Leslie Lew: American Memories


Featuring some of America’s most iconic images, Leslie Lew’s “sculpted oils” offer an emotional journey back to childhoods ranging from the 1930s to 1970s. In this interview, Lew talks to ARTDISTRICTS about her career, her unmistakable style, the projects she is working on at the moment and her recent exhibition “American Memories” at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, the longest established gallery in South Florida*.

By Raisa Clavijo

Raisa Clavijo – You examine American pop culture by taking commercial advertising and products as subject matter. Why did you choose this specific iconography? Your father was a very famous advertising art director. Have you created pieces inspired by your father’s ads?

Leslie Lew – My parents had a big influence on how I view the world. I had a great childhood and my work reflects this attitude. My dad, Les Hopkins, created a lot of the 1960s’ most popular ad campaigns: Kellogg’s, Alka-Seltzer, Marlboro cigarettes, Nabisco crackers, and so on. One of the characters in the TV show “Mad Men” is loosely based on him.

Leslie Lew at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, 2013. Photo: Bill DuPriest.

I lived in that environment, surrounded by all those ads. At that time ads were roughed out using Magic Markers-dad had hundreds of them. He was very persnickety about his markers, and if they were the least bit dry, or not pointed enough, he would pass them on to me. I remember sitting near my dad’s drawing table when I was just a very little girl and copying some of his ads. I actually still have a few of those childhood drawings.

One of my father’s best-known creations was the Smackin’ Brothers on a 1960s Sugar Smacks cereal box. When dad passed away a few years back, I had an exhibition that I dedicated to him called “Snap, Crackle, and Pop.” As its featured painting, I did a 60 x 40-inch sculpted oil Sugar Smacks. I have kept that painting in my personal collection and it is now featured in my exhibition at ArtSpace/ Virginia Miller Galleries in Coral Gables.

R.C. – Are you only focused on images from your childhood, or do you also expand to images that have become icons in American advertising?

L.L. – Although a lot of my imagery relates to childhood and growing up in America, my focus is much more far-reaching and not just related to advertising. In the 1980s two of my epic paintings-a 90 x 140-inch two-floor subway scenario at Grand Central Station and a 90 x 160-inch Coney Island scene-were in a show at the Center for Visual Arts.

A lot of the work that I create also comes from other people’s memories. In some ways I feel that I am a “recorder of history” and am capturing memories for all of us.

One image that I feel that I have expanded and made into a new icon is the Animal Crackers box. Who in America has not had them? I ate them, as well as my parents, my grandparents, my son-pretty much every kid has.

My very first Animal Crackers that I painted was acquired by the Mayo Clinic Children’s Hospital in Minnesota. The painting hangs in the lobby there. During the opening that I attended, I loved the reactions of the children and their expressions when they saw it. These kids are entering the hospital scared and sick; they have challenges. But the minute that they recognized the painting they had big smiles, each identifying with the different animals on the box, and I let them touch the painting, so they could get a tactile experience as well as a visual one. I hope that some day Animal Crackers may be even more recognizable than Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup can!

Leslie Lew, Frosted Flakes, They’re GRRREAT!, 2012, sculpted oil on canvas, 20” x 16”.

R.C. – In your works, you use a technique that you call “sculpted oils.” Can you explain what this process consists of?

L.L. – I invented this process and actually trademarked it. To start all of my paintings, I first sketch whatever image I am conveying in black lines with a small brush. I basically draw pretty much all of the detail as well. In the early 1980s I only used oil paint, but as every artist knows, it can take 200 years to dry.

My 1986 show was installed the day before the opening. In the middle of the night, I felt this crazy shaking and rumbling-New York City had a small earthquake. Then I got an urgent call from my gallery. A circus painting that I had just done had fallen off the wall, and Gunther the lion tamer’s face had slipped down to his waist. The oils were still wet so I successfully scooped up his face, and in one of the most successful surgeries in art history, replaced it just before the opening.

To prevent any more mishaps of that sort and to minimize dry cleaning bills from my collectors, ever since then I have used acrylic paint as a base for my sculpted oils. After drawing the details I take gallons of titanium acrylic white paint and mound the areas that I want to be three-dimensional. After this dries, I go back into the painting with really thick oil paint that I sculpt on top, working wet on wet, until the painting is completely finished. I work usually on one piece at a time since I really want to put all of my concentration and energy-my soul, if you will-into each painting.

