Friday, December 21, 2007

Butler Insitute Award

A few weeks ago I attended the reception of the Allied Artists of America Exhibition in New York. It was held at the National Arts Club, a former private mansion on Gramercy Park in Manhattan. For a Victorian house buff like me, just seeing the interior of the building was a treat: lavish woodwork, sumptuous wall coverings, huge plate glass windows, and generous rooms. I was in Victorian heaven.

I felt very honored to receive the Butler Institute of American Art Award for my painting The Duet. An exciting moment for me, though there were many prizes given away, and mine was a minor one compared to quite a few. Here I am next to my painting.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Allied Artists of America Exhibition

My painting "The Duet" is my first figurative work ever to be accepted into a juried show, and I'm very excited about it. Here are the details of the show:


National Arts Club,
15 Gramercy Park South,
New York, NY

Reception and Awards Ceremony on
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 9th, 2007, at 1:00 p.m.

Gallery hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 10-12 p.m. & 3-5 p.m.; Tuesday 2-5 p,.m.
Saturday and Sunday: must call ahead.

Portrait demo

In conjunction with the portrait show, Garth Herrick and I did a two-hour demonstration at the Wayne Art Center. The event was well-received; I think we had about 40 onlookers who asked interesting questions and kept things lively. I painted a lovely 12-year-old girl while Garth painted the chairman of the Board. Here we are with the results after the two hours were up.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Portrait show opening reception

Twelve artists ended up participating in the exhibit, and here is a group shot of most of them (L to R); Catherine Prescott, Addie Cooper, John Ennis, Ellen Cooper, Nancy Bea Miller, me, Garth Herrick, Ernie Norcia, Jennifer Frudakis, and Glenn Harrington. Missing from the photo are Rachel Constantine and Jimm Scannell. The opening reception went very well, and we had a nice review in the Main Line Times.

Portraiture seems to be at the center of a major clash in the art world these days. On one extreme there are those who defend the Modern and Contemporary art movements and categorically despise any art that hints of traditional methods or subjects. On the other extreme are artists whose work is strongly reminiscent of the past and who despise Modern and Contemporary art. Critics like Blake Gopnick of the Washington Post have made some accurate criticisms of traditional portraiture, yet seem unable to distinguish between the more subtle differences between artists, labeling it all as schlocky. Part of the reason portraiture is taking the heat is that, for a long time, it existed as a reactionary enclave of the art world. The main avant-garde art scene did not recognize realism, and especially portraiture and figurative painting, until very recently. You may read this and think, "Alex is not an art historian--she doesn't know what she is talking about," and that is okay with me. I only have an undergraduate degree in art history. But I've been observing and experiencing big changes in the art world recently, and this is my opinion. Personally, I appreciate both contemporary and traditional art. I consider my own work to be somewhere in the middle; maybe "contemporary realism" would be the most accurate description. Why should we dismiss an expressionistic figure by saying the artist obviously painted like that because he/she didn't know how to draw? Why should we dismiss a realistic portrait that shows great skill, expression and soul because it is not painted in a cool style? I will be interested to see what the press says about portraiture in the next few years. Will it be ignored? Villified? Praised? What styles will be considered "true art" or "commercial" and why? This show is only a minor one compared to the Mancini show or the Cecilia Beaux show, but I hope it will raise some questions about these issues.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Portraiture: A Philadelphia Tradition

I'm delighted to announce that the Wayne Art Center will be hosting a group portrait show! It will run from October 24 through November 16. This area is home to such a lot of talented portrait painters and it is wonderful that the Wayne Art Center thought to offer a venue in which to showcase their work.

The participating artists are: Rachel Constantine, Addie Cooper, Ellen Cooper, John Ennis, Jennifer Frudakis, Bill Hanson, Glenn Harrington, Garth Herrick, Nancy Bea Miller, Ernie Norcia, Catherine Prescott, Jimm Scannell, and myself.

The opening reception will be on Sunday, October 28, from 3-5 p.m.

