosophical treatises, manifestos, intellectual concepts expressed in words that we or others may write about them. The Quality must reside more in the product itself than in the sales pitch advanced in advocacy of it. The Twentieth Century placed too much emphasis on the words, and the appreciation of Quality in art suffered as a result. This is a new century. It is time to relegate the ideas of the previous century to the dustbin of history.
From a practical perspective, it must be acknowledged that the ideals of Quality Art are poorly served when artists’ fine creations deteriorate prematurely due to less-than-optimal choices of materials of which they are constructed, and/or through faulty techniques. The concept of Quality extends beyond the appearance of the object in question at the moment the sale is made. It applies to the materials and workmanship that went into it as well. And indeed it must be clearly understood that the connotation of Quality is what justifies the high prices that fine art can bring and the special status it enjoys. It thus behooves the artist to master these aspects of the craft in addition to the aesthetic sensibilities that enable one to create Quality Art. I will speak at greater length on this at the conference.
Our influence over the future of art will be compromised if we ignore the craft aspects of what we do.”
Painter/writer Virgil Elliott (born 1944) is best known as the author of the book, Traditional Oil Painting: advanced techniques and concepts from the Renaissance to the present, published in 2007 by Watson-Guptill Publications. Acknowledged as a Living Master by the Art Renewal Center, among the many honors and awards he has received over the years, Virgil is widely recognized as an expert on historic oil painting techniques and oil painting materials of the past and present. He has written and published articles on the working methods and/or lives of Rembrandt, Titian, Frans Hals, Artemisia Gentileschi, and the 19th Century French artist William Bouguereau, among other things. He taught oil painting at the College of Marin, in Marin County, California for a few years, and has taught privately since 1982. He has gained a good reputation as a fine teacher of art, though painting remains his primary focus.
As this is written, Virgil has been drawing for 65 years, painting for 55 years, and teaching art for 29 years. He often jokes that if someone isn’t good at what he does after fifty years or so, something is wrong.
He has been an active participant/member of ASTM International’s Subcommittee on Artists’ Paints and Materials since 1997, which experience has broadened his knowledge of artists’ materials considerably and has made him the acquaintance of many experts in the field, including top-level conservation scientists from major museums, from whom he says he has learned a great deal over the years.
Virgil Elliott keeps a studio on the grounds of the former Eagle Ridge Winery, in Penngrove, in California’s Wine Country, where he paints, teaches and writes, and lives with his wife, singer/actress Annie Lore. From time to time he has “moonlighted” as a musician, playing guitar and Renaissance lute, both as a solo instrumentalist and occasionally as accompanist to various vocalists. He feels that music and visual art complement one another. His background includes a “mini-career” as a musician, which took a back seat to his visual art career in his late thirties. Drawing and painting have always been his chief obsession, but an artist benefits from a wide range of life experiences. As he often says, mastery of the vocabulary is extremely important, but one must also have something to say with it that is worth expressing.
Ruth Weisberg’s presentation abstract:
The Possibilities of Post-postmodernism
“Many of us remember our intense disappointment when we discovered that while Postmodernism encouraged us to again engage in art with recognizable subject matter and narrative content it would have to be done in a distanced, second hand manner. I and others moved on long ago to making work that corresponds to Jed Perl’s call for an art which is “metaphysical as well as empirical, as much a yearning for the ideal as a celebration of the real.” We have found a way to use the visual to explore the complex nature of human experience and a genuine connection to history. We are not afraid of seeking mastery in our craft rather then the more fashionable ‘de-skilling’ of the avant-garde. What interests me now both as an artist and a teacher is that a younger generation brought up on the second or third hand experience of life via the flat screen is so eager to embrace deep feeling grounded in history. Our all consuming digital reality has left them with a great hunger for ‘touch’. I posit that Post-postmodernism is going to be more like the great periods of classical and Renaissance art, and therefore much more about the direct expression of a sensuous experience of the world with a deep and abiding connection to human aspirations.”
Professor Ruth Weisberg teaches drawing and printmaking at the USC Roski School of Fine Arts. From 1995 to 2010, she served as dean of the Roski School. Her work is widely exhibited nationally and internationally, and in the collections of major museums, including the Getty Center; Norton Simon Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Smithsonian Institution; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Whitney Museum of American Art; Jewish Museum, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Harvard University; Biblioteca Nazionale d’Italia (Rome); and Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.
She has written more than 60 articles, reviews and catalogue essays, and regularly lectures and curates exhibitions.
