OPT Exhibition! opened Saturday evening with a swank reception in the Mercato Marketplace. Curated by artist and art critic Veron Ennis, the groundbreaking show featured important new work by Ennis, Todd Andrew Babb, Greg Biolchini, Hollis Jeffcoat, and Arturo Samaniego.
Samaniego describes his style as a blend of realism, minimalist cool and contemporary edge. “In my work,” Samaniego notes, “I combine the beauty of the human form with the emotion-evoking quality of gesture. The figure is executed in the classical, old master style, symbolizing the objective. Around these figures the environment is abstract and nebulous, representing the emotional and internal.”
These painterly principles are amply illustrated by the seven the works that curator Veron Ennis selected for the OPT exhibition from Samaniego's new Emergence series. Each of these oils on canvas, board or paper depicts an exquisitely enigmatic female swimmer enveloped by cool, amniotic waters that fade into a vague, hazy mist as they recede to the frame's edge. In each, Samaniego denies the spectator access to the swimmer's thoughts through the simple expediency of having his muse look away from the painting's viewpoint or merely having her close her eyes. The technique shrouds the figure in mystery, correlatively demanding the viewer to reach inside herself in order to find a time and place where she experienced a correlative feeling.
It's a smart, savvy way to shift the artwork's emphasis from outward-bound intellect to inwardly-experienced emotions that align us on a primordial plane with cosmic laws that connect us with the universe and each other.
"The pendulum is swinging back to a more ennobling aesthetic," Samaniego remarked at the OPT Exhibition reception last Saturday night. "Those were the values which have been at the core of art throughout history." But these values were largely lost to philosophers, artists and society in general in the nihilism that replace hope following two world wars and the social unrest that typified the 1960s and '70s. And beginning with Surrealists like Breton and Dali, art increasingly explored the dark, negative, even sinister side of human nature and social structures.
"Not too long ago, Veron, myself, [Contemporaries co-founder] Kristin Vaughn and [Gulfshore Life Executive Editor] Jon Foerster met for dinner at a Sushi-Thai restaurant. Jon asked us what we thought the next movement in art would be. After some discussion, we all agreed that it had already arrived in the work of artists dedicated to infusing their work with positive, uplifting emotion that connects both consciously and unconsciously with the viewers who see it."
And from that singular, straightforward question evolved a movement that abstract artist Veron Ennis termed "Open Positive Transference" or OPT.
"Artists across the world are recognizing the effect art has on entire cultures and societies and believe that a marketplace saturated with dystopian or shock art will create a dystopian and shocking society," explains Ennis. "The natural response to a negative movement is a positive one - one of balance, hope, and beauty. A positive reality is created by these artists for the viewer's, as well as the world’s, well-being."
The works that comprise Emergence reflect this positive reality in a richly satisfying, classical way. You can view these and Samaniego's other figurative and abstract works for yourself at Samaniego Art on J & C Boulevard in North Naples. For more information, please telephone 239-431-7040 or visit http://www.samaniegoart.com.