Tag Archives: Al Gury

Al Gury on Collecting

Al Gury, Blue Moon, 8 x 10 inches, oil on panel

Al Gury, Blue Moon, 8 x 10 inches, oil on panel

Al Gury is showing landscape and still life paintings at F.A.N. in the month of February.  I interviewed Al last winter and we talked about nurturing the artist.  I recently got a chance to interview Al again. We talked about artists collecting works and objects.
Al’s studio and home is filled with wonderful pieces of pottery, prints, printings and sculpture he has collected over the years. Some of the objects turn up in his still life paintings and I was curious to know how the printings and paintings inform his works.
I wanted to ask you about your own collection of art and objects. Why do you collect?
As to collecting, I always have since childhood. Objects, like icons, have meaning to me. Like icons, they are windows to imagination and creativity.
 

When did you start collecting? What is the piece that started your collection?

There is no one object that started me on collecting, but there are some that stand out. On my birthday in 1980, I also happened to be moving. I was grabbing packing boxes out of a dumpster in center city to help with the move. In the dirt in the bottom of the dumpster I saw some shapes that didn’t seem right for the situation. So…, I climbed in. What I pulled out of the filth were two very beautiful decorated boxes. It turned out they were sewing boxes from the 1830’s, made in China*. They were also filled with the delicate ivory tools for embroidery. An amazing find that I cherish to this day. And a beautiful birthday gift.
Al Gury, Snow Fields, 20 X 24 inches, oil on panel

Al Gury, Snow Fields, 20 X 24 inches, oil on panel

What attracts you to a piece of art or an object?

Generally, the first thing I notice in an object, even in flea markets, will be the shape of the object. I have a strong feeling for shapes, whether it’s old hand made tools or pottery. When I’m looking for particular objects to add to one of my collections, I will often scan a shop or a market for particular shapes to identify the object of the search.  When I draw my sketchbooks or journals, I start with shapes.
Al Gury, White Peonies, 14 X 11 inches, oil on panel

Al Gury, White Peonies, 14 X 11 inches, oil on panel

How does your collection influence your art making?

I have surrounded myself with objects and collections that have meaning for me: icons, pottery, paintings, prints, sculpture… These create an environment that helps me keep alive the  feelings, beliefs, hopes and traditions I love, and nourish the aesthetics I wish to bring to my painting.  
*link to sewing boxes similar to Al’s collection

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Al Gury: Nurturing the Artist’s Spirit

Al Gury, Afternoon Light, 9 X12 inches, oil on panel

Al Gury grew up in the Midwest, and graduated from Saint Louis University. At SLU, Al met a teacher who encouraged him to come to Philadelphia to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He found a home at the PAFA first as a student, then as an instructor and most recently as Chair of the Painting Department.

Al is a generous person, an animal lover who volunteers many hours at Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). He is a respected teacher, author and painter. I don’t know how he finds the time to do all of it.

I run into Al every few months and it’s always nice to find some time to chat. A common theme for both of us is how we find balance and create an environment that allows us to work and be nurtured as artists.

Al says, “One way, is to try to keep it simple and focused, even though it comes from complex and often confusing sources.” Simplicity, he says, “means treating what I do in a workmanlike way. I don’t make any drama about the artistic process or what I do. I see it all as my job, and I get up and go to work. Of course I worry, etc., but I don’t put things off for long. Painting, teaching writing, caring for friends and family, administering, building community, are the big headings in my life that I try to keep as simple as possible. Under it all is dealing with stresses, self-doubts, fears, deadlines, goals, anxieties, bills, health, losses, and all the other things that betray simplicity.”

Al Gury and Fred at the gallery

Al also finds that his relationships nurture and keep him focused, “Friends and family also keep me learning and loving. Building and maintaining relationships is very important to me. It’s a dance with trips and falls, false steps and stubbed toes. And family is anyone who you love.”