If you Google “sculpted oils” my name will turn up!

R.C. – When did you realize that you wanted to become a visual artist?

L.L. – I think that I wanted to be an artist as soon as I saw my dad draw-maybe I was 3 years old? Being around my dad and having access to all of those great colored Magic Markers certainly helped.

For a little while, I also considered becoming a ballerina. When I was a girl, I was pigeon-toed. Doctors urged my mother to have it corrected with surgery, but she had another idea: I would study ballet. I enrolled in a class with a famous instructor, but she told my parents that I had no talent and would never become a dancer on any level. My mother refused to accept that answer and she installed a practice barre in our home. To give me an incentive to practice every day, she bought me a pair of very cool red ballet slippers. A year later I performed flawlessly, with perfectly positioned feet, with the New York City Children’s Ballet in their presentation of “Nutcracker Suite.” These days I have a tradition of wearing red shoes to all my openings as a reminder to myself that in the end, success comes from determination and persistence.

Leslie Lew, Superman Able To Leap Tall Buildings with a Single Bound, 2012, sculpted oil on canvas, 48” x 36”. All images are courtesy of ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, Coral Gables (Miami), Florida.

Leslie Lew, Superman Able To Leap Tall Buildings with a Single Bound, 2012, sculpted oil on canvas, 48” x 36”. All images are courtesy of ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, Coral Gables (Miami), Florida.

R.C. – What artists have influenced your work?

L.L. – I love Van Gogh because of his use of color and thick paint. Then there’s Andy Warhol, Lichtenstein and Rembrandt. I saw a Rembrandt painting at the Met in New York back when I was a Brownie scout, and I bought that art postcard with my allowance.

Although I’m a contemporary artist, I admire at least two artists that you might find puzzling. One is Fra Filippo Lippi, the master who taught Botticelli, and whose work I learned to love while studying in Florence. His work is phenomenal, his draftsmanship and use of color is right down my alley, totally perfect. He taught me not to be afraid of color, to paint.

The other artist is Norman Rockwell. My dad loved Rockwell. There has been so much debate about whether he was a “true artist” or an illustrator, especially during my art school days. I think that what Rockwell did was very important, because he captured the memories of his time.  I feel that I am doing something similar. Maybe I’m the “Norman Rockwell” for our time. I’m grabbing our memories and recording them for history.

Leslie Lew, Animal Crackers, Sculpted Oil on Canvas, 36 x 56 inches, 2012, Courtesy of ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, Coral Gables (Miami), Florida

Leslie Lew, Animal Crackers, Sculpted Oil on Canvas, 36 x 56 inches, 2012, Courtesy of ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, Coral Gables (Miami), Florida

R.C. – You studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. When did you realize that you had found your style, your own language? Is there a work from those years that you remember as a piece that indicated the language that you would follow in your career?

L.L. – A lot of artists search for years to find their own special technique, their language.  For me, it started by literally falling into my lap. I was studying painting as an undergraduate with Ray Yoshida, a wonderful artist and one of the leaders of Chicago’s Hairy Who art movement.  He was giving me a hard time. You see, at the time I was painting thick, plein-air landscapes and he kept pushing me to find my own voice.

My artist friends agreed with Ray and asked me, “What do you really like to draw?”  I said, “I really love to draw details and products,” and they said “Why not do a supermarket?”

Wow! A light bulb went off in my head, and I did a series of scenes in supermarkets, drugstores, barber shops, statuary stores and diners.  I submitted that series and was accepted into the MFA program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Leslie Lew, Rice Krispies, Sculpted Acrylic Monotype on Canvas, 12 x 9 x 1 3/4 inches, 2013, Courtesy of ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, Coral Gables (Miami), Florida

Leslie Lew, Rice Krispies, Sculpted Acrylic Monotype on Canvas, 12 x 9 x 1 3/4 inches, 2013, Courtesy of ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, Coral Gables (Miami), Florida

That also is how I invented my “sculpted oil” technique. I always painted thick, but to further emphasize the products I started to sculpt the products with paint, to make them stand out three-dimensionally.

R.C. – You were part of two important artistic movements, the Hairy Who movement in Chicago and the East Village movement in NYC, in the 1980s. How did contact with the creative environment of these movements influence your work?

