Denise Henley – Portrait Artist

"Your profession is not what brings home your weekly paycheck. Your profession is what you're put here on earth to do, with such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling." - Vincent Van Gogh

Interpretation - Oil 24 x 18 in.

Denise Henley is an award-winning artist residing in the U.S. It would be fair to say that she has been creating art most of her life but painting professionally since 1998. Featured in several group and solo exhibitions Denise has been the recipient of various awards and recognitions and her works are collected both nationally and internationally. A constituent of realism, she is continually perfecting her drawing skills, believing it to be the backbone of figure painting.

Henley's current work focuses on the simplification of forms and a combination of realism and abstract marks. To this end, she will reach for a painting knife as a way of eliminating fussy details that can make for a banal work of art. For her, the medium or style is inconsequential; the important thing is that a goal is realized. Denise is intoxicated with the human figure and excited to portray it as she sees it—simply beautiful.

"Too much reality in a portrait is always a disappointment to the imaginative soul. We love suggestion and not hard facts." - John F. Carlson

Fiona - Pastel 9 x 12 in.
Vague - Oil 16 x 20 in.
The Earring - Pastel 12 x 16 in.
Vague - Oil 16 x 20 in.

This review was published by Circle Foundation for the Arts © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist


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"I paint directly from life, trying to create an interesting set-up with different objects. It is important to capture color harmony and a sense of movement. I draw my inspiration from the timeless work of the old masters. I truly believe it is never too late to be passionate about learning."

Swans - Oil on canvas 18 x 24 in.

Luba Stolper is a contemporary artist whose passion for art comes to life in oil paintings reminiscent of the Old Masters'. Born and raised in a small village in the Ukraine, Luba spent much of her childhood in nature, capturing her surroundings through drawing.

After moving to California, equipped with a keen eye for color and ascetics, Luba enrolled in The Fabric and Textile Design School in Berkeley, where many of her designs were featured in fashion magazines. As a self-taught artist seeking to enhance her ability, she studied for three years under the direction of artist Charles Becker. In 2015, Luba traveled to Florence to participate in an international workshop to deepen her knowledge of the intricacies of painting still life. With the desire to refine her skill, Luba has been training in the Academic Style at The Russian River Atelier under the guidance of masters Naomi Marino and Jay Blums who received their education at the Angel Academy of Art in Florence.

During the years 2014 to 2017, Lubaʼs collection of artwork could be seen at Art Encounter, a gallery in Las Vegas. She has been involved in art festivals in Sausalito and Calistoga, where her realistic portrayals received awards and rave reviews. Art expos in Miami and New York have hosted her paintings and she was featured in Artblend magazine. Luba has participated in workshops led by artist Qiang Huang from Texas and J. D. Hillberry from Colorado. Several patrons have commissioned her to create private paintings for their homes and she has many repeat buyers who appreciate her patience for observation and commitment to detail. Some of her paintings can be viewed in a private gallery and her collection is available online as well.

When she is not enjoying time with her family, Luba spends many hours in her home art studio, delving deep into her dedication to painting. She lives and works in Santa Rosa, California.

Coffee Pot - Oil on board 18 x 16 in.
Chalice and Lace - Oil on board 12 x 16 in.
Japanese Doll - Oil on board 16 x 14 in.
Vintage Lace - Oil on canvas 24 x 18 in.

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Svetlana Cameron

"I am a classically trained portrait artist dedicated to the study and revival of Old Masters' drawing and painting methods."


Svetlana Cameron is a Russian-born, British artist dedicated to the study and revival of traditional painting techniques. Trained in the methods of Old Masters, Cameron specializes in portraiture in the style of classical realism. She is best known for her official oil portraits and delicate life-like paintings of children in pastel.

Cameron's attention to detail and the ability to capture her sitter's personality have earned her a strong reputation as an international portrait painter. She holds the title of an Associate Living Master awarded by the Art Renewal Centre in the USA and was on Pastel Journal's Top 100 list of leading international pastel artists twice in 2016 and 2018. Cameron is an elected member of the British National Society of Graphic Fine Art (SGFA) and the National Pastel Society of Russia.

Svetlana Cameron has painted official portraits for a number of institutions in the UK: the Royal Regiment of Artillery, the Isle of Man Parliament, the Roman Catholic Church (Diocese of Liverpool), and the Church of England (Cathedral Isle of Man). Her works hang in private collections in England, Scotland, France, Switzerland, Russia, Ukraine, Malta.