I was one of Al’s students 20 years ago and I was thrilled that he put his wealth of knowledge into two great painting books in the last few years: Alla Prima-A Contemporary Guide to Direct Painting, Random House, 2009, and, Color-It’s Traditions and Practice in Painting, Random House, 2010.

Al reflected on teaching and writing, “As a young kid in grade school, reading and writing was a challenge – part of it was the one size fits all approach of the 1950’s and early 1960’s. Ironically, reading became a passion and later keeping journals of my daily life. The idea that I could actually write articles and books that would be published was a grateful shock.

“I developed a passion for describing complex technical and aesthetic ideas in the classroom in clear language for students to understand. Since so many of my art teachers had spoken in metaphor or not spoken much at all, I vowed I would not be that kind of teacher.

“Writing books and articles have helped me provide as much clear guidance for students as I can and to record an ongoing exploration of teaching methods.” The “one size fits all approach” was not a positive experience in Al’s early education. As a teacher, Al takes time to help each of his students and create an individualized approach to learning. As he finds ways to reach his students it also helps him develop as a painter.

“Painting and teaching have always fed each other. Something that happens in a painting I’m working on ends up being a story I tell students who are struggling with a confusing technical problem. My students inspire me all the time, both with awe at what they are trying to achieve and what someone does in a painting class. I learn so much from them and try those things in my work. Teaching is an art, a relationship and a great love, as is my work in the studio. No one is more surprised than me that I love administering educational programs, chairing, and guiding, all for the good of the students and PAFA. When there are bad days, as we all have, I just remind myself that it is all for the PAFA students and I feel fine.

“With all the things I do, I’ve learned that the myth of painting every day all the time doesn’t work for me. I’ve become conditioned to thinking about painting every day, sketching most days and then making studio time count when I can get it. So, when I get into the studio, the work is already half born from carrying it in my mind often for weeks or months.

“Making a painting is something like building a piece of furniture. It has to be solid, able to withstand inspection and be interesting to look at. Direct alla prima paintings and small oil studies are a great love of mine. My flower paintings, portrait and figure studies allow me to craft a painting through the directness of drawing with the brush. Their small scale allows for a quick completion that is a rich aesthetic in its own right. Planes of color and tone have clear simple meaning in this context.”

I asked Al about journaling and its importance in nurturing his art.

Al reflected, “A journal is a way for me to sketch out ideas and record thoughts and I do that almost daily. It is very important as a form of self-reflection. Self-reflection is essential [for any artist], but again, I try to apply things and not live solely in my head as many artists do.” Al encourages his students to keep a small sketchbook wherever they go. This is to practice quick thumbnail sketches of faces to learn likenesses and to record ideas for compositions and that will help them think through and reflect on things in their life and work.”

Al Gury, Peonies and Sunflowers, 12 X 9 inches, oil on panel

Al’s body of work encompasses the figure, portraits, still-life and landscape. Over the last 20 years that I have known Al I have seen him move from painting large figure paintings to his lush landscapes. For this most recent show at F.A.N., Al is showing mostly landscapes and a smaller number of still-life pieces.

“My larger works, landscapes, figure paintings and formal portraits demand an expansion of the direct approaches to encompass much more complex layering and effects that cannot be achieved solely by a quick brush. Even so, I want them to have the energy of the simple direct paintings and clearly by the same hand.

“The current group of paintings at F.A.N. Gallery includes two of the subjects that I love: landscapes and small flower still-lives. [The landscapes are] more layered, the other [still-lives], very direct – representation has many nuances.

“As much as I use observation of nature as a base, the more abstract elements of shape, pattern, color harmony and paint surface come to the fore for me as powerful needs in my work.”

Al Gury’s methods of working: reflection, teaching, writing, drawing, painting, and his relationships with others sustain and nurture him as an artist. The cycle of work continues to feed his painting.

