Thirty-five pieces of artwork were submitted for consideration in a juried-art competition at the William Way LGBT Community Center, with 15 works eventually making it into the show — on display through June 29. The submissions were judged by Kaytie Johnson, director and chief curator of the Galleries at Moore at Moore College of Art & Design.
Johnson eventually selected the works of Brett Kuri, Nicole Donnelly and Tom Sonnenberg for the top prize, and the trio will combine their talents to produce a wide-ranging artistic review in 2013.
Oil paint and mixed media
Kuri, 26, is a native of Long Island, N.Y., who first moved to Philadelphia in 2004 to take classes at the University of the Arts.
He left school two years later and headed back to the Empire State, where he earned a cosmetology degree. However, his love of art — starting with his first oil painting in the seventh grade — drew him back to UArts in 2010, and last month he completed his bachelor of fine arts.
In creating “Malakye,” which was inspired in part by a break-up Kuri went through, he blew up a vintage photo of a gay couple and used paint to add his own interpretation and influence on the picture.
“These photos are 3-4 inches and I started blowing them up to about six feet to see what that says both for the photo and for myself as the artist,” he said. “I synthesized this false reality world where these perfect, romantic situations exist where clearly they didn’t exist in my own life. And then the paint comes in to act as a veiling and shifts the space and figures.”
Kuri said he’s tried similar techniques with other vintage photos that tell stories of childhood and other experiences, some of which he may submit for next year’s show.
He said he’s grateful that friends pushed him to submit “Malakye” to the center show.
“I was really, really happy when I found out,” he said about learning he had won. “My friend, who volunteers at the center, and a professor of mine both came to my thesis show and kept telling me that if I didn’t try to get this work into this exhibition, they were going to do it for me. So they kept on me, and I’m really glad it worked out.”
Oil paint and acrylic
Growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs, Donnelly said she was surrounded by an “art desert,” and it wasn’t until college that her interest in the art field was able to flourish.
Now 31, Donnelly has a master’s in painting and drawing, and divides her time between her own art and curating a private paint collection.
In crafting “Pillar” last year, Donnelly relied on a practice she’d developed in the last few years to draw artistic inspiration from her everyday surroundings.
“I started taking impressions from everything I’m exposed to so I feel as though I’ve acted as a filter,” she said. “I would take a half-hour walk to start my day and then arrive at the studio and just draw and not think a lot about the image I was making, but just allow it to develop, like you do with a Polaroid picture.”
Donnelly’s “Pillar” was also influenced by her listening to National Public Radio which, at the time, was focusing heavily on the nuclear-reactor disaster in Japan.
“The two nuclear reactors are in the background in the distance and the ladder I think is the imaginary escape hatch,” she explained. “A lot of people call the figure in the foreground different things, but I think of it as tree trunks, or people see it as a human figure, that is frozen in time, segmented or separated from home.”
Donnelly plans to submit older pieces as well as some yet-to-be-created work for the group show next year.
Her art is also being shown June 14-Sept. 9 at Seaport Museum.
Artist and teacher Tom Sonnenberg began silkscreening decades ago and, after a lengthy hiatus, returned to the art form in 2007.
“I took a class in silk screening a few years ago and then just started doing it all the time again and it’s really worked out,” he said. “It’s the process that I like. I’m a real process-oriented person and love the art process.”
A native of Wisconsin, Sonnenberg has lived in the city for more than two decades and has exhibited in an array of LGBT outlets, including a one-man show at William Way several years ago.
Recently Sonnenberg has done a number of silk screens based off of photos he took of sculptures, both in Philadelphia and New York City. “Unchained,” which he created last year, depicts a sculpture by Maurince Sterne, “Welcoming to Freedom,” which stands on Kelly Drive.
“The sculpture is of two men and they’re like giants, larger than life and they have chains around their arms,” Sonnenberg said. “It was very subtle, and I was attracted to the idea of breaking free. I think that piece was about finding freedom in America but mine is more about having the freedom to be whoever you want to be.”
Sonneberg manipulated the color separation and utilized neons to emphasize the notion of individual freedom.
He has also taken photos of heroic-type sculptures in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and played with the concept of heroism by adding a layer of baroque and a layer of damask, finishing one in pink and another in beige.
“It’s like combining heroism with interior decoration,” he joked.
Sonnenberg is going to Italy later this month, where he plans to draw inspiration for new work, which could be used for next year’s show.
Jen Colletta can be reached at email@example.com.