L.L. – Actually, I have been part of three artistic movements. The third one was started by Michael Bidlo and me in the late 1980s and was called East Village “appropriationist” movement,” referred to in the January-February 1988 issue of Art/World. Although the Hairy Who art movement had a bit of a dark side to it, it still had a very playful approach, even though it was considered fine art. This gave me permission to also be playful with my art. My first art piece ever to be exhibited was an aquatint called the School Store. It was selected to be exhibited at the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago alongside Ray Yoshida, Karl Wirsum and other artists from the Hairy Who movement.

R.C. – Your works are more than simple reproductions of products and advertisements; they are anthropological approaches to American society by showing its tastes, interests, concerns, dreams and aspirations. Do you do any research prior to conceiving a piece-I mean any investigation about how the iconography of a product’s advertising has impacted social behaviors and vice versa?

L.L. – Art through the ages has depicted anthropological examples of everyday life and activities of people during that era. I photograph, I go to book stores, I do Internet research, and I stay aware and open to everything; and most importantly, I listen.

R.C. – You met and exhibited with such renowned American artists as Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Can you share any stories about them?

L.L. – While I was still in graduate school I was invited to participate in a program affiliated with the Whitney Museum called “Semester Studio in New York City.”  While there, I was one of the less-well-known artists, along with established ones like Andy, Keith and Jean-Michel, invited to participate in an East Village exhibition called “The Match Box Show,” paintings on matchboxes and matchbook covers. I displayed 10 matchboxes that I painted in a variety of images, from comics to a traditional Raphael Madonna and Child, in my sculpted oil technique.

I was formally introduced to Andy by Jean-Michel at my 1985 opening. As much of an icon that he was, he was always nice to the new kids on the block. Andy was actually very shy and always carried his Polaroid camera as a way to engage people in conversation. Later I did a painting of the opening scene and I put Andy in the corner, holding his Polaroid camera.

One of Warhol’s exhibitions at that time included a children’s book based on Japanese toys. I thought it would be fun to appropriate Andy’s serigraph images of the toys and create them as sculpted oil paintings. One of them was a robot called Moon Explorer.

Leslie Lew, War, 2005, sculpted oil on canvas, 24” x 18” x 1.5”.

Leslie Lew, War, 2005, sculpted oil on canvas, 24” x 18” x 1.5”.

Andy got a big kick out of my paintings and offered to trade a Marilyn serigraph for my Moon Explorer. I really didn’t want to part with any of my paintings at the time, but I agreed to do a trade with him later. Then Andy went in the hospital for a routine gallbladder surgery and unfortunately passed away. The Moon Explorer painting remained in my son Sean’s room until it was recently collected, appropriately enough, by Woody Spring, an astronaut who landed on the moon.

After Andy died, I was invited along with Beth Phillips, who photographed my work and Andy’s, to help archive and document all of his work stored at the Factory. It was fascinating to pull out so many multiples of Andy’s pieces that he had tucked away in every closet space.

R.C. – “American Memories” is your first exhibition at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries. What are your impressions? How was your work received by the public?

L.L. – Great! What a wonderful experience!!! First off, ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries has an incredible exhibition space! The show is actually a mini-retrospective of nearly 60 of my works covering the 1980s to the present.

I met Virginia and her husband Bill at Art Basel Miami Beach last year when they saw my work at the Scope/Overture Pavilion, where I was exhibiting alongside the Andy Warhol Collection. Virginia immediately loved my work and I took to her and her enthusiasm, and I loved the fact that she had been the art dealer of the late and great artist Alice Neel, whom I always admired.

During my openings at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries I met so many people from so many walks of life. I found it very interesting that different paintings spoke to different people and their memories.

One of my very earliest collectors, Martin Margulies, came to the May opening.  It was so nice to see him and to see his reaction to the show. He told me that I should be very proud of myself and that the show was beautifully installed, extremely strong and relevant.

Marty collected one of my very first large-scale paintings called Trick or Treat, a 60 x 72-inch work that was based on some of the early childhood primers. Marty has more than 4,500 significant art works in his private collection and at his “Warehouse” museum. A few years ago an art book titled The Martin Z. Margulies Collection was released and included around 100 of his favorite pieces. It was an honor to have my work included, next to Lichtenstein, Warhol, Stella, Miro, Picasso, de Kooning and all those famous artists.

