The Contemporary Storyteller by Gilad Segal

Narrative art captures, communicates, and explores stories. This genre of art—most often embodied in paintings and drawings - can be grand, presenting the viewer with a monumental event, or minute, identifying the smallest parts of our existence. It can examine the past, propel the viewer into the future, or expose our current choices and cultural contributions. People love to tell stories, and we have attempted to preserve the themes, triumphs, and conflicts of our lives since the earliest paintings and etchings on rock.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

To see the stories of the past come to life in paint and pencil, one can simply browse through images on museum websites or visit their grand galleries. And yet, it would take much more work to survey today’s narrative art contributions. One would need to visit countless galleries or be fortunate enough to attend a rare museum retrospective of a contemporary narrative artist to see the stories of our time come to life. While some of the great narrative artists of today are just beginning to be recognized by cultural institutions and have their work added to important private collections, it is more common for museums to display historic works that explore the past. The problems of our time – that is the responsibility of future generations to present.

Justin Wood : the Water : What Would You Have Me Do

And yet, narrative art seems well suited for our times. Whether it is through blogging, posting to online forums, or engaging in social media, we are living in a time in which any person with a computer and an Internet connection can share their personal narratives and opinions. It often seems that while we live in a time of unprecedented access to the global community, we have become obsessed with presenting ourselves.

Daniel Martin Diaz : The Seven Sorrows : Aeternus Vita

Today’s crop of narrative artists understand this behavior and benefit from presenting work to an audience that is already obsessed with personal and psychological discovery. Many artists today have a website and a blog. They engage with their collectors and fans through emails and social media. If one cannot identify the story being referenced in a painting by Daniel Martin Diaz, one only has to go to his website and contact him.

Micah Ganske : The Full Picture : Vacation’s End (featured in exhibit)

Technology and our relationship with social media is a dominant theme in the work of Micah Ganske. As the artist states, “This subject is close to me because I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, yet spent most of my time indoors with my computer.” In his painting “The Full Picture,” we view a family on vacation posing for a portrait through the screen of a digital camera. The beautiful image reflects the family’s relationship with technology and our ability to immediately share our experiences with others through technology – this is a family portrait that will be shared on Facebook later the same day.

Kelsey Brookes : CA

In works by the Californian artist, Kelsey Brookes, we are often reminded that we are not the center of the universe. A trained scientist, Brookes’ canvases often depict a central figure surrounded by microorganisms that float and interact with each other. Often spiritual and always reflective in nature, Brookes reminds his viewer that she is but one creature in a world brimming with all forms of life.

Henry Gunderson : Cactus : Capsize

There are very few rules for narrative art and in this way too, it is appropriate for our time. Themes and imagery that were once considered taboo rarely affect us. Our culture is saturated with visual imagery, and as a result, narrative artists today face the challenge of being honest storytellers, while at the same time finding a way to hold our attention.

Esther Pear Watson : The Transportation of the Future : Listen

In the work of Esther Pearl Watson, the titles of her pieces are often painted next to the artist’s signature on the canvas. Watson’s work is deeply personal, often reflecting on her childhood in Texas and her father’s obsession with building spacecrafts. In her painting, “The Transportation of the Future,” a silver space ship hovers over rural Texas. If the image of a futuristic craft is not enough to grab the viewer’s attention, then the words on the canvas command it.

Erik Mark Sandberg : Girls with Hot Summer Fashion

Erik Mark Sandberg’s labor-intensive paintings demand attention through their execution and underlying message. In his work, Sandberg often covers beautiful silk-screened images with painted hair and layers of resin that force the viewer to look beyond the surface to see the beauty of the person beneath. Conveying a message much deeper than the adage that true beauty lies within, he successfully engages the viewer by presenting an uncomfortable and sometimes shocking rendition of beauty.

Kevin Paulsen (NY) : Kent Williams (CA)

In many ways, the messages and stories of artists today explore the same themes as those of generations past. Beauty, family, and personal identity recur in narrative art throughout the millennia, and yet each generation of artists examines them through a unique, contextualized perspective. Through their work, these artists hope to preserve our values and culture whether they agreed with them or not. Stories are, after all, monuments to our lives.

David Jien : CA (R/featured in exhibit) : Edwin Ushiro : HI (R)

Including works by the above artists and many more, “Survey Select —A Narrative Art Exhibition” seeks to present – as its title tells us – a survey of art by the storytellers of our time. Curated by Mark Murphy, the exhibition will display paintings, drawings, mixed media, and digital pieces from over 65 fine artists who range in age from 18-75.

Irene Hardwicke Olivieri : Hiro Kurata

Presenting this exhibition as a modern day salon, Murphy has cleverly chosen a context that at once honors the past while reflecting the social interactions of today. Murphy understands that the audience is as important as the messages and stories being presented, and so asks them to take part in the discussion—to interact with the artists and to become involved by sharing their own narratives during the exhibition.

The exhibition also creates a stamp in time of narrative art today. In time, the world is going to change and as it does, a new crop of artists and storytellers will emerge to capture it. These new artists will be able to look back at collections like “Survey Select —A Narrative Exhibition” and reference, critique, and ultimately expand upon the legacy left by the great narrative artists of our time.

Marco Wagner : (Both paintings featured in Survey Select Exhibition)

Gilad Segal is a creative writer who lives and works in Los Angeles. He recently moved to California from New York City, where he supplemented his creative work by writing copy and creative briefs for packaging, print ads, and commercials. He is also an experienced creative writing instructor. While Gilad writes primarily scripts and fiction, his passion for collecting art and supporting emerging artists has led to some unique writing opportunities. He is currently in discussions to curate an exhibition and is developing an art blog to go live later this year.

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