ABOUT GREAT ARTISTS & OUR ARCHIVE: The Great Artists Challenge series started in the fall of 2022 with the support of the Wolf Kahn Foundation, and we continue the series in the 2023-24 school year. Each month, we feature a new contemporary artist for YWP's aspiring artists to explore. Scroll through and learn about the artists and their work, be inspired, and create your own great art! Go to the Great Artists Challenge to post your responses to individual artists.
WOLF KAHN – The series began with master landscape painter Wolf Kahn (1927-2020), whose brilliant oils and pastels capture the beauty of the natural world, especially in the way that light interacts with form, with his beloved Vermont as his muse. His dreamy landscapes are uniquely his own creation, somewhere between "abstraction and figuration." [Wolf Kahn Foundation, biography]
EMILY MASON – For most of her painting life, Emily Mason, an abstract artist of intensely bold colors, gained much of her inspiration from southern Vermont, where she spent summers creating her paintings and prints alongside her husband, artist Wolf Kahn. However, each painting was an exploration. “I’d like a painting to take me to a place I haven’t been,” she said in the documentary, "Emily Mason: A Painting Experience."
MORE ARTISTS TO EXPLORE
INKA ESSENHIGH – This New York-based artist has a distinctive style that blends abstraction and figuration in colorful, dreamlike, surreal paintings, often of the natural world.
In a Smithsonian American Art Museum video, "Meet the Artist," Essenhigh says her art is generally considered "approachable" and has a fantasy look because it's "made up out of my head." Forms on her canvas, including people, are often described as flowing, "just a big ball of energy."
Tadder, who was born in 1972, shifted his main focus from advertising to fine art photography in 2017. See Tadder's work at www.timtadder.art, where it is described this way: "Tim Tadder's art expresses the anxiety, uncertainty, and need for hope in an unprecedented period of world disruption. In the face of threats to our planet & our democracy, Tadder’s work juxtaposes comfort & consumption, foreboding & freedom, in order to make sense of the world as it is today."
LYORA PISSARRO – This descendant of Camille Pissarro is an accomplished artist in her own right. Her great-great-grandfather was the Danish-French painter known as the “father of Impressionism,” and her great-grandfather, Paul-Émile Pissarro, was also a renowned painter. In her art, Lyora Pissaro, 31, of Brooklyn, charts her own course, for instance by using 3-D projection mapping.
She told Alyson Krueger of The New York Times in an April 22, 2023 story that she "had to find my take on Impressionism. I couldn’t just do what Camille Pissarro did 150 years ago.” On her website, the artist writes: "Landscapes are windows into nature through which humans can connect more intimately with the majestic spaces they inhabit, they accompany us on our journey inwards, perhaps in our desire to mirror their undeniable stability and peace, within ourselves. Through endless varieties of color, my work distorts the habitual landscape form, blending the digital into the traditional and blurring the elusive nature of reality itself. Worlds are created and connected through endless layers of color, offering an inwards perspective into an inevitably self created reality, where anyone can defy the very own law of gravity."
LISA DIMONDSTEIN – This art photographer from Hyde Park, VT, is among the many inspiring artists featured by Burlington City Arts (BCA). Dimondstein is quoted on the BCA site, describing her artistic process: "Photographing the natural world, for me, is a contemplative process. I am drawn into patterns, reflections, form and light and while I’m photographing time disappears. Through my fine art photography I want to capture a sense of place that may not be literal but holds the feeling or essence of what I’m seeing or experiencing. I’m drawn to a sense of movement and fluidity in images and work with montages, movement and multiple exposures as tools to capture a moment in time."
FRIDA KAHLO – Despite years of chronic pain, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) created art from a young age until her death at age 47. Kahlo's many self-portraits emphasize her distinctive dark brows and steady gaze, and they often depict the physical pain she experienced through her life – childhood polio, a serious bus accident, and multiple surgeries – as well as the emotional pain of her turbulent relationship with artist Diego Rivera. The two artists married in 1929, divorced in 1939, and married again in 1940. Kahlo's art celebrates Mexican and indigenous culture and the natural world, mixing realism with fantasy and exploring questions of identity, class, race, and gender. She joined the Mexican Communist Party in 1927 and belonged to the post-revolutionary Mexicayotl movement, which sought to define a Mexican identity. In her 200 paintings and drawings, the female experience and form are prominent, and she was highly regarded by feminists and members of the LGBTQ+ community. In her final days, Kahlo was unable to leave her home but continued to create art – vibrant still life paintings of the fruits from her garden and nearby markets.
Special thanks to the Wolf Kahn Foundation for sparking the idea for this project and for supporting it! This series is part of YWP's ArtSpace project.