Panzagallery Life Drawing Exhibit 2016

A preview of more than 141 works submitted by 51 artist to PANZAgallery Life-Drawing Exhibit 2016

PANZAgallery Life-Drawing Exhibit 2016

A review by Jack Puglisi


“Know, then, thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.” –Alexander Pope, Essay on Man.

Representation of the human figure has been the dominant theme of the visual arts since the dawn of human artistic expression. Human beings have always sought to understand themselves and their place in the universe through creative depiction of their own kind. In the time of the ancient Greeks, the gods were fashioned in the image of the human ideal. Rediscovered in the time of the Renaissance, the theme in such depictions was reversed and man became “… in the image of God.” The nineteenth-century artistic eye turned away from the divine ideal towards the real people that they saw around them. Gods and heroes were replaced by field hands and goddesses with courtesans. The human figure in the twentieth century, beginning with such artists as Picasso and Modigliani, reflected the fragmented and distracted mind-set of that epoch until, by mid-century, the human figure had all but disappeared from the mainstream of contemporary art, replaced by an ever-increasing abstraction.

However, in our new century, the human form is seeing a resurgence in the arts. As part of this movement, for the past fifteen years, local Pittsburgh artists have been gathering several times a week at Panza Art Gallery to explore their individual interpretations of the classic theme of the human figure. Located on Sedgwick Street in Millvale, Panza Gallery has become a gathering place for artists ranging from the student/amateur to the seasoned master. Reflecting the amiable and cheerful personality of its proprietor, Mark Panza, three times a week, Mondays, Thursdays and, recently, Saturday mornings, the artists gather to draw from the undraped model in an atmosphere of cordial fellowship. Beneath the canopy of Mark’s eclectic selection of overhead music, the sittings run for three hours with regular breaks, when participants gather around the snack table, drinking beer and coffee, and conversing on everything from family deeds to recent movies and the doings of the art community at large. The gatherings promote an environment of friendly encouragement, where critique is always voiced with positive reinforcement.

The current exhibit at Panza, running from Saturday, September 10 until Saturday, September 24 is a presentation of 141 pieces done by 51 different artists during past life-drawing sessions. The work displays a wide variety of styles, methods, and mediums. Fully completed oil paintings, done during the Monday sessions, when the model assumes a single pose for the entire three-hour period, are side by side with quickly rendered charcoal sketches produced on the other days when the model poses in multiple stances.

Vivid realism is displayed in the work of watercolorist Peggi Habets, whose portraits are masterpieces of character study and coloration. Turning his eye away from the models to depict his fellow artists at work, Patrick Lee has displayed three remarkable renderings using only black and white acrylic paint, worked with a pallet knife to a high degree of sublime elegance. Choosing to use a single large sheet of paper for numerous poses, artist Yong Hui draws overlapping figures using a black marker to produce a finished piece that is fascinating both in its individual images and as a unified single design. Lush oils are the mark of both the works of Steve Hankin and Kurt Pfaff, each in his distinct way. The former are composed of vibrant, radiating color and the latter of a contemplative, muted pallet. At first glance, Barbara Kern-Bush’s oil-painting, “Tiffany #1”, seems oddly unfinished, but closer inspection reveals a deep level of complexity and solid expressiveness. Abstraction has not been banished from this renewal, as in the works of Tim Fabian, whose gesture drawings suggest the figure in one or two sweeping movements evoking the imagery of Chinese calligraphy. A frequent auxiliary subject in many of the pictures is Poo Poo, Mark’s petite, stygian black cat who has free reign of the gallery. Undaunted by the artists plying their craft, she roams the area, often settling herself on the model stand at the subject’s feet to the delight and amusement of artists and models alike. Apologies must be made to every artist not mentioned; space does not permit a complete exposition of each work. No amount of words can do justice to the talent displayed here; it must be seen by the naked eye to be genuinely appreciated. 

The show runs for two weeks until Saturday, September 24. Ongoing drawing sessions are open at Panza to all artists. They run Mondays from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m., consisting of a single three-hour pose; Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m., multiple poses, and the same on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Each session costs $10.00 to cover the cost of the model and expenses. Artists should bring their own drawing or painting materials. More information can be obtained on Panza Gallery’s website, www.panzagallery.com or the Facebook page of the same name.                                Written by Jack Puglisi