A continual stream of cars inched down Gallery Row (Broad Avenue South) in Olde Naples, and dived into a parking space here and another there. Inside Gardner Colby Gallery, the champagne flowed and the conversation buzzed with the excitement of Christmas eve, as collectors and the just plain curious viewed Kevin Sloan’s eagerly-anticipated “Cabinet of Curiosities.”
Some came out to re-connect with the artist whose work already hangs over their fireplaces or in dens and studies. Others were there to contemplate not whether to make an acquisition, but which of Sloan’s allegorical paintings to buy. Several of the 16 paintings on display were already spoken for, having been snapped up following Artist Talk on Wednesday, during which Kevin shared the concepts that gave rise to this year’s series of “noble portraits of regal animals,” all of which are rare, threatened, or extinct species (such as the carrier pigeon, whose numbers were once counted in the billions and whose flocks were so big it took three days for them to pass high overhead).
The sales caused Gallery Director Pamela Campe a little extra work. She flip-flopped two of the larger works, moving the one still yet to sell onto a wall with an unobstructed view “to give it its due” on a night more about the art than about the artist or the people who make events like the reception function as seamlessly as they do.
The 16 works on exhibit represent seven months of work. Sloan works carefully and applies several glazes of acrylic to his gesso ground into order to achieve a very realistic end result. He works on fairly large canvases, which gives his paintings a powerful presence, and his images are so vivid, so three-dimensional, they seem to come right off the canvas and into the room. Like the sea turtle in Tropical Tableau (upper left) and the monarch butterflies (those symbols of change and renewal) that hover and float in so many of Kevin’s works.
One of the guests at Artist Talk asked Kevin if he had shelves of objects that he could use as subjects for the still life aspect of his compositions. Surprisingly, he doesn’t. In fact, he doesn’t always work with actual subjects. He takes tons of photos and uses the internet, which he calls a boon for artists because it gives them a rich and virtually unlimited source of images to use as subjects.
It hasn’t been all work for the Sante-Fe-based magical realist. He did get in a little beach time yesterday, but it’s back to work on Tuesday, when a guide will take him into the Everglades so that he can collect photos for his next series of work.
That’s the life of an artist like Kevin Sloan. He must always feed the creative impulse that gives rise to new narratives, new images, new allegorical stories about the rare and the curious and the quiet creatures who depend on us for their continued survival.
“Cabinet of Curiosities” runs through February 2nd.