Svetlana Cameron lives on the south-eastern coast of England where she works out of her private studio near Hastings. A sought-after portrait painter, she travels across the UK and internationally to exhibit and meet her sitters.

Sophia - Pastel 45 x 35 cm
Radha - Oil 50 x 40 cm
Molly - Pastel 55 x 45 cm
Portrait of Richard Sowler - Oil 90 x 60 cm

See Svetlana Cameron on the Cover of Spotlight Magazine

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Lee Howard Gobbi

Professional portrait artist, Lee Howard Gobbi works in oils, pastels and graphite.

Arabian - Oil on canvas 36 x 36 in.

Originally from Bradford, Yorkshire, England, Lee Howard Gobbi has worked as a professional Illustrator for Packaging, Publications, Marketing and Editorial Illustration and Magazine Cover Illustration. He has been an award-winning Creative Director for four global packaging and promotion firms working on major brands such as American Express, IBM, Pepsi, House of Seagram, International Playtex, Whole Foods, Office Depot, Unilever and M&M Mars. As well as global clients; Aeon Japan, Globus Germany and MassMart South Africa. Lee designed the Corporate logo for Business Express Commuter Airlines, a division of Delta.

Lee attended the Illustrators Workshop in Connecticut, USA, with a painting featured in the Neenah Paper Calendar, celebrating the history of St. Maarten NA. His art was also featured in a calendar for October in their 'Seasons' publication. Lee taught art at Bridgeport University and has lectured on Fine and Commercial art in the US and South America.

He currently is a Professional Portrait Artist and a member of three National Art Leagues in the USA. He lives and works in Connecticut.

The Red Kite - Oil on canvas 24 x 36 in.
Anastasi and Lily-of-the-Valley - Oil on panel 20 x 30 in.
Eve - Oil on linen panel 16 x 20 in.
Maizy - Pastel 18 x 24 in.

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Jingfeng Li

"The beauty of realistic pen-and-ink painting is that it uses just a black line to paint a rich and delicate picture. It presents a beauty of vicissitudes. I like the color of black, white and gray. Its deep, quiet yet noble quality profoundly attracts me."

Elves on the plateau - Ink pen on paper 73.18 x 44.2 cm

Chinese Artist, Jingfeng Li was born in 1965 in Anshan city, Liaoning Province, China and today lives in Beijing. His painstakingly realistic works are produced primarily with an ink pen. JingFeng Li graduated from Shenyang Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts and is a member of the American Portrait Society, a contractor of the Sena Art Gallery in France, and a representative painter of modern Chinese painting.

"I started drawing at the age of seven, perhaps a natural affinity; and have been long engaged with photography and painting. I began to work realistically with pen drawing in 2012. I have won many prizes in international drawing contests. Perhaps I was born like black and white and grey color, so choosing pen drawing is in line with my aesthetic. I like the real thing, it makes me really feel the sincerity and affinity of nature."

In Sunshine - Ink pen on paper 44 x 43 cm
Mountain village - Ink pen on paper 54.25 x 54.18 cm
Kejia Girl - Ink pen on paper 56 x 86 cm
Château de Selles No.4 - Ink pen on paper 54 x 54 cm

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Gerard Huber

"My strategy is to employ beauty as a subversive instrument of seduction, a peacefully sensual way of drawing the viewer into a space that challenges heteronormative assumptions of male competition, and which demonstrates that same-sex relationships are wholesome, healthy and life-affirming."

Classical Figures X - Sub Rosa

Gerard Huber was born October 2, 1949, in Waterloo, Iowa. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Painting and Printmaking, 1971. Following completion of undergraduate studies, Huber studied Figure Drawing and Contemporary Theology at the University of Notre Dame, 1971, and participated in the Blossom-Kent Art Program at Kent State University, 1973. Huber earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Painting and Drawing from Cranbrook Academy of Art, 1975, studying with George Ortman. 

In 1994 Huber received a Mid-America Arts Alliance/National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Painting. He has been a Resident Fellow at The Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, Vermont (2008); twice at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Lynchburg, Virginia (1987, 1988); and once at the Cummington Community of Art, Cummington, Massachusetts (1988). Huber has been a Visiting Artist/Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome, Rome, Italy, 2013 and 2015.