Leslie Lew, Spiderman, Sculpted Acrylic Monotype on Canvas, 18 x 13 inches, 2013, Courtesy of ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, Coral Gables (Miami), Florida

Leslie Lew, Spiderman, Sculpted Acrylic Monotype on Canvas, 18 x 13 inches, 2013, Courtesy of ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, Coral Gables (Miami), Florida

R.C. – You wrote and illustrated Buki’s Garden, a children’s book that has been the point of departure of educational workshops for children in New York and Detroit. Tell me 

about this project.

L.L. – This project is near and dear to me, and is still a work in progress. I wrote Buki’s Garden a few years ago. The story is about a kitty that looks like a gremlin and none of the other animals will play with her because she looks different. It is not until she frightens away the mean old rat that has been terrorizing the garden that things improve for all the animals. Buki ends up saving the day, not by being mean but just by being herself.

The story is illustrated with my sculpted oil paintings and drawings and is actually based on my real kitty, Buki, who has a scrunched-up face and actually does look like a gremlin.

The story teaches kids to be more tolerant and accepting of differences. With the epidemic of kids bullying and being bullied, it carries a timely message.

In 2004, I got a New York Arts Council grant to read the story and conduct a workshop for a few libraries and the Katonah Museum. I created prints of Buki outlined in black on canvas mounted to canvas board, and then added white sculpted paint to each one to make them three-dimensional. After I read the story, the kids are all invited to paint their own versions of Buki, any way they want.

I recently traveled to Detroit with 130 of the sculpted-acrylic Buki canvases and conducted a series of readings and workshops for the underprivileged kids in the area. I visited the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, shelters, learning centers and churches, reading the story and having local children finish the paintings.

It was so well received that the popular Michigan broadcaster Aliza Zee featured a Sunday interview of it on CBS radio. Statewide, local TV and Detroit newspapers all followed and photographed the events. They are now documented on YouTube.

The best thing about the entire event was that the kids loved the story and Buki. They even asked me if they could friend Buki on Facebook!

The story really carries an important message and is beautifully illustrated. I am now actively seeking a children’s book publisher that can publish the book so it can be more widely distributed to reach more children.

Leslie Lew, Personal Problems--Dear Abby, Sculpted Oil on Canvas, 20 x 16 inches, 2012, Courtesy of ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, Coral Gables (Miami), Florida

Leslie Lew, Personal Problems–Dear Abby, Sculpted Oil on Canvas, 20 x 16 inches, 2012, Courtesy of ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, Coral Gables (Miami), Florida

R.C. – What pieces are you working on at the moment?

L.L. – Really interesting commissions! I have always been good at capturing likenesses, and I’ve done a lot of them in my sculpted oils. I like to include some background-to create environmental portraits.

I recently finished a beautiful portrait of Virginia Miller called Portrait of Virginia Miller and Alice Neel, in which I painted Virginia in the foreground and Neel’s 1978 portrait of her in the background. It was so much fun to see the reaction of people at the opening-they were amazed at her likeness!

Right now, I am doing a commission of one of the first McDonald’s that opened in Illinois. The collector traveled to Miami for my opening and had this great photograph of his favorite McDonald’s from the 1960s with some old cars. He is sending me a picture of when he was a boy and I will include that in the scene.

R.C. – What is your goal as an artist? Have you already met it?

L.L. – My goal as an artist is to continue to grow, learn, explore, and create. I don’t think you can ever be finished, because something new is always around the corner. As long as I am breathing, I will never stop painting!

Leslie Lew is represented by ArtSpace Virginia Miller Galleries, located at 169 Madeira Avenue. Coral Gables, Miami, 33134. Phone: 305 444 4493 www.virginiamiller.com / info@virginiamiller.com

Raisa Clavijo is the editor of ARTPULSE and ARTDISTRICTS magazines.

Special thanks to Virginia Miller and Bill DuPriest for coordinating this interview.

‘American Memories’ Depicts Favorite Comics, Primers, Cereals and Cookies


Fans of comic books will find some familiar covers at “American Memories,” the exhibit at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries in Coral Gables.

American Memories by Leslie LewSuperman Classic No. 1, Spiderman, Batman No. 27, Batman and Robin, Dagwood and Blondie, Wonder Woman, Mighty Mouse, Lil Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Popeye, Curious George, Felix, Nancy & Sluggo, The Little Mermaid, and Snow White are some of the subjects of the artist, Leslie Lew.


