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2021-22 LIFT Series

In this exhibition, Sherry Czekus, Lynne Gaetz, and Stevem Restagno push the boundaries of the figurative art form.

Face Value

The art of portraiture as evolved through time and art movements, from depictions of true physical likeness into a deeper capture of the inner essence of the subject. Today the flattery of beauty and status has taken a back seat to the artistic interest in the human condition. Artist like Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Elizabeth Peyton and Jordan Casteel have helped to push contemporary portraiture into a more compellingly characterization. Where human expressions of vulnerability, angst and inner strength give way to a more truthful portrait.

Face Value artists Sherry Czekus, Lynne Gaetz and Steven Restnago push the boundaries of the figurative art form to introduce viewers to the complexities of human interaction, female empowerment and questions surrounding sexual identity. The diversity of each art practice and execution brings a fresh outlook on how we see the beauty of portraiture.

Suzanne Luke
Curator, Robert Langen Art Gallery

Sherry Czekus

Artist image. Art works have long description

Artists Biography

Sherry Czekus is a Canadian painter based in Waterloo, ON, who completed her MFA at University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. She holds a Bachelor of Arts with Fine Art Studio Specialization from University of Waterloo. She has exhibited her work in private and public art galleries in Canada and the United States. The public domain, specifically the city, is a site of observation of urban crowd culture and its participants that Czekus explores through painting.

Artist's Statement

The rise of urban culture was a social phenomenon in 19th Europe where people took to the sidewalks of the city as a way to see and be seen, interacting and socializing publicly. My paintings, mediated through my photographic urban experience, aim to portray the urban crowd as a single entity. Abstracted segments of the figures and patterns on clothing dominate the shallow space in the paintings that attempt to illustrate the visual perception of the everyday experience of city life. The paintings conceal the identities of the individual figures caught in the scene in an effort to expose the identity of the crowd at large.

During the past months, the pandemic situation has had an upending affect on society globally. The urban crowd has become a health threat unto itself. Its members have been socially distanced and shut inside. The view through the COVID-19 lens reveals a physical and psychological fragmented crowd as it disengages for the sake of the individual. The suggested physical spacing that separates the crowd from itself has become a rhythmic trope of the pandemic event. ‘Series of Disengagements’ portrays the crowd on city streets as it strives to exist through the act of disengagement amidst the current health crisis.

Series of Disengagements

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Series of Disengagements, 2020, oil on canvas, 48 x 48

Series of Disengagements, 2020, oil on canvas, 48 x 48

A pure white background foregrounds five active life size figures crossing the street and walking towards the viewer. Four females are positioned from left to right. They are wearing dresses and skirts with sweaters and ankle boots, flat shoes and sandals. The male figure, on the far right side, is dressed in a t-shirt, pants and dress shoes. It appears to be mealtime as most are carrying some type of take out container at waist level. 

The style of the painting is between representation and abstraction. The faces and unclothed parts of the figures are blank and become a part of the negative space of the background in an effort to conceal the identity of the individual in order reveal a collective character of the crowd itself.

 

Artist's Video

Video Description

TITLE ON SCREEN. WHITE LETTERS ON BLACK:

Sherry Czekus
Series of Disengagements
LIFT Series 2020-2021
Wilfrid Laurier University

INTERIOR. STUDIO. The artist appears in her studio in a head and shoulder pose. The window on the left of the screen and and a colourful figurative painting hanging on the right side. 

SHERRY CZEKUS

I’m Sherry Czekus and we’re in my studio in downtown Kitchener at Globe Studios. I’m a painter and the primary focus of my work is the social aspects of everyday urban crowd culture. I completed my Bachelor of Arts in studio fine art at University of Waterloo and I earned my Master of Visual Art at Western University in London.

TITLE ON SCREEN: What is one of your favorite things and why?

INTERIOR. STUDIO. The view of the studio is of three walls.The left and right sides of the studio show paintings hanging and the centre wall is taken up by a large window with sixteen panes. A table, two chairs and a palette table fill the space.

SHERRY CZEKUS

Here’s the working corner of my studio. Its housed inside the former Bonnie Stuart Shoe Factory in downtown Kitchener at Globe Studios. This is my studio window, and its one of my favorite things. As a painter, I really appreciate the natural light and sounds of the city that it lets into my space.

TITLE ON SCREEN: How has the pandemic affected your art practice?

INTERIOR. STUDIO. The artist appears in the center of the screen in a head and shoulders pose. The grey paned window framing lush foliage fills most of the upper part of the screen. The interior walls are painted white brick.

