In the world of art, sometimes things are simply serendipitous and seem to just fall into place.
That is the way Brett Scheifflee and Lana Purnell describe how the opportunity to show their work at Wells College's String Room Gallery came about.
Purnell, a native of Aurora, and Scheifflee, a native of East Aurora (near Buffalo), met while they were both studying art at RIT. Since graduating from RIT in 2008, they have called Aurora home and have been dedicated to the full-time pursuit of their art careers.
Most recently, their work was on display at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center over the summer, as part of the “Made in NY 2009” exhibition.
Since 2008, the couple has been hard at work on a series they call “Affinity,” which comprises pieces that are on display at Wells. Over the summer, Scheifflee e-mailed some photos of pieces from the continually evolving seriesGanis, director of the String Room Gallery. Scheifflee and Purnell said that they were fortunate to catch Ganis' attention at the right time and were offered a slot for the fall of 2009.
Ganis said that he found their work to be interesting, and while the gallery has and will continue to show work of artists from all over the globe, it is also a place to help local artists show their craft as well.
“The artists found me,” Ganis said. “We bring in shows through a variety of means. I receive portfolios all the time, but for all sorts of reasons, many ideas for shows don't seem to be a good fit. The minute I saw their work, I knew that it would look great in the gallery.”
The couple's work can best be categorized as “pop” in the spirit of artists like Andy Warhol. Their paintings fit into the neo-pop contemporary genre, the couple said.
Purnell's preference in traditional media is oil painting on panel, but she also enjoys drawing in pencil or charcoal and working digitally with a Wacom tablet in Photoshop or Painter. Purnell loves looking through art books, thinking about the narrative of a picture and the relationships between characters or design elements that have a psychological impact.
Scheifflee said he loves oil painting and everything about it. This is his first time working with neo-pop subject matter.
Up until last November, when the work for “Affinity” began, he had been producing many realist landscapes and portraits, and also doing very classically inspired paintings. Their current series has found inspiration in everyday items, from teacups to Dots candy. It is this ability to take these kinds of items and give them a unique twist that interested Ganis in their work.
“I think that just about anyone can appreciate the craftsmanship in any Scheifflee and Purnell painting,” Ganis said. “Many can relate to the subjects of wrapped candy or a teacup. But there are elements in their works that also keep experienced viewers interested; whether it's the variety of painting techniques and brush strokes, or quotations from art history, such as the reflection of a window in a lollipop that seems to come from 17th-century Dutch genre paintings. I tend toward art that is accessible, even recognizable, but that also challenges viewers on some level.”
The artists themselves believe that taking these kinds of objects and making them subject matter has a powerful impact on viewers.
“We think, in a way, the everyday objects are transformed, they become a vessel for our own experiences,” Purnell said. “Often the art in a painting lies in the viewer, not in the piece; we hope the images resonate with your own individual experiences. Also, the colored isolation that the objects are found in is in turn very hard to find in our day-to-day lives. We're riddled with tasks we must fulfill, errands we must run, everything is interconnected between our TVs, cell phones, social lives, computer, job, school, downtime, up time. We hope the paintings can be an oasis of peaceful and playful introspection in chaotic times.”