Craig Alan on Newbury

Nestled between the luxury stores of Newbury Street, sits a tiny contemporary art gallery no bigger than the elevator bay of my dorm building. Directed by Liz Novick, Newbury Fine Arts is a beautiful gem hidden amongst the high-end and commercialized stores of Boston’s historic shopping street. Founded in 1984, this gallery takes pride to “keep it interesting and to maintain an exceptional level of quality in the talent that we represent with enthusiasm and friendliness” according to their online mission statement.

The gallery had just finished its most recent exhibition, Magic in Detail by Craig Alan. Alan is a graduate of the University of Mobile where he focused on the “human form and persona”; Alan has since expanded out of this phase of his art into more abstract techniques, however, many pieces continue to focus on the human form. Most of his work can be classified as Abstract Expressionism or Graphic Realism. Alan’s style has been dubbed an artist of textbook knowledge and a natural aesthetic sense. Although Magic in Detail has closed, many of Alan’s pieces are still on display in the gallery and I was able to look closely at Alan’s use of shadow boxes and resin to create sculpture paintings.

Upon my first look at Eve of Thaumus, it seemed like a regular painting of a red dress with butterflies as the skirt. Only when stepping closer to the frame, and seeing its thick size as well as the intricate details on the butterflies, did it occur to me that I wasn’t looking at a normal, stretch canvas. Alan had created a shadow box canvas. Inside, he decorated the box with red butterflies to match the dress. After all the butterflies were in, Alan painted the glass front of the shadow box to pull the entire dress together. Through dark shading and a focus on texture and precision, Alan blends the butterflies into the dress to create deception in its finest form. What’s amazing about the shadow box is the fact that it looks like Alan has handpainted all these beautiful, little butterflies. Only when looking in the center of the dress where Alan did not have to paint, is a person able to see that something is off. He, otherwise, does such a good job of blending the two backgrounds together to create one, complete image— or sculpture as some may suggest. Eve of Thaumus is apart of a whole shadow box series titled “Dress Series”.

Along with shadowboxes, Alan is known for painting groups of people from an aerial view as a way to create reimagined versions of iconic works of art. These include people standing around famous sculptures or people standing in the outline of a famous silhouette. At Newbury Fine Arts, a handful of these pieces were still up for display. Hanging in the front window of the gallery for everyone on the streets to see was the famous portrait of Marilyn Monroe done by Andy Warhol. Inside the gallery were more portraits of Marilyn as well as a few showcasing Audrey Hepburn. The best part of these pieces was Alan’s focus on detail on the subject of the portrait as well as the overall piece. Of the little people Alan painted to be apart of these reimagined works, all the people were doing different activities from playing music to walking to playing with each other and many more. Some of these people held posters with quotes from the person reimagined. Iconic lines from Marilyn and Audrey were scattered and hidden throughout the pieces, only noticeable to those who pay close attention.

The gallery calls their collection and exhibits a “unique assemblage of contemporary art”, and it was very easy to see the different styles used by the various artists on display. Along with Alan, other artists such as Michael Carson, Peregrine Heathcote, and Marlene Rose were on display. The artists all used different mediums, ranging from oil paints to glass to hay and crystals. The other art displayed was more traditional than Alan’s shadowboxes and reimagined works. Many of the other artists had paintings hanging on the walls or sculptures on pedestals.

Newbury Fine Arts hosts one group show and four to five single-artist shows yearly. There is currently no information on the exhibition that will follow Magic in Detail.

Correction: It was erroneously stated that Jude Sirios was the Curator. Liz Novak is the Director of Newbury Fine Arts.

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