Make Way For The Resistance
Provincetown Magazine May 10, 2017
By Rebecca M. Alvin
It’s undeniable. There is a sense of outrage and fear, coupled with disbelief that has spread since the election of President Donald Trump, spurring ordinary citizens to become highly political in their everyday lives. It’s no wonder that artists would want to express these sentiments in their work, as often it is in times of struggle and strife that great strides are made in the arts. French Surrealism after World War I, Italian Neorealism after World War II, and now perhaps something fresh and beautiful will grow out of this time of conflict and intolerance.
Artist Jo Hay and her wife/gallery owner Carolyn Kramer have decided to make their first show of the season at Jo Hay Open Studio Gallery one that reflects the political climate around them. Opening this weekend, Resistance features the work of four very different artists who explore that theme in very different ways.
Hay’s work takes a decidedly optimistic tone in featuring individuals who are continuing to stand for truth, tolerance, and justice through their work in various fields, such as Sam Brinton, a nuclear engineer who is at the forefront of the fight to ban so-called “conversion therapy” programs. These large-scale portraits are usually done from life, but in the case of Rachel Maddow, featured in this show, the artist worked from a photograph to bring her subject to life.
“I’m very optimistic, and I looked for what I saw as the light —someone that I knew was clearly looking for the truth, because it’s such a dire situation,” says Hay when asked about her choice of Maddow as subject. In her artist statement, she elaborates, “I made this painting wishing to express my deep gratitude to Rachel Maddow for her tireless effort to uncover the truth with regard to the Trump administration and its ties to Russia, and to simultaneously advance the dialogue around her exceptional efforts.”
Hay’s work will be shown alongside works by Tess Barbato, KJ Shows, and O’Neil Scott, a new addition to the gallery’s roster. Scott, an artist from Philadelphia, is surprisingly self-taught, but his work is both technically accomplished and conceptually provocative. Working with the themes of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as a general anxiety around intolerance and violence, Scott’s work includes a piece called Citizen, (which graces our cover this week), and a series called Don’t Shoot, It’s Only Water, featuring individuals with squirt guns pointed in various directions, including the one shown here with a black man holding the water gun up, evoking it’s inspiration, Trayvon Martin. Others use the theme to explore suicide and violence in other contexts. Scott, who will have a solo show at the Gallery later this year, had never been to Provincetown before Kramer asked him to be in the show after she saw Citizen on Instagram.
Scott sees his work a little differently. “I think it’s less political and more about these marginalized communities,” he says. “The political atmosphere is just in your face. It’s everywhere you look, and I think that’s what happens, it’s definitely showing up in my work.”
For KJ Shows, best known for her series Portrait of an Artist, in which she paints portraits of different artists’ shoes, using their actual shoes as a model, this is a chance to paint individuals who are significant to the burgeoning Resistance movement, including Senator Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
“Bernie’s the one I did first,” Shows says by phone from Maine, “I was painting his face and being kind of like gentle and caring in painting his portrait, and then I got kind of mad, too, about all the stuff that’s going on, and it went from this really caring, respecting portrait that I was painting into this protest poster. I started cutting out letters and [formed them into] something he said and just spray-painted over it. I kind of did this drastic change.”
Shows says she’s been making lots of political art lately, including Donald Trump voodoo dolls, which she sells online, and, we’re told, provide great satisfaction for those frustrated by the Administration’s policies.
Since its opening in 2014, the gallery has shown Barbato’s work, which is focused on Capitalism. Barbato has long used her art to speak about injustice and the power dynamic inherent in her images of American money. She shares one piece in this exhibition, A Corrosion of Democracy. In an e-mail interview, she explains, “This painting is a reaction to the actions and rhetoric of Mr. Trump. He has been trying to slowly break down the fundamentals of our democracy. From attacks on women, to delegitimizing the press, and undermining the once guaranteed right to freedom of religion and speech, he has made it clear that he is unfamiliar with our constitution. I wanted to use the gradual corrosion of the copper pennies as an analogy for how an unprotected democracy is subject to erosion. Our democracy will not die with a bang but with small acts of destabilization.”
There are many ways to cope with the political drama (or satire, depending on your perspective) unfolding before us. The artists in Resistance demonstrate the power of art to provoke thought, inspire, and speak out, and they do so without compromising their talents in service of a message, creating works that are beautiful, provocative, and that will remain meaningful through time.