There will be a group portrait demo on Thursday, November 1, at 7:00 p.m.

There will be an informal artists' gallery talk on Thursday, November 8, at 12:30 p.m. Lunch will be served.

We have such a long and venerable tradition of portraiture in Philadelphia that includes Charles Wilson Peale, Cecilia Beaux, Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins, and Alice Kent Stoddard. Even John Singer Sargent can be included in this list because his parents were from Philadelphia. More recently we have Andrew Wyeth, Jamie Wyeth, Bo Bartlett, and Nelson Shanks. And that's just off the top of my head, so please excuse me if I missed some important artists. I'm hoping that this kind of show will happen again before long, and that we will be able to include more artists next time.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Landscape Workshop coming up in October

I thought I'd better get a head start and let people know about my one-day landscape workshop. We'll be enjoying and painting the fall foliage at a location outside Philadelphia.


Friday, October 19 (raindate Saturday, October 20)
10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Observing landscape while working outside is a great way to push your skills to the next level. Working in oils, we will begin with small, quick oil sketches in order to establish major areas of light, shadow, color and value. We will then develop two paintings, one in morning light and one in afternoon light. Basic knowledge of oil painting is required. Participants need to bring all materials and a box lunch.

For details, or to sign up, contact the Wayne Art Center at:

Hope to see you there--plus, you'll get to see me wearing this very fashionable hat.

Portrait Class at Wayne Art Center

Wow, time flies! I'm a little late getting this out since my portrait class starts tomorrow! Here's the scoop:

Mondays 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Fall semester, Wayne Art Center, Wayne, PA

Students will learn how to construct portraits with a consistent color framework based on the relationship between light, atmosphere, and shadow. We will work on creating the feeling of "air" as the figure emerges from the background. We will also focus on the control of values, edges, and level of detail. Drawing experience is recommended. Previous experience with oils is useful, but not necessary.

We will be working from live models, and the model fee is included.

The photos are from last year's portrait class. We had a lot of fun.

For information, or to sign up (there may still be room left), try:

And to get more detailed information, take a look at the WAC's fall schedule:

Painting Trip

I recently returned from yet another trip to Maine, this one devoted entirely to painting! My friends and fellow artists Nancy Bea Miller, Eliza Auth, and Diana Cobb Ansley and I went to Mount Desert Island and Monhegan for a week of blissful immersion in art. We painted the Beehive from Sand Beach during what began as cloudless weather and swiftly changed as a fog bank rolled in from the ocean. The next day was rainy so we painted the Seawall from under a friend's porch roof. Then on Monhegan we had perfect jewel-like clear skies and hardly a breeze--perfect painting conditions--and I was able to complete two canvases and still hike around the island and take photos. We took a boat ride to Manana, an island adjacent to Monhegan. It was open, tundra-like terrain, wild and uninhabited. All in all, we had a wonderful trip and it was hard to return to civilization.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Working vacation in Maine

I could have called this a "busman's holiday" but it sounds un-artistic. Plus, I had too much fun to claim that the work overtook the play. Most of my two weeks was spent on Mount Desert Island. Here I am on top of Beech Mountain with my friend Diana Cobb Ansley. Diana and I have known each other since our early teens, and we actually met in Somesville, a small village in the center of MDI that was settled by our common Somes ancestors. Diana is a painter, as you can see. Yes, I know my eyes are closed AGAIN--but you can't ask a passing hiker to take tons of photos just to get one of me with open eyes.

When I am in Maine I pay a pilot to fly me around in a single-engine plane to take reference photos that I later use to develop my aerial paintings. This year I flew over Rockport Harbor, Vinalhaven and North Haven, Deer Isle, Isle Au Haut, and Mount Desert. The weather was beautiful and it was exciting to see the light, the colors, and the endless forms of land and water.