SHERRY CZEKUS

My process for painting starts with taking pictures of crowds of people in public spaces. The pandemic has decreased the density of the urban crowd for precautionary reasons, but its dramatically reduced my opportunities to gather my photographic source material. So as a result, I’ve taken some time to look back at the photos I reference for paintings, reworking them, reworking some of the compositions and combining crowds from image to image. The focus in some of the new work is less about representation and a little bit more about abstraction as it relates to composition, form and colour.

TITLE ON SCREEN: Why are you excited to be part of the LIFT Series?

SHERRY CZEKUS

I’m excited to exhibit these works in the LIFT Series at Wilfrid Laurier University and exhibit with figurative painters. These works are located in the library where people tend to gather. I hope my series brings a renewed sense of social energy to the space.

INTERIOR. STUDIO. Two paintings hang side by side both featuring groups of figures in an urban crowd. The paintings have no framing and are spaces about 12 inches apart.

TITLE ON SCREEN: Thanks to Wilfrid Laurier University and Suzanne Luke, curator of the LIFT Series 2020-21.

Lynne Gaetz

Artist image. Art works have long description

Artist's Biography

Lynne Gaetz is a visual artist based in Cambridge, Ontario. Many different elements have contributed to her artistic direction: She has studied art at universities in Calgary, Montreal, and in Shantiniketan, India. Additionally, her travels to places such as Mexico, Turkey, Kenya, Morocco, and Chile have influenced her colour palette. She continues to learn, taking workshops, conversing with other artists, and challenging herself to risk new directions. Her mainly figurative work, executed in oils and acrylics, often contains elements of collage as well as gold or silver leaf. She has exhibited in galleries in Alberta, Quebec, and Ontario, and her work is in several private collections. A recipient of several awards, she most recently won “best of show” at The Cambridge Centre for the Arts annual juried show.

Artist's Statement

In my figurative paintings, I sometimes work from photographs, but often an idea arises while I am doing the acrylic underpainting. My decision to integrate mixed media into the work began by accident. About two years ago, while painting a falling buffalo, I spontaneously decided to adhere torn images and gold leaf to the horns. Since then, I have added mystical and surreal elements to my figurative work, incorporating horns, antlers, and tree branches to the heads of figures. I also may include collage in their bodies. There are also words and bits of text integrated into the paintings. I am often asked, “Why do the figures have horns or antlers?” Each piece has an overall mood or emotion or underlying tension. The horns or antlers may represent strength, fertility, sexuality, creativity, and a connection with nature and our animal instincts. But I invite you to view the pieces and come to your own conclusions. What do the words and messages suggest? What overall feeling does the work inspire in you?

The Shadow Selves

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The Shadow Selves, 2020, mixed media, 36 x 48

Image Description

The painting, done in a surreal style with oil and collage, is 48 inches wide by 36 inches high. It features two women in profile, on opposite sides of the canvas, looking directly at each other. Each woman has large two-pronged horns that extend up to the top edge of the canvas. The horns include collaged bits of faces and objects as well as small pieces of gold and silver leaf that reflect when the light hits them.  

Both figures have a horizontal shadow across their faces, darkening the area of their eyes. In the background, there is a shadow, perhaps reflecting on a wall, that resembles an uneven cross. The women wear garments, also collaged with images and words or phrases, such as Sincerity, In the dark, Apocalypse, Of Silence, Defiantly, etc. In the lower centre there is a textured abstract gold shape, almost like a building but with sections torn away.

 

Artist's Video

Video Description

TITLE ON SCREEN. WHITE LETTERS ON BLACK:

Lynne Gaetz
Face Value
2020-21 LIFT Series
Laurier Library
Wilfrid Laurier University

INTERIOR, STUDIO. The artist, a woman with shoulder-length blond hair and glasses, sits in front of her paintings. Behind her on an easel is a painting of two women gazing at each other from opposite ends of the canvas.

LYNNE GAETZ

Hi! My name is Lynne Gaetz, I’m a visual artist, and I’m thrilled to be part of the LIFT show. I studied art as a minor at the University of Calgary and did my major in literature. And then I also studied art at universities in Montreal and overseas. I have balanced the art and writing career over the years but in recent years I’ve been able to focus 100 percent just on painting, and I love it. I hope you enjoy hearing a bit about my process.

