On Nov. 7, the Clyde and Mary Harris Gallery in the Melvin K. West Fine Arts Center at Walla Walla University opened its doors to a new art exhibit displaying a series of paintings created this summer by Joel Libby, chair of the Department of Art at WWU.
“The work is meant to celebrate the finest qualities in humanity by highlighting individuals throughout history who I believe have embodied those qualities” says Libby.
Libby initially began his series after breaking a rib in a dirt biking accident this summer. “I was in a lot of pain and all I could think about doing was painting,” he explains. Libby found inspiration for his painting after watching a Ken Burns’ documentary about the history of baseball and the players from the dead ball era.
Libby also was inspired by the Austrian painter, Voka, and his art technique called spontaneous realism, which uses various color schemes to portray realistic objects. “I call my technique painterly pop art. I used bright colors from the pop art movement but applied brush strokes, so it feels more like an artist made it rather than stamped out in a factory.”
After using his new painterly pop art technique to paint a few ball players, Babe Ruth being the first, Libby decided to join an art challenge some of his artist friends began. The challenge consisted of making something creative once a day for a month—in Libby’s case, painting something daily for the month of July.
Four days into the challenge, Libby reconsidered his subject matter. “On the Fourth of July, I painted Abe Lincoln in the same style,” says Libby. “Afterward, I thought it would be more appealing to do a series of historically significant figures instead of only baseball players.”
After working in his studio for six to eight hours each day for 30 days, Libby completed his July art challenge. “It was super fun for about the first week of my month of painting, but then it kind of turned into a slog.” says Libby. “I liked what I saw though, and I was happy with the result every day.”
Libby’s paintings include portraits of Jane Addams, John Glenn, Nelson Mandela, and several other influential and historical figures. His exhibition at WWU will be open Monday through Friday from 2-5 p.m. through Dec. 8. The Clyde and Mary Harris Gallery is located at 200 S. College Ave., College Place. Admission is free.
Posted Nov. 20, 2017