The Art Renewal Center (ARC) recently published the results of its much-anticipated 2011–2012 International Salon. The competition is dedicated to the resurgence of contemporary realism, and the overall quality of works submitted increases with each salon.
It was ARC’s largest turnout yet, with more than 2,100 entries and more than 800 artists participating. A large number of high-quality works did not make it into the finals even after ARC extended the expected 300-plus finalist pieces to allow for more than 500. ARC also doubled its projected award amounts from the anticipated $50,000 to more than $100,000 in cash prizes.
The six-category competition comprises figurative work, still life, landscape, sculpture, animals, and drawing.
Best in Show
The top prize for Best in Show went to Thomas Reis for his painting “Amelie.” Reis said of his winning work: “I was inspired by a child I saw in Paris in 2010. Her introspective gaze radiated warmth and provided a welcome contrast to the blustery December day.
“I tried hard to communicate this sense of atmosphere and narrative content while addressing the basic tenets of art—color, shape, line, value, and composition—and their endless challenges. I am both humbled and honored to receive such a prestigious award, especially given the masterful work of my many gifted colleagues.”
Reis, who lives in Georgia, USA, has seen his career take off within the last couple years, with the number of his exhibitions increasing from one or two a year to seven in 2010 and eleven in 2011. Like many talented artists, he started as an illustrator.
After graduating with a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1993, by 1995 he was illustrating for nationally known publications, including Time Magazine, Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, Sports Illustrated, Business Week, TV Guide, Barron’s, Forbes, and Smart Money.
Today, Reis has become known for his serious works that capture the human psyche and atmospheric moods. “Amelie” is a masterpiece, not for its unusual content or its ambitious size or composition, but because it captures the elusive human spirit.
He instills human life into simple oils, pigments, and canvas. With the thoughtful and pensive nature of the little girl’s mood contrasted with her playfully bouncing pompoms, Reis captures the essence of childhood.
The William Bouguereau Award
The William Bouguereau Award, the second-largest prize, went to David Gluck for his painting “The Trapper.”
This work mixes a Rembrandtesque color pallet and intense gaze with a sensitive suspense that is unique. The viewer has stumbled across a hunter who is sneaking about to set a trap for his intended prey.
The shotgun shells sticking out of his breast pocket and a trap in hand give the work a sinister feel. Yet the sinister quality is softened by a gentle touch, most likely communicated through the delicate choice in hand positioning, which instills this hardened man with a poetic flare.
Speaking of the inspiration for the painting, Gluck said: “When I knew him [the model], he didn’t have a job or a real home of his own, but he kept himself extremely busy collecting scrap metal. He was a modern-day forager.
“At this time, too, I was rediscovering the Russian schools, and my new love for this type of art and my new acquaintance combined to create this painting. Here Brian is depicted as an early settler-trapper, a grizzled breed of man that lived with few material comforts and braved the harsh winters to seek a living from the woods.”
Gluck was born into an artistic family and studied with a number of teachers, including Michael John Angel, in Florence, Italy, and Jacob Collins, in New York City.
While in New York, he became an ARC-scholarship winner in 2007 and again in 2008. The scholarships helped fund his schooling in 2008 and 2009. He has put his awards to great advantage, producing fully professional works with a combination of different teaching methods. The result is the unique fusion displayed in “The Trapper,” a truly astounding work.
First place in the figurative category went to an unbelievably ambitious painting that combines an indiscernible number of intertwined figures. Titled “Resurrection,” the piece was created by Orley Ypon from the Philippines. His work tends to be highly symbolic, and many pieces use large groups of human forms poetically posed to depict themes, social issues, and the human condition.
Commenting on what the award meant to him, Ypon said: “Being an ARC Salon winner is a great honor and achievement for me. I have wanted to enter the ARC Salon for many years, but I had doubts whether my work was up to the standards of the organization, its prestigious board of judges, and the roster of exceptional artists who enter every year.
“Being chosen among many artists whose work I deeply admire and respect is an affirmation of my work and is also a humbling and profound experience for me. This win is not just another huge achievement in my career as a contemporary realist, but is also a huge step in my growth as a person whose art has reflected much of the struggle I’ve had to go through in life.
“It will also be a big step for the realism movement in my country, where the genre has been suffering from neglect and disregard. As a Filipino, I am very proud to be the first from my country to have gained this achievement.”
The second-place figurative award went to an American, Julio Reyes, for his painting “Amaranth.”
Reyes is not a newcomer to the ARC Salon competitions. He placed well several years consecutively and won second and third place in the drawing category in last year’s salon and Best in Show in the 2009–2010 competition. His work is well-known among contemporary-realist circles, and Reyes has won numerous awards in other competitions as well.
“‘Amaranth’ has in it a kind of hush, a powerful stillness, I was trying desperately to capture,” Reyes said. “It is about death and the sober dignity of human life … an epitaph to the fragility of hope and love and the vulnerability of all that is precious.
“The title ‘Amaranth’ means an undying flower that never fades. In this age of the easy and the slick, I wanted to present something extreme in terms of my genuine emotions towards life. After all, what good is art if it can’t reach and give voice to the furthest ends of what you’re capable of feeling?”
In addition to this award, Reyes has won a Purchase Award for yet another powerful piece he entered in the ARC competition.
“I have had repeated success in the ARC Salon competitions, but perhaps none so meaningful to me personally as the recent Purchase Award of my painting ‘Headwinds,’” Reyes said. “Being a part of the ARC permanent collection is a decisive honor—a proper consummation to the long and meaningful relationship I have had with ARC.”
Mikel Olazabal, a young Spanish artist in his mid-30s, is an up-and-coming giant in the field. In his newest work, “El sueño del caballero II (Inspiration),” he demonstrates his true prowess with the brush in a series of difficult choices that keep the viewer’s eye entertained.
The endless twisting of the fabric around the girl’s body and the upward movement of her hair are playfully intriguing, while the elaborate still-life arrangement keeps the eye wandering. The armor beneath the cavalier’s feet, showing the dents and nicks in the breastplate, rivals the 19th-century artist Edmund Blair Leighton for its attention to detail.
Even with this incredible attention to detail, Olazabal lets the under-paint of the upper right-hand corner of the painting show through to demonstrate his technique and prove to the viewer this was created with nothing but canvas and paint.
This is the second year in a row Olazabal has won a Purchase Award for one of his paintings, and this year he has won the third-place Figurative Award with the same piece, “El sueño del caballero II (Inspiration).” It will be exciting to see how the work of this young artist progresses.