Huber’s airbrushed acrylic paintings have been exhibited in more than 60 exhibitions including the Joslyn Museum of Art, Omaha, Nebraska; the Arnot Art Museum, Elmira, NY; Parsons School of Design, New York, NY; Salmagundi Club, New York, NY; the Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, Arkansas; and many others. His paintings are represented by the Lizardi/Harp Gallery in Los Angeles, California.

Huber is a tenured professor in the Department of Art at Texas A&M University-Commerce, Commerce, Texas (formerly East Texas State University).

His studio is located at 3500 Oak Lawn Avenue, #275 Dallas, Texas 75219

(214) 528-5167


“Gorgeously painted voluptuous male figures are the protagonists in Gerard Huber's mesmerizing compositions. Perfectly rendered in a classical style the works bring Grecian ideals of beauty into a contemporary context.

In "Reflection I" Huber's own David is depicted among a variety of symbolic motifs cunningly placed to make it impossible for the viewer to evade the narrative.

Often literally in conversation with ancient Greek and Roman sculptures, the nude characters display a tenderness that comes in contrast with taboo expectations and stereotypic assumptions surrounding what it means to be a strong man. The brawny figures with every muscle and vain painted in exhaustive detail come to contrast with their gentle gestures and tranquil poses. These complex characters manage to exude power from their vulnerability as they seem comfortable and resolved with the combination of strength, power, softness, and emotionality they simultaneously represent.

What is significant in Huber's work is not his extraordinary capacity for realism but more importantly his ability to think and create in a post-modern context where the pieces become mesmerizing for the multiplicity and complexity of the content they evoke whether that is a conversation on art itself, on sexuality or the strong man etiquette.”

- Circle Foundation for the Arts, Director

Reflections I
Classical Figures II - Amplexus Aeternus
Classical Figures XI - Invidere
Classical Figures XII - Equa Noctis

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Born in: 1944, Czech Republic

Lives in: France

Media: Painting

Describe your work in 3 words: Magic Fantastic Strange

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Avida Dollar - Oil on canvas 100 x 230 cm

"I like to think that in another life, I was yet living in Prague, as somebody in charge of Rudolf II’s fabulous collection in which you could find, for example, astrological tools, potions to make gold, the philosophical stone, impenetrable manuscripts full of VITRIOL formula."

What themes does your work involve?
My art includes esoteric and erotic subjects, sensuality, poetry and sometimes an anecdote or even black humor. I also love animal art and to pay tribute to people I admire.
Describe your creative process.
Inspiration comes to me fairly easily. I feel as if ideas were stored in a large spiritual library, with an endless number of books and subjects. I just need to take a stroll in my library, stretch out my hand, and let the composition of my painting appear before me, both magically and very naturally. I always work on only one painting. I choose the format of the canvas according to the size of the main elements I will need. I like to draw things in real size.
What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?
I am influenced by the Old Masters. I am more especially inspired by themes in the domain of esotericism, poetry, literature, or biblical. I make art because I have the technique and skill for this artistic expression and I love it. I always did it. My father was an artist and I started specialized art school four years before the baccalaureate.
What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?
As I said before, I admire the Old Masters. For me, the technique must be perfectly mastered. It must not be an obstacle to the imagination of the artist but must accompany positively his inspiration. His personal style must be easily recognized by the public.
What is the role of the artist today?
What is the most important to me is to offer paintings in front of which the spectator will take time to sit down, to enter in harmony with the painting, and then have his own walk, as an awaken dream, giving him, even for a short time, a rare and unusual feeling. My dream: that supernatural, strange, sublime and magic, would take more and more space in our lives and that beauty and spirituality would become a life's belief.
Gold Notre Dame, Phoenix Rebirth - Oil on canvas 195 x 130 cm
One Pearl per day for Judith (tribute to Caravaggio) - Oil on canvas 195 x 130 cm
The Lion in Love - Oil on canvas 195 x 130 cm - Tribute to La Fontaine Book IV fable 1
Lohengrin, My Beloved Swan - Oil on canvas - 195 x 130 cm


Lukáš KÁNDL received the 1st Place Award in the CFA Artist of the Year 2019 Contest. © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist

Rosemary Burn

Rosemary Burn is a British portrait, landscape and still life painter.

Hot buttered toast - Oil on board 30 x 24 cm

British figurative painter, Rosemary Burn chooses subjects which have entered her everyday world; mainly people and seemingly commonplace objects, turning them into extraordinary images. She sees portrait painting as an opportunity to offer a glimpse into the lives of others, exploring themes such as identity, culture, power, and ultimately the creation of today’s world by its central aspect, human beings.

