Watercolor artist featured at Butler

"Going Home" is an example of P. Smallwood's Lifescapes paintings, portraits that portray the subjects in their natural environment. (Submitted photo)

Watercolors by contemporary realist painter P. Smallwood will be featured in an exhibition opening Sunday at the Butler Institute of American Art.

Butler Director Louis A. Zona said he became aware of the artist’s work through a mutual friend.

“It’s super nice, just classical watercolor,” Zona said. “Watercolor is a very difficult medium to control. His portraiture is just wonderful with vintage automobiles, unusual structures as backdrops to some of the portraiture. It’s just very appealing.”

Smallwood’s subject matter reflects both the rural South (he has family connections in Charleston, S.C.) and the urban north (his studio is in northern New Jersey). In his Lifescapes series, he creates portraits that portray the subjects in their natural environment.

In a written statement provided by his publicist, Smallwood states, “As a self-taught artist blending imagination, reality and social consciousness, I am a visual storyteller that embraces the narrative of ‘real people living real, honest, imperfect and totally unrehearsed lives,’ that merge color with shadow, focus with juxtaposition and gravity with irony. I create Lifescapes that are intuitive and exploratory born from my own intrinsic observations rather than from a particular artistic school.”

The Butler show “Dialogues with Reality: Paintings by P. Smallwood” doesn’t limit itself to the Lifescapes paintings.

“It’s pretty wide-ranging,” Zona said. “I let him know he’s probably not known in our area, and this is a way of introducing his work to this part of the country, so there are some earlier pieces and some later pieces.”

According to Smallwood, “The process of bringing this exhibit was very different in the fact that I was allowed to be a part of the curatorial process for the first time; my landscapes will be on display with my figurative work. The viewers of this exhibit will get full frontal exposure of the breadth of my explorations.”

The work will be on display through Feb. 27, and Smallwood will attend a meet-the-artist reception from 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 6. He described himself as “blessed and humbled” to be exhibited at the Butler.

“The Butler Institute of American Art is world renowned for its collection and continued pursuit of promoting American realism art,” he said in the statement. “As a realist painter, this match was made in heaven and the support from the Butler was an extraordinary experience. As a black artist, having an exhibition at The Butler, (it) is a rare opportunity to share my work at an institution of their caliber and their team was very receptive of my work.”

Zona also encouraged those who come to see the Smallwood exhibit to view “Francie Lyshak: Inner Life,” which opened last weekend at the Butler. He called work bold and colorful.

“(New York gallery owner) Katherine Carter puts together exhibitions out of her gallery,” Zona said. “Every once in a while, she sends me something she knows will strike my fancy. When I saw Lyshak, I just jumped on that. We’re known for more traditional fare, and this is not very traditional.”Watercolor artist

featured at Butler


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