Artists In “Portal: Contemporary Chinese Paintings, Prints, Photographs and Sculpture” Set Sales Records; Show Extended Through May


Huang Yan, Self Portrait, Archival Inkjet Print with Pochoir, Ed200, 2008, 31.75 x 23.5 inches

Huang Yan, Self Portrait, Archival Inkjet Print with Pochoir, Ed200, 2008, 31.75 x 23.5 inches

As the gallery’s current exhibition enters its final month two of its artists set international sales records for Contemporary Chinese works and the show was recognized in both national and regional art magazines.

“Portal” drew positive reviews in the April issues of Art News and Art Districts magazines. Writing in ArtNews, Margery Gordon calls it “this compelling show.” In her review in ArtDistricts Florida, Sophie Annie Videment refers to “this extremely rich exhibition.” (more…)

Virginia Miller Participates in Louisiana Museum Symposium


Gallery director Virginia Miller was one of five speakers in a symposium on “East/West: Visually Speaking” the first group exhibition of contemporary Chinese art curated from the artists rather than from private collections.

Being held at the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum, University of Louisiana at Lafayette from Jan. 22 through May 1st, the exhibition was coordinated by Miller, who has held three major exhibitions of Chinese contemporary works at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries.

The exhibition was curated over a two-year period by Dr. Lee Gray, who moderated the symposium. Also speaking were two of the show’s artists, Ma Baozhong and Luo Weiguo, along with the critic, curator and author Lilly Wei.

“East/West: Visually Speaking” is illustrated extensively in a 100-page catalog that includes essays by Lilly Wei and Dr. Gray. In its foreword, Museum Director Mark A. Tullos, Jr. states that “I particularly would like to thank Virginia Miller, whose experience and knowledge of the artists and their associated representatives was invaluable to the curatorial process.”

“As a university museum our mission is to offer exhibitions that provoke thought and create dialogue,” Tullos notes. “This is probably one of the most significant international projects undertaken by an American museum in the South.”

In her essay, Wei describes the exhibition as “a captivating and informative look at the globalized human and political comedy in which imported aesthetics collide with native ideologies to create strange and at times wonderful fusions.”

Events held in conjunction with the exhibition included a celebration of the Chinese New Year featuring acrobatic lion dancers.

For more information on the exhibition or to order a catalog, contact the museum online here.

Christian Science Monitor Features Marco Tulio


Marco Tulio, Untitled, 57 x 64 1.4 inches, 2007, Oil on Canvas

Marco Tulio, Untitled, 57 x 64 1.4 inches, 2007, Oil on Canvas

A major article in the Christian Science Monitor (The heart of Latin art By Gloria Goodale) on the unprecedented number of major exhibitions of Latin American art around the nation features a painting by Marco Tulio and quotes a museum director who singles it out as an example of magical realism.

La Montera” (The Bullfighter’s Hat”) depicts a pensive young woman draped in a sheet, seated in a bullfighting ring. Near her are flower petals and the toreador’s cap. His cape is draped across a nearby barrier. Looking on are two sinister characters, one holding a scythe.

The painting is one of the six loaned by ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries to the Naples Museum of Art for its “Latin American Painting Now” exhibition of works by 50 artists being shown until Jan. 10th. The newspaper article states:

“The contemporary Latin American artists on display at the Naples (Fla.) Art Museum vividly carry forward many of the characteristics that have traditionally defined Latin art. ‘Vibrant colors, figurative imagery, and a joyful embrace of everyday objects,’ says director Michael Culver.

“He points to such artists as Marco Tulio, whose work ‘The Bullfighter’s Hat’ offers a contemporary spin on traditional elements of Latin American art. ‘He paints like the old masters with layers on layers that create a fine, wonderful surface that looks immaculate – almost like a photo – but also almost surreal in the way he places the object,’ says Mr. Culver, adding that it also evokes another traditional Latin theme — magical realism, in which simple objects take on meaning.”

Other paintings from the gallery loaned to the Naples exhibition are by Alfredo Arcia, Humberto Castro, Michelle Concepción, Ramón Oviedo and Elmar Rojas.

Alice Neel, Arnaldo Roche-Rabell Featured at the Phillips Collection


An exhibition at the Phillips collection in Washington, D.C. this summer of 33 internationally renowned figurative painters will include works by Alice Neel and Arnaldo Roche-Rabell.

