Coffman, Nilsson & Ripple Open At Tory Folliard
Folliard Exhibits Fascinating Trio of Artists
On some of the first sunny days this June, the past weekend offered a smattering of art openings throughout Milwaukee, especially in the Historic Third Ward. Friday evening and all day Saturday the artists attending the exhibitions were available to answer questions from admirers or those desiring to learn more about the art. Located on Milwaukee Avenue, Tory Folliard Gallery quietly filled with visitors for their three new exhibitions : “Jeffrey Ripple: Portraits,” “Terrence Coffman: Angels & Landscapes” and “Gladys Nilsson: New Watercolors.”
The versatile Jeffrey Ripple graciously discussed his 14 exquisite portraits hanging in the East Gallery, all personalities he paints with at Utrecht Art Supply store on Monday evenings. With his 30 plus years of painting experience, Ripple's portraits illustrate his incomparable facility in a genre he has been exploring for only the past two years. Also inspired by portraitist Lucien Freud, Ripple examines the German painter’s legacy and then states, “Yet, you take the portrait and still make the painting your own.”
Primarily recognized for his landscape and incredibly realistic, up-close images of single buds and blooms, Ripple received a request for several commissions requiring figurative work. After deciding he would need to familiarize himself with painting the face, he began to practice portraiture. On Monday each week a different artist from the class would sit for a portrait, and so Ripple’s work, painted live in the class and then photographed for finishing in the home studio, became more to him than merely practicing for a commission. Ripple immersed himself in these Monday nights and the portrait so he now believes, “Where the more I do of them, the more possibilities I see.”
Ripple’s portraits included people of every age that express the more finished image to a less formalized portrait illustrated by one titled Ryan, a younger man against an abstract, color blocked background and a shirt barely brushed in a shaded hue after finalizing the collar. A viewer marvels at Ripple’s technique and ability to capture an individual's features, chiseled and hewn from his strokes while building warmth to their humanity.
“How far can I take the portrait?” Ripple asks the question for the future, with an obvious clarity, finesse and passion for this new direction in his artwork while viewers will wait expectantly. Ripple concludes, “That’s where the class will lead me. And my father asked me to do a portrait of my mother. I want to make them larger, and include her hands, a ¾ view.”
In the main gallery facing Milwaukee Street, Executive Director at the Delafield Arts Center Terrence Coffman showed selections from his more than 70 paintings completed when struck by the muse on the rooftop at his studio overlooking the Rock River. Each of these paintings then named and also numbered: From the Rooftop Series.
For this series, Coffman began painting on board and with a transformed color palette to express a less non-objective landscape while continuing to instill spontaneity throughout his work. He then realized this material, the board, changed his strokes and he explained, “Because of this surface, hard surface, I began using the paint differently, and I could maneuver the color in another way.”
Three paintings from Coffman’s Angel Series resulted from working on his Rooftop Series. The loosely representational. nymph like angels in his paintings “made an appearance after working on the series “four or five months.” Coffman insists, “Something is revealed to me after time, a shift in the work and then the angels appear.”
Coffman explains his Angel Series became more complex with inferences to Golgotha and Christ’s crucifixion, a combination of the allegorical and metaphorical. Each image carries a small splotch of red, which Coffman confessed represented blood, whether this infers angels attended the crucifixion, or perhaps guard over individuals during their life when injured, sickly or near death Each angel also carries a somewhat geometric shaped banner, stroked with thick texture in a striking hue. In all his work Coffman explains, “There’s an intuitive nature to all the paintings, and I don’t know what is going to happen. I let the painting paint itself.”
Gladys Nilsson established a long history with Folliard Gallery and also attended the opening as the third artist in the exhibition, her work showing in the main gallery. Nilsson's connections to the Chicago Imagist School remain intact after decades where she continues to embody the feminist mystique, which the artist claims, “Arise from watching women in my family. Seeing my aunties, grandmothers, and moms, the generational mix.”
“Women have a lot happening in their lives. I observe what goes on, on a day to day level, also watching and studying crowd dynamics.”
Nilsson’s painting Relax perfectly illustrates this dimension, only one of her approximately 11 watercolors and gouache images on display. Within this picture's frame, a curvy and almost floating reclining woman dominates the painting. Surrounded by a few miniscule men, one or two male figures support her female form posed in a state of complete abandon. When asked about the image, Nilsson commented, “Some days women are too exhausted to stand up.”
Nilsson's playful, vibrant hued images delightfully intermingle fantasy and reality, where a viewer enters an Alice in Wonderland world with feminist overtones. Nilsson smiles when she says, “Over the years the men have become tiny ancillary figures, fawning over the women, silently seeming to say, “pick me, pick me, I love you.’”
Nilsson’s oeuvre involves a hint of rebellion, although she matches her talents comfortably with acclaimed artist and husband Jim Nutt. She further explains by stating, “I create women soft on the surface but kicking life underneath. More like poking a finger in somebody’s rib to get their attention, instead of ramming them [because this hurts].”
This summer, Milwaukee's Folliard Gallery brilliantly provides a diverse trio of contemporary art: detailed portraits, spontaneous abstractions with referential realism and then watercolors imbued with feminine wit. Well worth several afternoons at the gallery through the July 6 closing, visitors can appreciate this trio of artists who combine for an intellectual, urbane and yet sensual exhibition.
Art Talk Milwaukee covers Katie Gingrass Gallery and Elaine Erickson Gallery’s tribute to commercial and fine art pastel painter Carol Rowan later this week.