SOCIAL REALIST PAINTINGS
by GUY COLWELL


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"Litter Beach"
1995-2001
acrylic and oil on canvas 87" x 96"

currently on extended loan to
the Pritikin Museum of San Francisco

Our destruction of the planet is made worse by our unconsciousness. This ability to filter out the ugliness we perpetrate has been an historical and deplorable fact for as long as humans have been casting aside their waste. But things may be changing. If we returned to the times before bottle deposits and recycling took profusions of glass and plastic litter off the streets and beaches, our minds might reel in shock at the messes we used to accept as normal and inevitable. Hopefully oil spills, acid rain, dying forests, disappearing polar ice and accelerated extinctions will finally awaken us to our inescapable role as stewards and caregivers to the Earth.

"Bread Line"
2008
acrylic on canvas
56" x 74"

The contrast between wealth and poverty, so long as this gulf exists, should and will be an urgent subject for the visual artist to explore  just as it is for the sociologist, economist or political scientist. Artistically, this painting has drawn inspiration from Italian Renaissance experiments in perspective. The clean, empty and sometimes mysterious spaces in works by Rafael, Piero and others seemed the perfect type of background against which to place a group of poor and hungry people.


"Reception"
2008
acrylic on canvas
30" x 38 1/2"

This picture contrasting rich/poor, work/fun, necessity/frivolity has a personal and autobiographical slant. Its full title is Reception: Self Portrait with Mop. I worked, at the time I did this painting, as a janitor for a theater company, cleaning many spills and messes at many parties, openings and receptions. I used a style of crisp realism inspired by the Northern Renaissance work of masters like Van Eyck and Brueghal.
Dancers Wanting Gravity
2010
acrylic on canvas
39" x 55"

It sometimes seems remarkable in a world still filled with violence, terror, hunger and destruction that many people, especially those from the richest countries, can dance and sing and party on as if only happiness and pleasure exist. Is this lack of gravity in the face of misery and suffering the best of all possible ways to point in the direction of happiness, or are stupidly frivolous people just making things worse?
Epidemic
2009
acrylic on canvas

Acquired by the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, for their permanent collection.

"Students"
2006
acrylic on canvas
38" x 51"

To study the history, sociology and politics of our species will expose the student to a panoply of horrors. But careful study also shows human progress. There is less legal slavery, more orderly societies living by more and more rational laws. There is more international dialogue and greater interdependence. There are new forms of communication that are breaking down the distances and barriers that have always made humans into strangers to one another. There are fewer and fewer great national wars. In the midst of the persisting horrors, there is reason to hope a better world is emerging. The student who wishes to make a positive contribution to the world has to hold on to this hope and work out some way to avoid joining in the madness.


"Recovering Bodies"
2006

acrylic on canvas
37" x 48"

"Rebuild"
2006
oil on canvas
40"

Life goes on” is the theme of this picture. Some may be so unfortunate as to suffer devastation. But the species continues to reproduce, the sun shines and the sea abides even as we must sometimes recover and rebuild after natural or man-made disaster. It's good to still be alive and we know our spirits will renew and our lives resume. This picture suggests there can also be a “re-sorting” as a disaster might offer an opportunity to rethink the direction of our lives. Here this couple could be sorting stones back into same color piles or making a new pile of mixed color.


"Aftermath"
2004
acrylic on canvas
30" x 40"
                            Ebola Treatment Center
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