IINTERIOR, STUDIO: The artist’s studio has windows on three sides. A potted plant sits on the floor. Also on the floor, leaning against the window ledge, sit paintings including one showing a large face and another depicting a woman resting her head on her chin.

LYNNE GAETZ

This is my art studio. I always have a lot of different pieces on the go. That way, I can just work on whichever piece I’m in the mood to work on. I work mainly in oils but I usually do the underpainting in acrylic.  It dries much more quickly, of course, than oil. And then I can apply the oil on. I just love the vibrancy of oil colours, and I haven’t been able to mimic that quite as well with acrylics.   As you can see, I have a lot of figurative work, not exclusively, but it’s what I really love doing. Yes, the art room is quite chaotic, but it is an art room.

TITLE: Name one of your favourite things and why

LYNNE GAETZ

Aside from family and friends, one of my favourite things is coffee.

IMAGES ON SCREEN: A montage of images starts as the artists speaks

  • A black and white image depicts the artist sipping from a cup of coffee and smiling, because coffee is one of her favourite things, fades to

LYNNE GAETZ

But really, my favourite thing is travel. I’ve travelled since I was young.

IMAGES ON SCREEN: The montage continues

  • The artist is in an art museum in London. She is just nineteen years old, and her dark hair is braided. Behind her one can see blurred images of classic paintings, fades to
  • The artist did some drawings on streets when she travelled in Europe. The image depicts the artist, aged nineteen, doing a large chalk drawing in the main square of Munich, Germany.

LYNNE GAETZ

I’ve lived in India and studied art there

IMAGES ON SCREEN: The montage continues

  • The artist spent about one year in Shantiniketan, India, and the image shows the university. The artist loves to travel and her travels inspire much of her work.

LYNNE GAETZ

I’ve travelled to Mexico where I saw the home of Frida Kahlo and was inspired by that.

IMAGES ON SCREEN: The montage continues

  • Frida Kahlo lived in a place called “The Casa Azul” in Coyocan, a suburb of Mexico City. The image depicts the exterior courtyard with the variety of plants and cacti. 
  • A photograph of Frida Kahlo’s studio. Her wheelchair sits in front of an easel. A completed image of fruit is on the easel.
  • A photographo of the artist is in Cambodia, sitting with her eyes closed. She’s wearing a white shirt and perched facing an ancient ruin.

LYNNE GAETZ

 I travelled all over Southeast Asia, Morocco, most recently Easter Island. Definitely the colours and cultures influence my work.

IMAGES ON SCREEN: The montage continues

  • The artist and her husband are sitting on camels in Morocco.
  • The artist visited Easter Island. The image shows a close up the “Moai” which are monolithic human figures carved by the original inhabitants of the island, the Rapa Nui. The statues are about 15 feet high.
  • A photograph of the artist is on Easter Island. She gazes at a row of fifteen standing Moai statues.

 

TITLE: How has your figurative painting evolved over time?

LYNNE GAETZ

How has my figurative painting evolved over time? I’m going to show you a montage of work over the years.

IMAGES ON SCREEN: A montage of images starts, as the artist talks:

  • The artist, at the age of nineteen, sits by the window of a train. She is travelling in England from Oxford down to London. Her hair is pulled back, and her dark bangs cover most of her forehead. The image is a painted depiction of the artist travelling on a train when she was nineteen years old. The painting is abstract figurative, close to the style of Modigliani.

LYNNE GAETZ

I think, early on, I was definitely influenced by other artists such as Modigliani. But with time, I tried different materials: charcoal, acrylic, pastel, and I ended up mainly using oil paint.

IMAGES ON SCREEN: The montage continues

  • A painting of a street scene. Two women, one white, one dark, appear very happy to be outdoors. One has her face raised up to the sun. The image is abstracted and the neck is elongated.
  • A painting of a woman playing a sitar. One sees only her upper body and part of her hand. Done in an abstracted style, the woman has a streak of blue on her cheek. The painting was completed when the artist was living in Northern India.
  • A recent charcoal drawing depicts a woman’s head and neck. Her hair is scribbled with red charcoal. She is looking off to the left and she has a tiny smile.
  • A painted image of a face is splotchy with bright colours. The man, with bright green hair, is looking down. 
  • In this pastel image, a woman reclines in a red armchair. Her head rests back and her eyes are closed in a position of repose.An oil painting of a woman in profile. She is wearing a large black fur hat and we see her black shoulders. She has a scarf around her neck. The background is textured with gold leaf and shades of orange and yellow ochre. 
  • An image in mixed media painting depicts a lone figure wearing a long black coat and walking in New York’s Central Park. In the background are trees that are vaguely human-like. A couple of cars sit on the side of the curb. The blue of the cars matches the colour of the winter hat on the person’s head.