HAY AND KRAMER CREATE AN APPROACHABLE GALLERY
Provincetown Banner, September 1, 2016
By Susan Rand Brown, Banner Correspondent
SIMPLY MASCULINE IS SIMPLY WONDERFUL!
Provincetown Magazine July 6, 2016
By Jeannette de Beauvoir
In the beginning, Christobel López painted only women.
That may seem surprising to hear today, as López’s new exhibition, Simply Masculine—which focuses on men who identify as Bears—opens at the Jo Hay Open Studio Gallery in Provincetown just in time for Bear Week. It’s particularly surprising as the Spanish multimedia artist has made a name for himself over the past two decades in capturing the male form on canvas, paper, and photography.
In fact, it wasn’t until López decided one day to surprise an ex-boyfriend with a gift—a small nude male watercolor—that he began truly appreciating working with the male body and featuring it in his work. That was 20 years ago, and the Fort Lauderdale-based artist is still creating intimate portrayals of the male form through oil paintings, watercolors, photography, charcoal drawing, printmaking, and digital art.
López was born in Barcelona and remembers a childhood spent—shall we say, personalizing—the white walls of his parents’ house. “Noticing my interest in the arts (and weary of seeing me drawing everywhere), my parents decided to send me to children’s art school at age eight,” he says. School taught him technique, and the young entrepreneur made his first sales to relatives and neighbors.
It wasn’t long before the public in general started replacing his relatives as his clientèle, and while it might seem a perfect and obvious fit, this is López’s first showing in Provincetown. He is delighted about reaching out to a new audience. “I’m so excited to be in Provincetown,” he says. “So many of my friends go there every year, and for a long time now, a bunch of people have been saying, you have to go.” And then gallery founder and owner Carolyn Kramer saw his paintings. “Finally this year Carolyn contacted me,” says López. “She is the one who put all the work, all the energy into this exhibit. She is the one who is bringing me to the right place at the right time.”
Subtitled An Exhibition of Paintings of Men with a Masculine Sensibility, the show is, in Kramer’s words, captivating. “It’s apparent that Chris’ muses are gay men, many of them men who identify with the Bear community,” she says. “However, I offered Chris a solo exhibition titled Simply Masculine not merely because our audience in Provincetown has a large gay demographic, but rather because I am lover of portrait paintings. The masters—which include Velasquez, Sargent, Rembrandt, Hals, and Vermeer—are a few of my favorite painters. I can appreciate abstract art, but the paintings that I am overwhelmingly captivated by are portraits. That’s what Chris’ paintings are to me: captivating.”
Kramer may be captivated by the art; López, for his part, is enthralled by his subjects. “I always want to work with men I really like,” says López. “I am inspired by people, people I see, even if just for a moment. I see men in the street—there’s a large gay population where I live—and I ask them if I can take their pictures. I like to work from photographs, they capture not just the person but also the moment. And then I can see that moment again when I paint it.”
Once upon a time, López relied on going out and going after those pictures; now men are coming to him and asking if they can model for him. “It used to be hard to find models!” he laughs. “Now they come to me!” But his success doesn’t keep people from complaining. “Some of them tell me my models are not big enough,” he says. “Then other people say they’re too old. But I work with what I think is beautiful, what I think is art.” He pauses. “It’s not my personal taste, you know,” he says. “I like people who are not so perfect. But in my paintings, I want them to be beautiful, so that’s what I choose.”
His other choices revolve around the depth that many others have remarked upon in his artwork. “Knowing them can change the energy,” López says. “Their beauty is in their eyes, and once you look into their eyes, you see them, you see who they are, you know them.” And that’s what changes the dynamic, he explains, from merely viewing a painting to feeling what the painting is conveying about its subject. “I’m always looking for something natural,” he says. “Something can be sexy but not natural, and that isn’t what I’m interested in. I want to portray what is natural.”
And it’s that naturalness that transcends the subjects. It’s not just bodies that are represented here: there’s humor, there’s intelligence, there’s presence. “You might want to know more about each subject,” says López, “and fall in love with him.”