“We presently are offering truly outstanding works by both Neel and Roche-Bell,” noted gallery owner-director Virginia Miller. “These may be seen on our web site, virginiamiller.com, by clicking under Artists and then Masters.”

According to an article in the April 14, 2009 online art review, artdaily.org, the exhibition “Paint Made Flesh” presents works created between 1952 and 2006 in Europe and the United States tracing “figurative paintings powerful personal and social commentary.” The article goes on to state:

“ Artists such as Alice Neel, whose unflinching paintings are among the most powerful portraits of the 20th century, distorted the anatomy of their subjects and used an unusual color palette to express the themes of poverty, despair, and turmoil.” For more information on Neel, see our Feb. 20, 2009 gallery blog, which includes her 1927 watercolor titled “Contrasts,” in which the lifelong socialist depicts the dominance of an affluent society matron over a diminutive, less fortunate woman.

For more information on Arnaldo Roche-Rabell, one of the leading artists of Puerto Rico, see his gallery blog dated Oct. 26, 2007, which includes an illustration of a major work available at the gallery. “This incredibly powerful painting catches viewers in its swirls of furious movement,” says Virginia Miller.

The article further notes that “Paint Made Flesh was organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tennessee. The curator is Mark W. Scala, chief curator of the Frist. After its presentation at the Phillips, the exhibition will be on view at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, N.Y., from Oct. 25 to Jan. 3, 2010.”

Josephine Haden


Josephine Haden, 48 x 60 inches, Exaltation, 1999, Acrylic on Canvas

Josephine Haden, 48 x 60 inches, Exaltation, 1999, Acrylic on Canvas

Gallery artist Josephine Haden continues to rack up impressive awards and exhibitions.  Her work will be featured in a one-person exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia, from June to September 2009.

Haden also was awarded  the prestigious Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship for 2008-09, juried by Jeffrey Grove, Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, High Museum of Art, Atlanta. Previous recipients include Cy Twombly.

Haden also was juried into two important publications: “2008 New American Paintings,” the annual exhibition-in-print, and “Studio Visit” magazine, which featured her works twice in 2008.

Haden’s major solo exhibition at the McLean Project for the Arts in McLean, Virginia, was accompanied by a catalog with an essay by the renowned Donald Kuspit, who has been termed “one of America’s most distinguished art critics.”

Kuspit observes that the “blues, browns and greens of her landscapes have a radiance all their own, independent of the nature they represent…Haden moves easily between the rough, raw, rounded and smooth, refined, flat—they nonetheless fit together, strangely yet seamlessly, like pieces of a trialectial puzzle.”

Kuspit clearly is equally impressed with Haden’s figurative work, referring to her as “an allegorist of alienation” whose “works resonate with the melancholy of the Sublime.”

As part of its Spring Collection 08, ArtSlant, “the #1 contemporary art network,” chose Haden along with four other artists to be showcased with a feature article. It notes that her paintings are included in private, public, and corporate collections in the United States and France, including the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum.

The gallery web site features Haden’s works in five categories: Abstracts on Wood, Figures on Wood, Figures on Canvas & Paper, Landscapes on Canvas and Treescapes on Canvas.

Alice Neel


alice-neelDuring the early years of the Great Depression, Alice Neel was one of the 3,749 artists who participated in the predecessor to the Federal Arts Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Public Works of Art Project, which operated during 1933-34.

During that period, Neel was among the artists who were given a free meal every day in Greenwich Village. In the book “Alice Neel” by Patricia Hills, (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1983 and reprinted 1995), she recalls:

“Contrasts,” 12 x 9 inches, 1927, Watercolor on Paper

“Then, at the end of 1933, I got on the PWAP. I received a letter to come down to the Whitney Museum, and there I was interviewed by a very nice young man who said, ‘How would you like to receive $30 a week for painting pictures?’ Oh, I said, I’d love it. And I came home and I felt so happy that I painted Snow on Cornelia Street. When I had $30 a week I didn’t need a free meal.”

Neel’s paintings were included  in two 1977 exhibitions of WPA artists of the 1930s. One was a travelling exhibition organized by the Gallery Association of New York; another was held at  Parsons School of Design.

Patricia Hills’  biography includes a photograph of Neel with her grandchildren, Olivia and Elizabeth, prominently printed on page 201, taken by Bill DuPriest during the Feb. 11, 1978 opening reception of Virginia Miller Galleries’ exhibition, “Alice Neel: Retrospective Works on Paper 1926-1977.”

