While art exhibits often have grand overarching themes or messages they’re trying to convey — sometimes beyond the reach or interest of the casual observer — art professor David Pettibone’s upcoming show will focus on the subjects themselves.
“Observed Faces” will feature a collection of “freshly observed” portraits of Pettibone’s fiancée, friends and acquaintances. The show will run from Oct. 30 to Dec. 8 at UAA’s ARC Gallery next to the Consortium Library.
“As humans, I think we’re attracted to the figure,” Pettibone said.
He hopes his dozen or so small paintings and drawings give an impression of the subject and convey the sincerity behind the act of creating them. He wants the viewer to be able to appreciate the paintings for what they are and not get bogged down with an overwhelming message.
He likens the idea to a quote by French painter Paul Cézanne: “The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.”
As modern life and art become more complex, Pettibone sees the moments that might otherwise pass us by have increasing significance.
“It’s the small things — those small moments, the whispers that I think are going to become more and more important,” he said.
As a realist painter, Pettibone said he deals with aspects of the physical world like light, space, texture and volume. He’s also intrigued by the physicality of paint becoming flesh — something oil paints can do uniquely well.
He primarily used oil paints for “Observed Faces,” but Pettibone will also include a watercolor and some graphite drawings. While the latter works are still in the same vein as the rest, Pettibone likes to use different mediums so he doesn’t get too caught up with a single method.
The portraits date back as far as 2016, which Pettibone worked on while completing a project for the Anchorage Museum called “Year with a Tree” where he produced a series of paintings detailing the changes of a single tree over the course of a year. That project will be on display until Jan. 15, 2018.
Art professor Riva Symko is on the ARC Gallery board and although she hasn’t seen the complete works for “Observed Faces” yet, she expects to see a similarly close observation of his human subjects.
“This is part of a long history of portraiture in general,” she said.
Originally from Arizona, Pettibone received his bachelor’s degree in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and his master’s degree from the New York Academy of Art.
He first came to Alaska while in high school, which left a deep impression on him. He eventually came back in 2013 to study and paint Iñupiat subsistence whale hunting in Utqia?vik, the city formerly known as Barrow. At this point, he knew it was time to leave his home in New York and move north.
Pettibone finds himself inspired by Alaska and said the experience of living here continues to change and influence him as an artist. As an observational painter, the environment is constantly in flux — a single cloud moving across the sky can affect the light and color of a scene, so he’s learned to embrace change and use it in how he constructs his paintings.
“I’m attracted to this idea that wherever there’s life, there’s death and with the extremes of Alaska, you can’t walk out of your house without being immersed in the natural world pretty much,” Pettibone said.
Pettibone teaches Life Drawing and Composition and Beginning Drawing at UAA.
For more information, go to www.davidpettibone.com.