López’s work has appeared in Euro-Bear Magazine, Mascular Magazine, The Great Big Book of Fashion Illustration, 100 Artists of the Male Figure, and Big Love: Sexy Bears in Gay Art, and he has had solo exhibits in Spain, Puerto Rico, and the United States, as well as participating in group exhibitions both here and abroad. He teaches art as well, passing on his sensibilities to the next generation of artists.
And for fun? “I don’t have time!” he laughs. “I’m too busy, I don’t have enough time for fun.” He thinks about it for a moment. “Sundays are the day I don’t work, I spend time with my husband,” he says, more pensive now. “He complains that we don’t have enough time together, so every Sunday is for us. We work in the house, we work in the yard, we go shopping, we just relax.”
Perhaps relaxation in Provincetown is in his future. “I will be here for the exhibition, yes,” López says. “But I also want to come again when it is more quiet.” And, perhaps, he’ll take pictures while he’s here… for future exhibitions.
Bear World magazine June 2, 2016
By Chris The CEO
If you have seen Chis Lopez’ work before you know how impressive it is. This new exhibition at the Jo Hay Studio Gallery in Provincetown is a gem not to be missed if you are visiting around Bear Week. The JO HAY OPEN STUDIO GALLERY is pleased to present SIMPLY MASCULINE large-scale paintings by CHRIS LÓPEZ from July 8 through July 17, 2016.
SIMPLY MASCULINE is a collection of evocative largescale male portraits painted with warmth, classical technique, and sometimes unusual materials. Visitors are invited to see this exhibition at 167 Commercial Street, Provincetown, MA, from Friday, July 8, 2016, through Sunday, July 17, 2016. The exhibition will open with a reception on Friday, July 8, from 7PM–10PM. There will be a closing reception on Friday, July 15, from 7PM–8PM.
Originally from Barcelona, Spain, López is a new artist with the JO HAY OPEN STUDIO GALLERY.He became interested in painting as a child and furthered his artistic education at Barcelona’s Pau Gargallo University, where he focused on graphic design, artistic illustration, and painting, while consecutively studying photography and set design for television and stage. López currently lives and works in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and is known for his intimate portrayals of the male form through oil painting, watercolor, photography, charcoal drawing, printmaking, and digital art. SIMPLY MASCULINE showcases portraits of gay men who identify as Bears, painted with masterly technique. The artist recalls that he has gravitated toward the human form since his art school days, although he used to paint only women. The desire to surprise an ex-boyfriend one day led to López painting a small male nude watercolor for the first time. He notes that he enjoyed the experience so much that twenty years have passed and he is still captivated by the practice of depicting male beauty.
These Shoes Were Made for Painting
Provincetown Magazine, July 9, 2014
By Jeannette de Beauvoir
K.J. Shows collects shoes.
Not just any shoes, of course: she asks working visual artists to send her their shoes so she can paint them, and you can see the results at the new Jo Hay Open Studio on Commercial Street.
“The happiest place an artist can be is in their studio,” says Shows. “I was just finishing up a painting and my shoes were sitting on the floor and I thought, ‘oh, dude, I’ll do a painting of my shoes.’ When I finished I realized that it had some of my personality in it, but it was entirely non-judgmental. It was part of me but not me.”
Being non-judgmental is a theme Shows returns to. “Doing shoes doesn’t stop the conversation the way that full portraits do,” she explains. “You know how you can look at a portrait and start picking it apart, like I don’t like my nose, that sort of thing? But the shoes—that’s completely non-judgmental.”
Shows started connecting with other visual artists—the old-fashioned way. “I’d ask them for their mailing address,” she says, “and then I’d write them a letter explaining the project and asking them to send me their shoes. Some said no, they were still using them, they’d send them to me in six months. Some said yes right away.” And why shoes? She laughs. “It’s something really personal, but it’s also something I can ask for—not like underwear!” And so she began writing her letters—and the shoes came pouring in.
Shows and her girlfriend, a designer, have lived on a farm in Maine since 2001. “I started by contacting all my artist friends out here, and I did a show of just Maine artists, and they all came to the show. And the conversations were so great! I heard people saying things like, ‘I went here in these shoes, I did that in these shoes, these shoes remind me of the time…’ People were talking more than I’d ever heard at an art show.”