An enigmatic stillness accompanies the paintings, and the use of fluid brushstrokes and lighting enhance the sculptural, three-dimensional aspect of her subjects. She has a longstanding interest in the paranormal and the possibility of other realms; other subjects which are also evident within the paintings are transitory states of existence (melting, freezing, evaporation), and time, described by the very act of painting which encapsulates a point in time through a history of brush marks.

Rosemary studied at Chelsea School of Art, London, gaining an MA in fine art. She is also an accomplished classical pianist.

Path in the Lake District - Oil on board 40 x 30 cm
Lone tourist in Florence - Oil on board 30 x 40 cm
Waterlilies - Oil on board 40 x 30 cm
Portrait of a young boy - Oil on board 30 x 40 cm

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Cher Pruys

"To take my inner visions with my hands and create a work of art for you the viewer... That is the ultimate in self-expression."

The Swimmer - Acrylic 20 x 18 in.


Cher Pruys was born in Regina. Over the years she lived in many places including Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Fort Frances, settling into her present home in Devlin, on the banks of the Rainy River with her husband Mark, 4 dogs and 2 cats.

By age three, Cher was seldom found without a drawing tool in hand. She worked in pencil, charcoal and ink over the years, until, she picked up a paintbrush at the age of 35. Beginning with oil paints, she found her chosen mediums in acrylic, water colour and gouache.

Although self taught, her dedication and talent has seen her work juried into 94 International exhibits, as well as exhibits in numerous non juried shows. She has won 70awards for her work at the international juried exhibits. Included in these awards, the first recipient of a major Canadian National Award, The Mary Pratt Crystal Award of Excellence at the 2014 SCA Open Juried Exhibition, The SCA 1st place award of distinction twice respectively, 2016, and 2017 at The Canada’s 150 show. The Gold Medal recipient for Figurative Painting in The Mondial Art Academia’s International 2018 Competition. The Aviation Week & Space Technology Award Best of the Best, and the ASAA Award of Distinction for the best painting in the ASAA International Space & Technology Exhibit & Competition, consecutively for 2 years. She has had 14 solo exhibits. Cher is also an avid fused glass artist, and a certified teacher of piano and guitar. Her painting “The Bubble” had the honour of being part of the Masterworks from The International Guild of Realism Tour. She Was Elected to the American Society of Aviation Artists as an artist member in 1996, and eventually Was elected as a Foreign Affiliate Artist Fellow, one of only two Canadians receive this honour. Her work has graced the covers of 3 books, 14 magazines, and has-been featured in over 40 international publications. Cher’s works have found a permanent home in private and public collections worldwide.

Cher’s artistic style can be described as Realism with a hint of Abstract in her latest works.

Innocence - Acrylic 10 x 10 in.
A Captured Moment - Acrylic 15 x 15 in.
Crushed - Acrylic 12 x 12 in.
In The Bag - Acrylic 10 x 12 in.

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Gerard Huber

Born in: United States

Lives in: Dallas, Texas

Media: Painting

Describe your work in 3 words: Seductive, sensual and subversive

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Classical Figures II - Amplexus Aeternus

Classical Figures Series – Amplexus Aeternus
"Good art is a vehicle for intimacy, which involves stepping inside of someone else’s shoes and seeing the world through their eyes. Truly stepping into someone else’s shoes is a profoundly challenging and life-changing experience and requires that we set aside our own beliefs, viewpoints, fears, prejudices, and sacred ideas—momentarily—to quietly embrace the beliefs, viewpoints, fears, prejudices, and sacred ideas of another human being. If we can do that—even for a moment—we cannot leave that interaction unchanged."

What themes does your work involve?

The spiritual goal in Buddhism is Enlightenment, which means the willingness to fully embrace reality as it is—not as one might want it to be. That is obviously a goal which is constantly evolving, requires genuine humility, and which one can only approximate. There are two important corollaries to this concept. The first is that most suffering in the world comes from trying to sustain illusions, which my own life experience constantly reaffirms. The second is that reality can’t fall out from under you—only illusions can. And in my experience, they do that with relentless reliability.