LYNNE GAETZ

But I also learned to silence my inner critic and just do what I love doing. I started adding more metaphorical elements and messages to my work.

IMAGES ON SCREEN: The montage continues

  • A watercolor crayon portrait shows a serene face, eyes slightly downcast. The expression is contemplative. On the figure’s head is a large yellow rectangular shape that casts a shadow on the figure’s eyes.
  • A water-colour portrait depicts a woman with a large shroud of hair extending to the top and sides of the canvas. Her expression is blank, with one eye in the shadow.
  • A five by four foot canvas depicts two men stand back to back. The man on the left has large collaged horns and he stares at the viewer with a slightly bemused expression. The man on the right is much older. We see the second man, with his grey-blue hair and beard, in profile. Between the men is a pillar or post, and vines grow up it and cling to it.

LYNNE GAETZ

I also like to add some humour to my pieces. I enjoy my tall hat men. 

IMAGES ON SCREEN: The montage continues

  • Three oil paintings depict men with tall hats. We see just their heads, shoulders, and the hat, which stretches up the length of the vertical canvas. The first man stares at the viewer, and his tall blue hat extends beyond the top of the frame. The middle man, wearing a red hat, is depicted in profile. On the right, a man with a large purple hat is in semi-profile, looking off to the side.

LYNNE GAETZ

Collage and mixed media has become really important in my work. I first added mixed media, collage elements to this buffalo’s horns, and ever since, I’ve added horns and antlers to a lot of my figurative paintings. I want viewers to make their own interpretations about what the work means.

IMAGES ON SCREEN: The montage continues

  • A mixed media painting shows a woman’s head resting on her hand. Her hair is a collage depicting fruit, faces, and random words.
  • A close-up shows the eye and horns of a buffalo. The horns include collaged images such as the legs of a figure and a face.
  • An oil painting shows the profile of a woman. A dark shadow obscures her face from the eyes down to her lower lip. Colourful collaged horns extend from the top of her head.
  • In this oil painting, a woman looks upwards, a peaceful expression on her face. She also has collaged horns.

 

TITLE: Why are you excited to be part of the LIFT series?

IMAGES ON SCREEN: A montage of images starts as artists speaks

  • Mixed media oil painting depicts two woman on opposite sides of the canvas. They stare at each other with serious expressions. They both have collaged clothing and horns.

LYNNE GAETZ

I’m very excited about being part of the LIFT series. It’s an honour to be showing alongside talented figurative artists. I hope you enjoy the show.

IMAGES ON SCREEN: A montage continues to video's end

  • The painting has a black (dark) background. Emerging from the gloom we see a figure’s face. She is looking slightly down, one arm extending to the back of her head. Her horns emerge from her white hair or turban.
  • We see the back of a woman’s head. Her hands are reaching up to arrange her hair. We can make out antlers, done in collage. The background suggests storm clouds with light in the centre.

 

Steven Restagno

Artist image. Artwork contains long descriptions.

Artist's Biography

Steven Restagno is a multidisciplinary artist based in Waterloo, Ontario with a Bachelor of Arts from the the University of Waterloo. His work often focuses on queer experiences through painting, photography, video and installation.

Artist's Statement

When it comes to painting, the nude body carries a lot of baggage. It’s been sexualized, sanctified, made passive and idealistic, and used for both protest and pornography. Coming from a queer perspective, I’m interested in using the body to explore questions of sexuality and identity.

I started this series by photographing people underwater, distorted through flexible mirrors and with long exposures. Riffing off of abstractions from the photos, I made paintings on unprimed linen, stained with heavily diluted oil paints. The results are people hidden and misshapen through process, made vulnerable and strange. These ambiguities serve as a way for me to consider the relationship between the body, desire and otherness.

Solus#2

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Solus #2, 2018, oil on linen, 36 x 48

Image Description

Warm and muted colours, blending into the brown linen background, with hints of fluorescent purple and green, giving the abstracted form a likeness to a flower. The figure, which seems to be dissolving, is underwater and has its arms raised and knees lifted up to the chest, with a calm, vulnerable air.

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Artist's Video

Video Description

Text on screen. White Letters on Black

Steven Restagno
Face Value
2020-21 LIFT Series
Wilfrid Laurier University

INTERIOR. STUDIO. Steven talks to the camera with a view of his studio in the background. There are brushes seen hanging on the walls, easels and paintings stacked together.

