Posts Tagged ‘George Towne’

Powerful Portrait

Monday, October 6th, 2014

Visit the district office of State Senator Brad Hoylman and you’ll find a painting by SVA Residencies alum George Towne of former Congressman Barney Frank!  Barney Frank was the first member of Congress to voluntarily come out as gay; Brad Hoylman married filmmaker David Sigal in 2013.  


(l-r) State Sen. Brad Hoylman with Leslie Lohman Director Hunter O’Hanian (Images courtesy of George Towne)

The loan was facilitated by the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, of which the painting is a part of the permanent collection.  George shares some background on the portrait.  He writes:

“Back in 2002, I was getting ready for for my first one-person show, which was in New York at the The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. It had several portraits of gay men who were ‘out’ in varying professions. Some were ‘heroes’ like 9-11 responders, and James Dale, the Eagle Scout who went to the Supreme Court over the Boy Scouts of America’s policies. I went to Provincetown the summer before the show and just happened to meet Barney Frank. I asked him if he’d pose for photos for a painting and over time, through his secretaries in Boston, then DC, he agreed. He came to the opening and after-party back in Fall 2002, which was the first time he had ever visited the NY Gay Center.”

I also asked Senator Hoylman to share some thoughts about the painting.  His answers are in quotes below:

How did you first discover the painting of Barney Frank?
“I learned of it during a tour of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art and was subsequently offered it on a six-month loan. The benefactor apparently wanted it displayed in the office of a public official and I’m glad I fit the bill.”

For you, does the portrait capture particular qualities of Congressman Frank?
“Yes, I think it captures his irascibility. Congressman Frank was an aggressive street-fighter of sorts and that comes through, too. It appears almost as if he’s returning from a hard day’s battle from Capitol Hill.”

What does it mean to you to exhibit art in your office, as opposed to your home?
“I’m excited for constituents to view it. We recently gave out free flu shots to over 100 people in my office and the portrait really engaged them and raised a lot of interesting questions and comments. It’s also inspiring for my staff and me to work in the presence of such an historic LGBT public figure.”



It’s already rare for a painting to get exhibited in public spaces.  It’s more rare for a painting to arrive in a place where public policy is shaped.  Hopefully, George’s painting will feel right at home.

Congratulations, George!

Condition X

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Condition X

“It was a total experiment,” said Marcos Chin of his sculpture.  “I used chicken wire for the base/skeletal structure, then built on top of it using “Amaco” papier- mâché, plaster, clay, and liquid glass… I really didn’t know what I was doing.  The puffy pieces were drawings that I silkscreened onto cotton jersey fabric that I cut and sewed and filled with batting/stuffing that I bought at Mood Fabrics in midtown west.”

Marcos Chin, "Machoman," 2010

“I tried doing a color litho version with six different hues,” George Towne told me, “but it came out muddy.  Still, seeing the color version in person helped me appreciate what was right about the original.”  -George then shared his experience of watching Marcos Chin in the printmaking studio, where Marcos was “prolific” and present every day.

Artist George Towne with "Peter Staley/Silence=Death," 2007 and "Mike with Skull," 2011

How I want to look in 40 years: Tomer Exterman, "Bathers," 2010

These testimonial statements popped up at the opening of Condition X, a group exhibition featuring past participants in SVA’s Summer Residency Program, curated by Keren Moscovitch, the program coordinator, with help from curator and Summer Residency faculty member David Gibson.

How I wanted to look 20 years ago: Ilona Szwarc, "Angelica," 2010

How Look Right to Want I Now: Jeremy Olson, "Untitled, " 2010

What these artists said reflects the hands-on rigor of SVA’s summer residency programs.  Depending on the program they choose, artists get exclusive, private studio space in Chelsea, fully equipped traditional workshops and digital labs, and all of the great humming, buzzing, and blinking machines to complete our bionic, android, art generating potential.  They also get the great humming, buzzing, and blinking people that convert artists into ARTISTS: critics, teachers, curators, gallerists, and full-time artists visit the residency studios.

Former Summer Residents (l-r) Iviva Olenick, James Kao, and Annika Connor

MFA Illustration alumnus Ryan Hartley (center) with his MFA thesis advisor, Marcos Chin (right), and friend

Thus, happily sharing the gallery are well-versed works derived from many generations of making art.  From the software era, we see splendid archival pigment prints, such as Tomer Exterman’s unfliching geri-glam Bathers photos (“bold and endearing representation of the convergence of culture and individualism,” sayeth press release) and Annette Isham’s video of a reflexive reconciliation, Friends First, 2011.  Reviving 19th century handcraft are Iviva Olenick’s wistful embroidered fabrics (like “an old-world ‘blog'”).  And optimistically arranging a marriage between the dexterously drawn and digitally augmented, are Jonathan Reid Sevigny’s pencil fantasias with RGB/CMYK treatment – in hand painted frames (“rife with historical and artistic allusion”).

Relationally Charged: Grayson Cox, "Point of Purchase," 2011

Annika Connor with "Tomorrow Night," 2009; "Summer Lovin," 2009; and "Crush," 2010

While the residency programs are sufficiently endowed for artists to consider them “destinations,” a little research shows that they are momentous launch pads, too.  As a 2005 resident, Grayson Cox gained a following and a focus, and soon scored admission to Columbia’s prestigious MFA program, a solo show at Gasser & Grunert Gallery’s new space in Chelsea, and a review in Art in America.  Jonathan Reid Sevigny had a solo show last December at Envoy Gallery in the LES.  For other artists, the residency offers the means to refuel their careers.  Before doing the residency, SVA alum George Towne had already finished his MFA, acquired teaching experience, and garnered press for his wrenching portraiture.  Following the residency, he had a solo show at Michael Mut Gallery, his first solo show in NYC since 2002.  Marcos Chin, Iviva Olenick, and Jeremy Olson (I’m listing from the top of my head) are among the other artists whose residency experiences were part of larger, expansive professional growth.  So you don’t have to become a performance artist just because studios are too expensive.  🙂

Nate Burbeck, "Sighting Near Scipio, Utah," 2011

Condition X is at SVA’s Westside Gallery, 133-141 West 21st Street, until August 20.