Sometimes I fly out of Bar Harbor, but my favorite pilot is Sandy Reynolds of Maine Scenic Airways. Besides being an expert pilot, he understands artists and photographers. He operates out of the airport in Belfast, ME. For anyone who is interested in flying wth Sandy, his website is: You can reach him by phone at: 207-338-4736.

This year I also fit in a short visit to Indian Island, off Rockport, with my lifelong (and multitalented) friend Linda Vizi. This was Linda's second visit to the island; we had gone there together after graduating from high school in 1971! On the island, Linda worked on her applique while I painted a portrait sketch of my brother's mother Harriet and a plein air sketch of the lighthouse and house.

Altogether it was a great two weeks, and it has been a difficult transition back to the regular work schedule.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Summer Show at Gross McCleaf Gallery

If you are in Philadelphia in the next few weeks before Labor Day, the Gross McCleaf Gallery is having a summer group show of works with a summery theme. The air-conditioning is great, and lots of galleries are closed, so it's a perfect place to stop in when you are suffering in the heat and humidity of downtown Philadelphia and you want to look at a refreshing variety of art that reminds you of the nice things about summer. I've got two paintings in the show (photos soon) and there are a lot of wonderful ones by all the other artists in the gallery.

The gallery is located on 16th Street between Sansom and Walnut Streets. Their summer hour are Monday through Friday, 10-5.

Their website is:

Artist's Magazine finalist

Just heard that one of my portraits, Young Harpist, was named as a finalist in the Artist's Magazine 24th Annual Art Competition. The actual winners have already been chosen, so this means it has no chance of a prize, but hey, I'm happy with this much. A couple of years ago another painting of mine, Becca in Prom Dress, was a finalist in the same competition. It sure seems as though the judges are preferential to my paintings of young women in long, flowing, formal dresses! I'm not sure whether that's a good or a bad sign, because in both cases the concept of the portrait was not really about the dress or about young female beauty.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Opening Reception in Stonington ME

Here I am with artist Nancy Morgan Barnes at the opening reception for our two-person show at the gWatson Gallery in Stonington, Maine. Yes, I know my eyes are closed, but it was the best of the photos. At least it's a good one of Nancy. It was great to finally meet her and some of the other artists and collectors at the reception. By the end of the evening, we had both sold paintings of the same bridge, very different viewpoints--hers was a ground-level view of recent construction activity and mine was an aerial view--but there is something appealing about the subject, a graceful suspension structure spanning Eggemoggin Reach and connecting Little Deer Isle with the mainland. Every time I visit Stonington I'm struck anew by its spectacular setting, interesting architecture, interesting and welcoming people, and abundance of artists and galleries.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Portraits for the Arts

Some of you may know that I've been working on a portrait project for a couple of years called "Portraits for the Arts." It grew out of a desire to explore ways of giving portraiture more exposure, a wider audience, and a greater role in the art world. Portraits are usually commissioned works, but I wanted to think of other possible roles for the potrait. So I created a way of using portraits of people in the arts to give back to the art world with the help of generous individuals and organizations.

A couple of weeks ago, "Portraits for the Arts" was featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The article, by Karen Heller, tells the basics of my project and mentions that I am looking for nominations. So if anyone can think of a well-known artist-- painter sculptor, musician, writer, dancer, filmmaker, actor--and wants to donate the portrait, or funds, to an art-related organization in Philadelphia, please write me an e-mail through the "Portraits for the Arts" section on my website. There are several ways this can work, so If you have questions, I'll be glad to answer them.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Portrait Unveiling

Last week my portrait of Dr.Constantine Papadaks, 11th President of Drexel University, was unveiled. The portrait was commissioned by the Board of Trustees of Drexel and will be a gift to the unversity. Here we are at the unveiling: from left, Dr. Papadakis, me, and on the other side, Mr. Jacovini and Mrs. Papadakis. Missing from the photo is the Papadakis' dog Honey, who attended the event.

Before the official unveiling, I entered this portrait (with the proper permission, of course) in the Portrait Society of America's annual international competition, and it was awarded a Certificate of Excellence!

