“The only competition worthy of a wise man is with himself.”
— Washington Allston
When Howard Yezerski, owner of Howard Yezerski Gallery, was asked to be juror of the Bromfield Gallery’s 2019 “SOLO” competition, he was unsure of how the process would work. Sponsored annually by the artist-run gallery in Boston’s South End, the “SOLO” competition offers an advancing opportunity for New England artists without prior gallery representation to exhibit their work in an established gallery setting.
“I was asked to come up with five finalists from a selection of 119 artists, all who submitted around five images each,” said Yezerski, who has been a gallery owner since 1968. “The process involved going through the list around five times; each time winnowing it down until I had five finalists. Once we had the five, the artists were asked to bring the work into Bromfield Gallery where I would meet with them for around 20 minutes to discuss the work. What was most interesting to me is that I didn’t end up where I thought I would.”
Christopher Sullivan and Patricia Kelliher, the two artists sharing the prize for this year’s “SOLO” competition, have divergent aesthetics and choice of media, with a shared passion for portraying the interplay between myth and realism.
“Looking back on the whole process it came down to going with my instincts and keeping in mind what kind of work I am attracted to,” Yezerski said. “Recently someone described my aesthetic as being a combination of ‘quirky and elegant’ which I think is pretty accurate. I find that both Christopher and Patricia fit very well in my ‘box.’”
Combining oil and collage in tableaus both representational and abstract, Sullivan’s winning collection, “Between the Lines,” offers a riveting view of the friction and harmonious elements of human interaction.
“Small Blue Thing” (2018, oil on canvas, 36” x 36”) illustrates a lively conversation between two figures, somehow familiar in their posture and affect. Both bodies appear to be emerging from the ethereal into realism; their lower loosely-defined forms sweeping upward into clearly recognizable faces, hands and upper torso. Sullivan has placed vibrant streaks of color superimposed with delicate circles appearing suspended in the hollow air between the two conversing persons. A provokingly brash hot pink line connects the two, mimicking the linear design of the floor where they are seated. The interplay between portrait and abstraction brings the work into the realm of allegory, translating the content and quality of the conversation into visible form.