Other photos of Neel during the opening reception at Virginia Miller Galleries in Coconut Grove, Florida, show her laughing uproariously during the viewing of the award-winning public television film, “Alice Neel: Collector of Souls.”

The historic exhibition, Neel’s first show in a private gallery in the South, featured several of the works illustrated in the book, including the 1931 pencil and watercolor “Kenneth Doolittle” shown on page 43; the 1932 watercolor and collage titled “Christopher Lazar” on page 47; the 1958 oil on paper of John Rothschild titled “Man in Striped Shirt” on page 74; and both of the 1949 ink on paper drawings of “Judge Medina” and “Angela Calomaris” on page 87.

One of the works sold from the exhibition, a 12-by-9-inch 1927 watercolor titled “Contrasts,” presently is being offered on the gallery web site under the “Masters” category of “Artists.”

“Alice was acutely aware of the enormous gap between the wealthy and the poor and working-class people back in the 1920s,” observes gallery owner Virginia Miller. “Several of the works that I curated into her exhibition showed underprivileged people in hospitals and elsewhere. This charming watercolor is an important example of Alice Neel’s deep awareness of the gap between the social classes, and how the wealthy dominated society in those days.”

Another watercolor in the show, the 1927 work titled “The Grandchild,” is printed in the Patricia Hills biography on page 19. It also illustrated a review of the Neel exhibition by Dr. Marilyn Schmitt, a University of Miami art professor, in “ARTSmagazine.”

In her review, Dr. Schmitt noted that the artist’s social concerns were lifelong. “Her early socialist convictions, scarcely mellowed today one senses, provide the thread of continuity for several drawings in strikingly different styles. Where the political message is strongest, as in The Bowery (early 1950s) and the caricature of the hated Communist-chaser Judge Harold R. Medina and his witness Angela Calomeris (1949), the technique is at its most strident, unpleasant, and laborious in its avoidance of grace.

“In others, the social message is subsumed in human and aesthetic concerns. In The Men From Bleeker Street (1933) and the death portrait of Mother Bloor in her casket (1951), drawings united by strongly leftist preoccupations despite almost 20 years’ separation, the sense of humanity dominates, and the delicate line is correspondingly
sensitive and appealing.”

Only one oil on canvas was in the exhibition, the five-foot portrait that Alice did of Virginia Miller just a few months before her Coconut Grove show.

“Alice asked me to sit for her when we met at a two-day seminar at the New School in late 1977,” recalls Miller. “I was on a panel on functioning in the art world with Louise Nevelson, the art dealer Jacques Truman, art insurer Huntington Block, and several others. Alice was on another panel that included art dealer Ivan Karp and the prominent curator and critic Henry Geldzahler.

“When Alice complained that Geldzahler had not included her work in a recent exhibition, he explained it was because she was ‘not modern.’ This infuriated Alice, and when she resumed work on my portrait she splashed several broad strokes of green paint across the background and told me, ‘I’ll show him who’s modern!’”

Miller, who had braved thigh-deep snowdrifts in that year’s famous blizzard to struggle from midtown to Alice’s apartment in Spanish Harlem, says the expressionist onslaught had her worried, but Alice soon calmed down and the portrait is an unflattering but excellent likeness that exaggerates Miller’s six-foot angularity. It may be seen on the gallery web site under “Gallery.”

“As far as I know, mine is the only painting Alice Neel ever did with that sort of abstract expressionist background,” Miller says.

Dr. Schmitt’s review also covered a concurrent exhibition of Alice Neel’s canvases at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art. She observes that “the portraits on canvas might well be called extensions of Neel’s drawings, for their initiating outlines survive in the finished products and the changes of mind are left, as in a sketch.” She adds that Neel “is a major artist of the 20th century. We can judge for ourselves an art world that celebrated far weaker stuff while ignoring her. Against that backdrop, Alice Neel is a giant.”

Soledad Salamé


venice2aluminiovGallery artist Soledad Salamé will open a one-person exhibition that explores how global warming is changing the Maryland coastline at the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore on March 26th. Marianne and Robert Taylor will hold a champagne brunch fundraiser for the project on March 8th in their waterfront home in Pasadena, Maryland. The artist will speak about her forthcoming exhibition at the event, to be co-hosted by the Taylor’s daughter, Kymberly Taylor, and the museum’s deputy director, Robert E. Haywood.