By the estimate of gallery owner , around 250 people attended the September 16 opening reception for the Ultimate Symbol of Humanity: Nude! show at . “Many of them came all the way from the city,” she said.
If you missed it, you can still see the exhibition until October's Third Friday, and you’ll have a second chance to meet the artists and mingle at the closing reception that evening, October 21, from 6-8 p.m.
Among the highly-skilled artists in the show is Costa Vavagiakis, who is, according to He, “a world-class artist. His paintings and drawings,” she continued, “are not only of the highest skill and craftsmanship—they are profound psychological studies as well.” To those who follow figurative art, this is indeed the truest measure of greatness. Vavagiakis has acquired the skills of the academy without formal art education. Preferring self-study, he absorbed lessons from the great works at New York’s content-rich museums and galleries. He now teaches at The Art Students League, the National Academy of Design in Manhattan as well as others.
Vavagiakis said that his work is rooted in classical Greek sculpture and began with a childhood trip to his homeland, Greece. There he saw the Charioteer of Delphi, and found in this work and other masterpieces the “aspiration of capturing the timelessness of the human spirit.” He reveled in such things as the way the painter Caravaggio included very specific details, such as dirty feet.
You’ll find drawings as well as paintings by Vavagiakis at the gallery. Whichever the medium, the artist accentuates the three-dimensionality of the figure the same way: “I place the sitter against a white wall and illuminate him or her with a light from above,” he said. “I want the viewer to have the sensation of encountering a real person.” He uses a very clinical, all-exposing light, and wants his figures to be without the concealment of clothing. The goal is that they look like people with minds who are breathing and might possibly move.
The painting technique used by Vavagiakis involves layering. The paint builds up to a “true sculptural surface” he said, and he works to make the brush strokes “indiscernible.” Those who thought modern painters like to crank out three a day might be surprised to hear that Vavagiakis’ painting process is “slow and painstaking; a painting could take several years to complete,” he said.
Gallery owner Athena Bing He believes that Vavagiakis “is, in one word, superb. It is my privilege to present his work to Tarrytown.” Vavagiakis said of the Studio A show, “It is great to help form and be part of an exhibition that shows the centuries-old activity of observing the human body and translating it to paint, paper, stone, clay and plaster, flourishing.”
The show in Studio A features several sculptures by Jeremy Butler, who is according to He, "a very important artist" as well. An accomplished professional who has exhibited and won prizes in numerous competitions, Butler said that he learned some of his technique as a youngster from his father Brendan Butler, who is a well-known portrait sculptor in England. “He does the heads of publicly-held and private corporations, CFOs, chairmen, presidents, that kind of thing.” His great-uncle Reginald Butler “is mentioned in art history books alongside other British sculptors like Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore,” Butler revealed.
He doesn’t use models, he said. “My background as a tennis pro, a Phys. Ed. major in College, and working as a trainer in health clubs for many years provided the basis for my knowledge of anatomy. My beautiful wife helped also.”
His goal, he said, “is to move the viewer, either emotionally, intellectually, sexually, or spiritually. If my work can engage the viewer for more than 4.3 seconds ( the average time a visitor to the Met looks at a work of art), I am happy.” Butler thinks that art “should be beautiful, interesting and uplifting. No one should have to struggle to comprehend my sculpture.”
Despite that, one of Butler’s works at Studio A, Yesterday and Today, is especially thought-provoking. He said that “it shows “the evolution of figurative sculpture…going from representational to abstract…The three cylindical shapes of varying height represent a Father, Mother, and Child…” in a very simplified way and are the “today.” The bronze nude “supporting herself against the contemporary piece is the classical (“yesterday”) version of the human figure. I like the juxtaposition,” he said.
The opening reception featured some special events. A model in ballet costume posed in the rear courtyard, and easels were set up for those who were inspired to sit down and create right on the spot. After dark, presented a video, projected on a wall in an enclosed space behind the gallery, in which we see a nude posing. “I put a translucent screen in front of her,” Appel said, “and I painted on that.” He is visible in the video, making his broad strokes apparently around the figure. Another version of the video will be presented at the closing.
Several other accomplished artists with work in the show were at the reception, and are expected at the closing as well. See the article for a complete list and more photos.
is located at 52 Main Street, Tarrytown. For more information, contact the gallery at 347-755-6069 or email studioAgallery@gmail.com