Here's a better photograph of the portrait. I should mention that most of the photos of my artwork, includng this one, are taken professionally by Karen Mauch.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

2-Person Landscape Show in Maine

Beginning on June 15 I'll be showing my landscapes with another Maine Artist at the gWatson Gallery in Stonington on Deer Isle. Included in the show will be a few aerial views of the Deer Isle and Stonington area, some "regular" landscapes, some small plein air paintings, and a few figurative pieces that could also be described as landscapes with figures in them.

There will be a reception at the gallery on Friday, July 6. For details, visit the gWatson Gallery's website and send your question in the "contact" section. There's also a map showing the location of the gallery. (I'm not sure myself of the time, but I will post it as soon as I find out.) If you are near Stonington in June to July, please stop by. The gallery owner, Ron Watson, shows work by a variety of well-known artists so it's really worth the trip.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Workshop: Landscape Painting in Oils

Do you feel like painting out in the fresh spring weather? I'm conducting a two-day workshop on a property with old barn and farmhouse, plant nursery, and arboretum. We will loosen up by doing a couple of small, very quick oil sketches just to establish major areas of light and shadow, color and value. Then we will develop two paintings, one in morning light and one in afternon light. You will need to bring all materials and a box lunch.


May 11, 12

(rain dates: May 18, 19)

Please contact the Wayne Art Center for details.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Small works show

Recently I entered a landscape and a portrait into the Philadelphia Sketch Club's Annual Exhibition of Small Oil Paintings, and both were accepted.

This may not seem significant to most people, but to me it was curious because I've always heard artists are supposed to develop a "label" or a "brand," which means painting the same thing over and over until you are recognized for it. Sounds boring to an artist. Why shouldn't we paint whatever moves us and be appreciated for it?

Up to this point I've had two separate careers as a landscape artist and a portrait artist. Everything is separate: gallery representation vs. portrait commissions, publicity, and collectors. It sometimes feels as though I'm coexisting in two parallel worlds.

So that's why I find it so curious (and very exciting) that these two paintings were accepted into the same show.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

One of my favorite things

For the past few years I've been finding time to go on painting trips, during which time I travel around Maine painting outdoors. This is a small scene (12" x 24") painted in about an hour and a half while slapping mosquitoes at Long Pond, Mt. Desert Island, Maine.

The good news is that it was juried into an exhibition, Favorite Things, at the Atlanta Fine Arts League. The show runs from March 8 to April 2, so please stop by and see it if you are in the area.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Children's Portrait Competition Finalist

They say good things come in threes, and I guess that is true at least sometimes. I had entered a members' competition sponsored by the Portrait Society of America, but the notification date came and went, so I assumed I had not won anything and went on with life as usual. Then I got a congratulatory call from a fellow artist, John Ennis, who was also a finalist! Thank you, John, for notifying me, thanks to the Portrait Society and to my subject, George.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Trip to Estonia

There's been a lot happening recently, and most of it relates to portraits. This fall I painted a posthumous portrait of my father, Louis Kahn, for the Union of Estonian Architects. It found a home in the Town Hall of Kuressaare, on the island of Saaremaa, Estonia, where my father spent the first five years of his life before emigrating to the U.S. The UEA hosted a symposium in Saaremaa in October, which I attended with my mother, daughter, and brother. The portrait unveiling was only a small part of this very exciting trip. You can read about it in the latest issue (Jan/Feb 2007) of the Pennsylvania Gazette, the University of Pennsylvania's alumni magazine. Here's a link to the online Gazette:

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Woodmere Museum Exhibit

Welcome to my news blog! Just want to let you know that one of my portraits, Nancy Bea Miller, was accepted into the 67th Annual Juried Exhibition at the Woodmere Museum in Philadelphia. To my surprise, it even won an award, the Pearl and Lloyd Van Sciver Award! The opening is on January 27th from 5 to 7 p.m. in case you want to drop by and join the festivities.