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Portrait Friday: The Almost Normal World of Steve Frenkel

May 29, 2009

17 Arroyo Seco Left: 17 Arroyo Seco  ©2008 Steve Frenkel. Private Collection, 28 x 14 inches; acrylic on canvas.  An “art house” in the desert. Looks like it’s on its side, but that’s just how the owner wanted it to look. Sort of a “Cadillac Ranch” home. Diminutive denizens drive on the road, which in English is “Dry Arroyo.” The cacti in the foreground are all stage props.  Is that true of the others in the painting?  My guess is as good as yours. (Description supplied by the artist.)

Mark Your Calendars:
There will be an artists reception on Thursday, June 4th from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the Catherine Kelleghan Gallery in Atlanta. New work from Steve Frenkel and also William Dunlap will be on view. There will be music and refreshments. Go and meet the artists and see the work in person.

About Artist Steve Frenkel and His Work
Why does my post title describe Steve Frenkel's world as "almost normal"? Well his paintings have that wonderful quality of realism and draftsmanship that I love, and the landscapes and cityscapes depicted seem normal enough, until you look closer. Then the eye of the viewer quickly finds something that is not quite right— floating houses, landlocked boats, airport runways to nowhere, birds who drive cars….What goes on here isn't whimsical (which has the danger of devolving into cute). There is something more engaging, entertaining, and intriguing going on—sometimes playful, sometimes a little dark—something that bears a little looking at.

Steve says the following about his paintings:

These artworks are about an imaginary world of my own invention. Much of its inspiration comes from old picture books, my dreams and daydreams and my enchantment with the world around us. I combine the real with the imaginary, now with then and what we actually see with what the mind sees. Large and the small things swap places. Perhaps miniature worlds lay claim to the same real estate as our own. Day and night appear might simultaneously. It's both idiosyncratic and ambiguous.

Steve didn't start out with a career in art, in fact, when I first met Steve through mail art, he was working in the paper industry and then, as a graphic designer. It wasn't until 1997 that he was able to turn his "after-hours" pastime into a full time career. In the past 18 years almost 400 unique paintings, drawings and watercolors have come out of his studio. Again, in Steve's own words:

All I really ever wanted to do in life was make art. It wasn’t a career option that my family supported in the least. So I tried to study engineering, TWICE. I finally got to go to art school, but could only take graphic or industrial design. When I graduated I didn’t practice design, I went into sales for a lot of years. I only began to do design around my 40th Birthday. By the time I was 49 I’d been making postal art and sending it around the world for a few years. I decided to make the leap to studio art and have never looked back.

I love to talk with Steve about art and his painting process. His paintings are labor intensive because of his clear mental vision and his push to create just the effect he wants. His perfectionistic attention to detail pays off in the richness one finds in this work. But he is also a curious student of painting media and will experiment and try new paints as his schedule allows.

Steve's work can be found in the
permanent collections of the LaGrange Art Museum in LaGrange, Georgia,
the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art, in Marietta, Georgia and the Atlanta
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

The Van Wert Archipelago2  

Above: The Van Wert Archipelago  ©2006 Steve Frenkel; 17 x 27 inches; alkyd oils on canvas. This painting is about just how flat Ohio is when you get off the Interstate and head north from Lima. On a trip up north in late spring, 1999, my then girlfriend—now wife, Donna said that the landscape reminded her of being out on the water and little farms, woods and other features looked like islands. I banked that image and finally made this painting almost seven years later. Van Wert is a small town in NW Ohio, not far from Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have a dear artist-friend there and belong to the Wassenberg Art Center there. (Description supplied by the artist.)

Readers interested seeing more of his work should go to his site stevefrenkel.net. You can reach him at steveartist@mac.com. His work is represented by The Finer Things Gallery in Nashville, TN, the Catherine Kelleghan Gallery (listed above).

Other Places to View Frenkel's Work
Steve has just learned that his work will appear in New American Paintings, Southern Competition 2009. This will be their 82nd volume. Steve's work also appear in numbers 9, 46, and 58. If you don't get this periodical (I can't really call it a magazine because they are like luscious, glorious color, soft-covered books), you should check it out. I know that Barnes and Noble carries it locally (perhaps nationally?).

So if you aren't in Atlanta for the show, take some time on the web, or with New American Paintings, to spend some time in Steve Frenkel's world. A sojourn there will open your eyes to the world in which you live—in unexpected ways.


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