The overall theme of my work, throughout my career, has been to ask viewers to step out of their own comfortable frame of reference and thoughtfully reassess their own beliefs, viewpoints, fears, prejudices, and sacred ideas. I am certainly not claiming that my viewpoints are superior or more “correct.” But I am asking the viewer to step inside another way of looking at the world and perhaps consider some realities that might at first be uncomfortable:
the idea that a relationship between two men can be romantic, sexual, healthy, and exquisitely intimate rather than perverse, unnatural, or an abomination in the eyes of God; or  the profound loneliness of a young man hoping for a father’s affection only to be met with a cold, stony, unyielding silence; or
the unfathomable cruelty of a religion that advocates that you love the sinner, but hate the sin when the “sin” is the spiritual essence of that “sinner;” or
that being a “real man,” whether straight or gay, requires humility, integrity, compassion and emotional depth—not bravado, brutality, indifference, and emotional catatonia.

If I am successful, my work might help the viewer to glimpse the inner world of someone who might be very different from them, enable a somewhat fuller understanding of the enormous complexity of the forces that act upon all of us, and hopefully provide some awareness that because of our fundamental interconnectedness any harm we inflict on another being is more damaging to us than it is to our victim.

Within that framework, I also have a passionate admiration for the sculptures of the Greco-Roman gods and heroes from antiquity. These perfected beings are the “superheroes” of my artistic pantheon. Even in their most fragmented condition these statues are astonishingly life-like. Their fragmented bodies both challenge identification of the original persona and, at the same time, invite imaginary completion by the viewer.

The ancient Greeks thought of nudity as embodying a sense of wholeness in which exterior physical perfection indicated internal spiritual perfection—man at his emotional, physical, and spiritual best. Christianity perverted this appreciation of physical beauty through the myth of the Garden of Eden wherein nakedness was equated with evil. I challenge this “modern” contempt for the fully nude male figure, which is thought to be at best embarrassing and at worst indecent. I invite the viewer through the sensuality of my paintings—color, texture, light and illusionistic form—to confront their own beliefs and values about the naked body and to resolve for themselves the question of good and evil regarding nudity in general, and male nudity in particular.

Describe your creative process.

I am enthralled by objects. Or I should more accurately say I am enthralled by “the light that falls on objects”. I am very interested in de-sensationalizing the nude. And I am also intrigued by the ways in which the artist can engage the viewer.

Almost 40 years ago I painted life-sized images of Adam and Eve on the front of refrigerator doors, with Eve holding in her hand a fully three-dimensional apple which the viewer would have to take out of her hand in order to open the refrigerator—a contemporary representation of the Garden of Eden. In order for the viewer to get into the Garden of Eden, he or she had to take the apple and participate in original sin—a commentary on the hidden costs of participating in the abundance we keep in our refrigerators.

In my current work, I have been exploring placing nude figures in banal intimate interior settings, where the naked human being is one of the most natural and innocent things imaginable. The details of these locales—flowers, vase, mirror frame and reflection—are given a similar degree of attention as the figure itself, allowing me to combine my two interests in the figure and the object. By necessity, the viewer is granted admission to this intimate interior space and asked to ponder the meaning of the assemblage of objects and images in that intimate space.

Although I paint from photographic sources, I don’t consider myself a photorealist, nor am I particularly interested in capturing the appearance of the photograph. The photo merely gives me information about subjects that for one reason or another—time, location, scale, etc.—I cannot paint directly in real life. But even as I paint from the photograph, I am constantly adjusting the image from my understanding of rendering illusionistic three-dimensional form.

Although my paintings may have the appearance of classical academic art they are executed through the most un-classical of methodologies. First, I paint exclusively with an airbrush and second, I work from photographic resources. However, I use these un-classical methodologies to construct paintings in much the same manner that classical academic paintings are built—I begin with an uunderpainting in earth tones in which I establish the overall compositional value pattern, and then I “glaze” colors on top of that. I don’t want my paintings to appear to be airbrushed because I came to the airbrush from a fine art background and not a commercial background. I tell my airbrush students that if the first thing that comes to mind when they see a painting is “That’s an airbrush painting”, then it is a bad painting. The image and subject matter are of utmost importance, not the means by which the artwork is created.

What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?

I make art because there is nothing else that has ever captured my interest. I began at 8 years of age doing paint-by-number paintings provided by my parents. Then, at one point, I used the left-over paints to draw and paint my own version of DaVinci’s Last Supper. 