STEVEN RESTAGNO

Hello. My name is Steven Restagno and I’m an artist from Waterloo, Ontario. I’m primarily a painter but I also work in photography, video, installation and sculpture. I received my Bachelor of Arts from the University of Waterloo in 2019, and this is my studio.

INTERIOR. STUDIO. Steven walks into the studio. Large and small paintings are stacked along shelves. The studio is bright, with white walls and floor, as the sun shines through three large bay windows.

STEVEN RESTAGNO

I’ve got some canvases here, some panels. This is my work area, my desk.This is a new work in progress.

INTERIOR. A large unfinished painting of a man wrapping his arms around a floral bush hangs on the wall. There are big white flowers and vines circling around his body.

STEVEN RESTAGNO

Right now it’s in the underpainting stage where I use diluted acrylic paint to draft it out before going in with oils to render it with more detail. This is the reference image.

INTERIOR. Artists turns to other side of room.

STEVEN RESTAGNO

This is a painting I’ve recently finished.

INTERIOR. The painting is a stoic, front facing bust of a man, cut off at the cuff of his shirt, floating on a cream coloured background. The top portion of his face is covered by red underwear with the letter “K” on it. The edge of his eye is peaking around the fabric.

STEVEN RESTAGNO

I’ve been working with a lot of detail recently, which has been very time consuming but also satisfying.

INTERIOR. Back of studio. A large painting speckled with bright sunlight from the window leans against a shelf. The painting is of a man’s profile, with his shirt scrunched up to the top part of his head acting like a blindfold. The camera moves to the three large paintings being exhibited in LIFT, displayed on easels against a white wall.

STEVEN RESTAGNO

This is another work in progress. Sorry, it’s kind of hard to see. I’ve pretty much got the hair done but the face and garment still need some work. These are the paintings I’m exhibiting in LIFT.

INTERIOR. STUDIO. Steven’s hand touches a part of the painting showing where the brown linen can be seen on the surface of the painting. The painting depicts an abstracted figure floating in water, with vibrant touches of floral like colour, and loose, dripping brushstrokes.

STEVEN RESTAGNO

These were done on Linen, which is this beautiful brown fabric. You can see it poking through in certain areas because I decided to use it as the base colour. This is the bigger piece I’m exhibiting, it was actually done on unprimed canvas.

Text on screen: Name one of your favourite things and why? 

INTERIOR to EXTERIOR. Steven opens the door to his studio showing his backyard, a big green lawn with trees and farm fields in distance.

STEVEN RESTAGNO

One of my favourite things is being outside! We have a really beautiful property here. 

Text on screen: What role does photography play in your creative process? 

INTERIOR. STUDIO.Photographs lay in a row on a glass table. They show nude figures floating underwater in a pool, as seen from above. There’s a large mirror under some of the figures and the ripples of water distort the figures in a surreal way.

STEVEN RESTAGNO

Photography is really important to my painting process. Pretty much every painting I’ve done over the past couple of years has begun as a photograph, and these are the reference images for the paintings I’m exhibiting in the LIFT series.

IMAGES ON SCREEN. The video shows scrolls through Justin Atkins’ website, showing bright and vibrant images of fashion and drag queens. It cuts back to the underwater images, showing one with two bodies intermingled.

STEVEN RESTAGNO

These were actually taken with my partner, Justin Atkins, who is a photographer and artist. We used coloured strobe lights and large mirrors to create interesting underwater shapes and reflections.

INTERIOR. STUDIO.

STEVEN RESTAGNO

Coming from a background in figurative painting, I was interested in how I could incorporate process based abstraction into every stage of the project.

IMAGES ON SCREEN. There are various digital images previewed of an under water figure on a black background with mysterious, ethereal lighting. Two images are seen in photoshop, being edited together.

STEVEN RESTAGNO

So starting with the in camera image, to digital manipulation in photoshop, and ending up as a painting. In each stage, there are element pushing the image more and more into abstraction. 

Text on screen: Why you where excited to be part of the LIFT series?

STEVEN RESTAGNO

I’m excited to be exhibiting in the LIFT series because it’s a great opportunity to show my work somewhere that is a creative and professional space within Waterloo Region, and it’s always nice to exhibit alongside other local artists.

 

Page Owner: Suzanne Luke

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Last Updated: November 1, 2023 1:26pm