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Al Gury at F.A.N. in February 2012

AlGury, Long Evening, 12 X 9 inches, oil on panel, 2011

Al Gury, Long Evening, 12 X 9 inches, oil on panel, 2011

Al Gury, Painting Chair of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art and author of  Alla Prima: A Contemporary Guide to Traditional Direct Painting and Color for Painters: A Guide to Traditions and Practice will be exhibiting new still life and landscape paintings at FAN gallery for the month of February 2012

Al Gury: New Paintings

February 3rd – 25th, 2012
Opening Reception
Friday February 3rd, 5- 9 PM
Hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 12 – 6 PM

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December 2011

Rick Buttari and Joshua Koffman, December 2011

F.A.N. has a wonderful new exhibit opening in December.
Rick Buttari: New Paintings and Joshua Koffman: Sculpture

There will be a group show on the second floor featuring new work by Jesse J. Gardner, Al Gury, Kate Kern Mundie, Carlo Russo, Serge Zhukov, and introducing new artists Nick Patten, Philip Corey and Olga Nielsen, plus work by many more or FAN’s artists.

December 2nd – 31st, 2011
Opening reception:
Friday, December 2nd, 5-9:00 PM

Hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 12-6:00 PM

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F.A.N.’s 19th Year at USArtists American Fine Art Show & Sale

USArtists American Fine Arts Show & Sale

Serge Zhukov, Drawing Class, Right part of diptych. Acrilic, oil on canvas 36×36 inches

Al Gury, Twilight, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches

USArtists is the nation’s premier American art event. Many of the country’s
finest art dealers exhibit and sell an extraordinarily rich and diverse collection
of 18th- through 21st-century American art.

This will be F.A.N. Gallery’s 19th year exhibiting at USArtists American Fine Art Show & Sale. Please come and share in a selection of new paintings, sculpture and works on paper by David Bottini, Rick Buttari, Lesa Chittenden Lim, Al Gury, Robert Heilman, Tezh Modarressi, Kate Kern Mundie, Gregory Prestegord, Carlo Russo, Kathleen Weber, Serge Zhukov, and others.

Friday, Saturday & Sunday, September 23-25, 2011

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts | Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building

Opening Night Preview Gala: Thursday, September 22
New Collectors Night: Friday, September 23

Show Hours:
Friday and Saturday, 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
Sunday, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm

Admission

PAFA members & children under 12 are free!

General Admission:                                   $15 pp

Seniors & Students with ID:                    $12 pp

Groups of 6 or more:                                 $12 pp
Benefits of Admission:  Receive one full-color show catalog, unlimited entry to USArtists 2011 and one free admission to PAFA valid until October 2012.

Receive a $3 discount on a full price admission ticket when you purchase online.

All proceeds from USArtists directly benefit student scholarships
at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

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F. A. N. in Film

Image: via poptower. Scene from “How Do You Know”, painting by F.A.N. Gallery Artist Al Gury can be seen in the back ground in the gold frame.

I am a little behind in my movie watching. I finally saw “How Do You Know” written and directed by James L. Brooks. It was a cute romantic comedy staring Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd and Jack Nicholson. The real reason I watched is one of mine and some of the other F. A. N. artist’s paintings are in the movie.

Treacy Ziegler, Beneath An Ocean Like A Sky, Mixed Media, 27×32 inches

Production for the movie started in the summer of 2009. The movie was filmed in Philadelphia and D.C. During that time a “How Do You Know” production staff member came into F.A.N. Gallery looking for paintings of Philadelphia scenes. They rented paintings from the artists Treacy Ziegler, Al Gury, Tezh Modarressi, Gregory Prestegord, and Kate Kern Mundie. The paintings were used in developing the look and feel of the office and home of the character George, portrayed by Paul Rudd. On the DVD, you can see the paintings in chapters 2 and 3 in George’s office and in his home at the beginning of the movie.

Kate Kern Mundie, 8th and Market Streets (Lits Bros.), oil on panel, 30 x 20 inches

I don’t think I have ever watched a movie that closely for set design before. The paintings were hard to pick out unless you knew what you were looking for, but it was still exciting to see my painting and the paintings of friends and peers.

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