Vern Swanson’s presentation abstract:
TASTE BLINDS: Criticizing the Critics
“The disdain that Modernist critics have for representational art, both contemporary and nineteenth century, is a topic we talk about but seldom examine deeply. Andrew Lloyd Weber’s collection of Victorian art was savaged by the London critics who were out of their element and way out of their depth. How can we critique the critics of uplifting representational, classical, naturalist and academic figurative art? Why is it politically incorrect to use the word “Beauty” anymore? How can we understand and defend our roots in a hostile art world.”
Dr. Vern Swanson has his Phd from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, England and is the Director of the Springville Museum of Art, Utah, where he has served since 1980. He is a lecturer/scholar/writer and expert on 19th Century European Art and Russian Art through the 20th Century. Swanson is the leading authority on Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and John William Godward and author of the Catalogue Raisonnés for both artists. In total, the number of books Swanson has published is well into the teens, including several books on soviet impressionism.
He served as the Director of the Springville Museum of Art in Utah for 32 years, having retired this past summer. He has also worked at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC and has been an assistant professor of art history at Auburn University in Alabama.
Swanson is renowned internationally for his scholarship in art history. He is best know for his publication on European Victorian classicists and academic-salon artists of the late nineteenth century, with major books on Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and John William Godward. He has also copublished six books on the history of Utah art and has written three art books surveying Russian painting of the Soviet period.
Swanson holds a bachelor’s degree in art from Brigham Young University, a master’s degree in art history from the University of Utah, and a doctorate in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. He regularly consults for Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Bonhams auction houses in London and New York.
Swanson lives with his wife Judy in Springville. They are the parents of two daughters and the proud grandparents of three remarkable children.
The Van Huysum Proposal
“Jan Van Huysum (1682-1749) painted expertly detailed and complex images of fruits and flower punctuated with insects and bathed in light and color. Although part of the genre of flower painting, which perhaps reached an acme during the 18th in Holland, Van Huysum’s works stand out above his peers. They are more detailed, more sumptuous and more finished. That is, what differentiates Van Huysum is his mastery of the painter’s craft.
Still, as technically beguiling as these works are, they have had little influence on institutional contemporary art or the revivalist styles of the present atelier movement.
In this lecture, I am going to demonstrate how the works of Van Huysum can challenge current thinking about the nature of fine art today. I will address the subject of virtuosity and propose the idea that art can be direct, polished and gentle to be important. Furthermore, I will examine concerns about novelty and originality and argue that the expressiveness a work of art can lie elsewhere. Finally, I will contrast the detail, finish and composition of Van Huysum’s paintings to the exacting yet unedited styles present in contemporary realism. That is, I will find a place for the ideal.
Jan Van Huysum’s redoubtable flower paintings exhibit qualities not present in most of the art of the twentieth century and the present. By looking at his work freshly and be eschewing contemporary prejudices, artists and the public may find a new fertile ground for making and thinking about art.”
Graydon Parrish received his training at the New York Academy of Art where he earned his MFA and in the private atelier of Michael Aviano. Later he continued his education studying art history at Amherst College and assisting Gerald M. Ackerman on the catalogues of Jean-Léon Gérôme and Charles Bargue. This contributed to his deep understanding of 19th century artistic practices, philosophies and criticisms. Parrish has lectured at the Clark Art Institute, the University of Hartford, the Austin Museum of Art and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. He has been featured in the New York Times, NPR, Forbes Magazine and Fine Arts Connoissuer. Today, Parrish’s work can be found in many public collections including the New Britain Museum of American Art, the Butler Art Institute and the Blanton Museum of Art as well as the personal collections of Michael Huffington, Christopher Forbes and Carmen Dell’Orefice.
Miles Mathis on Graydon Parrish:
“Hughes and Kramer and Panero and all the rest of the confused critics, from top to bottom, don’t seem to have any idea what the river or road out of Bedlam looks like, so I will tell them. It looks like Graydon Parrish. He is not all the road, neither the whole width nor the whole length of it, and assuredly not the end of it: but he is on the road, making his honest way. How far along that road he will go, and how large a track he will make, is yet to be seen, but all on that road deserve a merry wave and a free AAA card. For, unlike those on the Modern road-which is unpaved, piled high with plastic litter (and which turns out to be a closed oval with turns banked the wrong way)-the road Graydon is on is paved, straight, and with plenty of room for widening. It will not take all traffic, but the pavement is pleasing to the best tires: here one can accelerate with no loss of tread, with just touch of the throttle.”