My father looked at what I had produced and thought it showed promise. He took my painting to the Sisters who taught art at the Catholic High School in Waterloo, Iowa, and asked them what they thought. They apparently agreed with my father’s assessment, and he then removed me from public school and enrolled me at Sacred Heart. Despite the fact that my father worked in a meat-packing plant and my mother worked at the counter in the neighborhood drug store, they paid private school tuition until I graduated from high school at Sacred Heart so that I could also have art instruction—which was not available in the public schools in Waterloo. Only one of the many ways in which my father protected and watched over me. 

In addition, other people have been very important to my development as an artist. A major source of inspiration for me throughout my career is a painting completed by a mentor and friend, Shirley Haupt. The title of the painting basically conveys why it is important to me:

The day the last Precious Brushstroke arrived at the Art Historians National Monument Park Reserve, on which occasion highly esteemed art historians presented papers, the most widely acclaimed of which was a seminal study entitled “New Insights into idiosyncratic tactility: Worn pressure areas on shafts, the dents on metal ferrules, and variations in the shape of habitually used sable points of seventeen XX century painters.” 1967

So, for me this work by Shirley Haupt served to validate the journey I had embarked upon in the last semester of my undergraduate study—of purposefully eliminating the obvious gestural mark. This ultimately resulted in my replacing the “precious brushstroke” (what Chuck Close, about this same time, was referring to as the “clichéd” art mark) with the anonymity of the airbrushed mist so that the hand of the artist didn’t interfere with, or compete with, the reading of the image. Initially I didn’t realize that this attitude was already “in the air” amongst artists like Chuck Close, Audrey Flack, Don Eddy, Richard Estes, Ralph Going, Richard McLean, Tom Blackwell, Charles Bell, Robert Cottingham, Malcolm Morley, Ben Shonzeit and a host of other artists.  

Following my undergraduate education, I was fortunate enough to be admitted to Cranbrook Academy of Art where George Ortman became a lifelong mentor, friend, and source of inspiration. At a time when modernism was all the rage in art departments throughout the country, George supported my exploration of photorealism and the use of the airbrush. 

And about this same time I became more fully aware of the fact that I was gay, and it became important for me to incorporate that kind of imagery in my work as well. In 1978, Margaret Walters wrote in her book The Nude Male: A New Perspective that “The male nude is a forgotten subject.” And in 2009, Grady Harp wrote in his Foreword to the book Powerfully Beautiful that “The male figure’s time has come. Or returned!” A lot has happened during the roughly 30 intervening years between those publications thanks to the rise of the feminist movement and the gay liberation movement initiated by the Stonewall Inn riots in New York City in 1969. In both arenas the male nude returned to center stage in the guise of a political statement. So, I began to concentrate on celebrating the beauty of the nude male figure, both sculpted and living.

I don’t think that the male nude was forgotten, I think it was purged by a religiously repressive society. But as society becomes more enlightened and accepting of marginalized minorities the bastions of hypocrisy are crumbling as we see scantily clad men appearing in advertising, more publications dealing with the male nude, and a few brave gallerists willing to support artists who address the male nude.

What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?

We tend to talk about artists as if we think they should be prophets or seers—people who somehow have more insight or understanding than others into life and its meaning. But most often that is not true—and it doesn’t need to be. There is a saying in Buddhism that “great souls endure great tribulation.” Perhaps those among us who have the most insight into life and its meaning are those of us who have gone through the most difficult of life’s experiences, and somehow been able to master and transcend them. Sometimes those people are artists, most often they are not. We live in a culture that expects the artist to have that same degree of insight and understanding. And while I may complain at times about how hard my undergraduate and graduate training was, I still think the prize goes to Victor Frankl or Nelson Mandela.

What I would like to suggest to you is that very few people have the experience with suffering, or the intelligence, or the insight to provide us with grand insights. And very few of the people who have that kind of insight are artists. But what every artist can do is to allow others to step inside of their shoes, see what they see, feel what they feel, understand what they understand, and to allow a moment of intimacy. Because moments of genuine intimacy, when they occur, are profound experiences. They are not “grand insights.” But they are profound—they leave us forever changed at an intrinsic level.

So, I believe extraordinary art is produced by artists who have endured and transcended great suffering. Great art is produced by artists who truly invite an intimate encounter with the viewer and do everything in their power to make their work accessible to the viewer. If somehow the artist is able, through his artwork, to communicate something that resonates with the viewer, then perhaps both the artist and the viewer feel a deeper level of understanding, little less vulnerability and isolation, and a bit more connect to another human being than they did before.

This page was published by Circle Foundation for the Arts © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist