Successful collectors and gallery directors have an eye for creative vision—especially as it pertains to subject matter. On the Connecticut shoreline, this aesthetic is found at Susan Powell Fine Art in Madison, CT. “In addition to drawing skill, color harmony, and mood, I look for creativity in subject matter,” says Powell, explaining her criteria for choosing the artists she represents in her gallery.
Among Kelly Birkenruth’s still lifes, for example, a pear is placed delicately against a crumpled-up Doonesbury comic strip; in her amusing trompe l’oeil oil painting “Help has Arrived,” tennis balls surround a golf ball as a tee dangles by a string. Vincent Giarrano’s painting features a classic black rotary phone; Larry Preston shows us three luscious pears mysteriously pierced by nails and thumbtacks. Cindy Procious chooses unique subjects for many of her still lifes: a Raggedy Ann doll, a pair of Hershey’s kisses, a Krispy Kreme, and a red Tootsie Pop. The unusual subject matter arouses wonder and curiosity.
Traditional landscapes, seascapes and portraits on exhibit radiate with palpable light. Susan Powell’s taste is consistent: “These artists are classically trained, yet their interpretations are modern and unique; they present fresh and varied narratives,” says Powell.
Powell is drawn to creative use of paint application. David Dunlop often paints on aluminum, which gives a feeling of brightness, luminosity and movement. Layers of transparent glazes create depth and atmosphere. Vincent Giarrano softens some of the edges on the figures in his paintings to give a feeling of motion. “Nothing seems posed,” says Powell. “He paints the image to be close to how our eyes see, not all in focus like a camera, but with focal points and soft peripheral vision.”
Michael Naples, a contemporary realist, paints with lively brushstrokes and bold color. Objects glow against an atmospheric background. A slice of bread spread with peanut butter, a vintage baseball balanced on a book, a torn-open bag of M&M’s delight the eye.
The remarkable realism in Dan Brown’s trompe l’oeil oil painting of a torn five-dollar bill and a playing card visually dares you to peel the money away. The viewer’s engaged reaction is gratifying to Powell. “For me, it’s first and foremost about embracing art. Some visitors will take something home, but it’s just as important that everyone enjoys the gallery experience. I’m curious to hear from every visitor, no matter how young or uninitiated. Kids learn by looking, so I always try to get them to look more closely, and at times, I hear something great in a younger voice. I ask them to treasure hunt for objects in the paintings, and what they like and why. Even as young as three, you’ll get an opinion. The parents are often surprised by what they say.”
Susan Powell’s knowledge of fine art comes from a lifetime of learning. Her father painted; her mother was an art historian. She grew up in the Washington, DC, area and says her first babysitters were the museum guards at the National Gallery of Art. She studied art at Connecticut College in New London, and in Paris during her senior year. She landed a job at The Smithsonian just days after graduating with a degree in Art History. After a successful few years there, she moved to Manhattan where she worked as Head of the Painting Department for Doyle New York, one of the world’s largest auctioneers and appraisers of fine art, jewelry, and furniture.
She brings a firm background in fine art and business to Madison. “I fell in love with the town after a few visits,” she says, so it was an easy decision to open her own gallery there in 2003.
Susan Powell Fine Art is a welcoming place—a little oasis on Main Street. Exhibits change every month and Powell hosts an opening cocktail reception to celebrate the artists and art lovers. “Receptions are on Friday nights,” she adds. Visit our website. I invite everyone to come even if you’re just looking.”
Susan Powell Fine Art
679 Boston Post Road
Madison, CT 06443
Phone: (203) 318-0616