And so she began the project in earnest, sending out 857 letters in six years. “At least once a month I stop painting for a couple of days and do my research and find them and write to them,” Shows says. “I end up becoming friends with some of them, too.”
Carolyn Kramer, founder and gallery director of the Jo Hay Open Studio, found KJ Shows the same way—through research. “One of my favorite things to do,” recalls Kramer, “is go online and look at art on Saatchi,” a website for unknown and emerging artists affiliated with a gallery in London. “Every Monday the London curator, Rebecca Wilson, features 15 artists of the day. She featured KJ and I called her right away, sent her emails—I’m crazy about her and her energy.”
That energy has been simmering for a long time. Shows grew up in Texas where she knew from the beginning that she was an artist. “My grandmother taught me how to mix colors,” she recalls. “Even today I do it the same way, I use a very small number of colors, just eight different colors.” For many years she worked for American Airlines, “which was the best. Every time there was something I wanted to see, I could just hop a plane and go see art. I could go to Europe for the weekend for an art show.”
Now she does much of that traveling via letters. “I’ve saved all the mail I’ve gotten, tons of mail, handwritten letters,” Shows says. “When I’m done, I send them a photograph of the painting I did. I’m saving all the correspondence so I can put a book together. I picture a really big book eventually, with a photo of the artist, some information on the artist, my painting, and then our correspondence.”
Word got around, and Shows started getting commissions from people who weren’t artists. “One guy drove down because he wanted to tell me about his shoes. He’d been wearing them for 18 years while he went around the world; there was purple string where he’d patched them. The first week he had the painting it stayed in his car because he was driving it around showing it to everybody!”
One family requested a family portrait … of their shoes. “The little girl had ballet slippers, the boy had sneakers, the mother had pumps. They say so much about the people. It was the whole family, expressed through what they wear. And what’s really funny is that a lot of people’s first response is, who’s going to buy a picture of shoes? But they do.”
“It’s just extraordinary,” agrees gallery director Kramer. “Hundreds have sent in their shoes: boots, flip-flops, whatever… she asks if they want the shoes back, some do, some don’t.” Shows has some of the shoes hanging in her studio, “like the ones you see flung over telephone lines,” she says. “I had Mel Ramos’ shoes and I traded them to his daughter for one of his paintings. Richard Dupont said I’ve got great shoes, but I ended up sending them to the Shoes Or No Shoes museum in Belgium.” Undaunted, Shows called the museum for a loan instead.
What artists does she choose? “Some are famous,” Shows acknowledges, citing William Wegman, Winston Smith, John Baldessari, Jamie Wyeth, and—improbably—Phyllis Diller; but “some aren’t so famous,” she says, “and I want people to know about them.”
And now she may be adding some Provincetown artists to her list. “It’s awesome about bringing it to Pown,” Shows says; Kramer agrees. “I’m hoping to draw attention to KJ. She’s never been represented by a gallery, and this girl could be in New York.” Shows smiles. “Artists are artists because they can’t see themselves doing anything else,” she says. “I never worried that they’d never be seen on a big scale. I just kept doing it.”
New Gallery Space Goes Out on a Limb
Provincetown Banner May 3, 2014
By Staff Reporters
The Jo Hay Open Studio, a new gallery inhabiting the space that Provincetown artist T.J. Walton has held for 20 years in the East End at 153 Commercial St., is going out on a limb by presenting the work of five emerging artists out of the eight it will represent in its first season.
The exciting line-up of emerging artists include: Diane Wilson, an abstract figure painter from Washington, D.C., who paints very large scale oil on canvas works reminiscent of the work of Francis Bacon; K.J. Show, whose work includes painting of the shoes, sneakers and boots of very famous artists (she gets to keep the shoes and has them all in her studio in Maine); Aldo Cherres, a figure and still-life painter from Peru who paints in the style of Morandi; photographer and portrait painter Rory Gervis from New York City whose work is reminiscent of Richard Avedon and Henri Cartier; and New York City photographer Todd Marshard, whose beautiful images of masculinity are similar to Bruce Weber and Herb Ritts. The established artists are Provincetown painters T.J Walton, Steve Lyons and Jo Hay.
Carolyn Kramer, whose managed the Kobalt Gallery and was assistant director of the Packard Gallery, is running the gallery with her life and now business partner Hay.