Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Where the Art Is

I had a delightful lunch today, surrounded by a large and diverse collection of stunning small art pieces created by women artists. No, I wasn't on vacation--and no, I wasn't in a local museum cafe. I was at the Junior League of San Antonio's very own Bright Shawl tea room, where I caught up with this year's Gallery Chair, Maria Downes, over enchiladas suizas and caprese sandwiches. Maria and I are kindred spirits--both of us are lucky to be following a creative pursuit, very different from our day jobs, as our JLSA placements this year. Although she is not an artist herself, Maria started collecting art when she was around 15 years old and even thought about scrapping her business degree for an art degree. One of her goals this year is to expose Bright Shawl patrons--many of whom are JLSA members--to a wide variety of art that is priced to inspire beginning a collection of one's own. Oil on canvas is her favorite medium, and she particularly enjoys still life paintings and florals, especially works with a "pop of color." Her Gallery Chair placement has afforded her the unique opportunity to meet artists in and around San Antonio, and to bring their works to The Bright Shawl for us to enjoy while we gather for lunch or wait for a meeting. While our former Gallery Chair, Michelle Anderson, is responsible for the placement of the current collection, I think the current works on display certainly fall within Maria's vision for the Gallery this year.

I was amazed by the variety of pieces in the collection, "Summer Small Works," curated by Sylvia Benitez, President and Founder of the Gentileschi Aegis Gallery Association, that is currently on display--from simple black and white charcoals to glossy, complex, colorful abstract pieces, there is something for everyone. There are classic pieces and portraits, landscapes, mixed media and watercolors. There are pieces with subdued colors and pieces that are bold and vibrant. Maria and I agreed that San Antonio newcomer Jennifer Polnaszek's two portraits were among two of our favorites. Here is Polnaszek's provocative "Girl in a Doorway," which can also be found on her website here.

I was particularly intrigued by an abstract piece by local artist Elizabeth Williams titled "Pink," and I enjoyed the beachy colors and textures of a pair of paintings by Ruth Mulligan. I was older than Maria when I started my modest art collection of images of the Alamo, but looking at the various works currently on display made me think about what my next art purchase might be. 

"Summer Small Works" will be on display until August 13, and Maria has some exciting and intriguing shows planned on the horizon. Her friend, Emeka Okoro, a Nigerian artist, will be showing his work in the Gallery in the near future, and The Royal Canvas Painting Parlor will provide an upcoming collection of fanciful paintings created by children and adults. For now, make plans to stop by The Bright Shawl for lunch or a Happy Hour glass of wine tomorrow, July 25, for the monthly "Wine Down Wednesday," from 5pm to 8pm, and immerse yourself in a fascinating array of pieces by a diverse group of female artists. You may just be inspired to start a collection of small works of your very own!

Do you have a favorite piece or artist from the current collection in the Gallery? Comment below!

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