Kat Murrell
Visual Art

The Colors of Today

The Portrait Society presents three women painters with a strong sense of color.

By - Oct 10th, 2014 05:47 pm
Janet Werner, Paris (Blue) 45 x 54 in., oil on canvas, 2010.

Janet Werner, Paris (Blue) 45 x 54 in., oil on canvas, 2010.

Canadian artist Janet Werner can surprise you, but you might not realize it at first. She is primarily a figurative artist, working from photographs, fashion images, and other printed source material. There’s an awareness of beauty and glamor in her paintings, she often pictures women with wide eyes and pouting lips. But the brush that creates these faces also draws up something under the surface.

Werner is not afraid to test boundaries. It takes a degree of confidence to add dabs of red, yellow, and blue to the patrician nose of the listless blond, whose locks fall upon her forehead with well-coiffed brush strokes. The woman’s eyes are narrowed, directed to one side in a mood that could be read as disdain and defensiveness. It is an intriguing image, beautifully painted, but comes with a psychological barrier built in. Werner notes about her work, “With me there is always this argument between pretty and its destruction. I have a complicated knot of things around the question of beauty.”

Ariana Huggett, View from Entry, 10 x 8 in., oil on wood, 2014.

Ariana Huggett, View from Entry, 10 x 8 in., oil on wood, 2014.

Werner’s expressive materials and the tempered emotions of the people in her paintings are among the foremost pleasures of viewing her art. She is well-known in Canada and internationally for her figurative style, but less well-so in the United States, which makes the Portrait Society exhibition all the more unusual. Even more rare is the inclusion of a selection of abstract and landscape pieces, subjects she rarely shows. The landscapes in particular are luscious, with expanses of land pulled out in long sweeps of saturated color. These pieces are much smaller than Werner’s portraits, but concentrated with her bravura technique nonetheless.

Also featured in the show, and on a more diminutive scale, are the paintings of interiors by Ariana Huggett. Working on small canvases, Huggett set herself up for a few days in various locations. Sometimes in offices and sometimes houses, sometimes by commission, she paints in a way that captures the light, atmosphere, and silent calm of empty rooms. Sometimes the view is split in half by a doorway or hall, as in one example which allows a view into a formal dining room while simultaneously revealing folded clothing in a laundry basket on the bedroom floor. Other compositions are centered on groups of objects like masks or posters on a wall. Huggett’s color palette is deep, warm, and layered with wonderful combinations that recreate light and shadow.

Elly Hazard, Too Tight, 40 x 40 inches, oil on canvas, 2014.

Elly Hazard, Too Tight, 40 x 40 inches, oil on canvas, 2014.

Although she paints a varied selection of rooms, including one in the Portrait Society itself, her imprint as an artist and presence is always felt. There is a tacit acknowledgement of these rooms as unfamiliar territory and the efforts to satisfy a patron, but this does not interfere with Huggett’s judicious gaze. Like Werner, Huggett’s background includes a study of abstract art, and her taste in abstraction is applied to decorative details in the form of curtains and upholstery, as well as the multicolored reflections from polished wood floors.

Coming from the opposite direction is artist Elly Hazard, an emerging artist whose installation in the Portrait Society’s “Project Space” hallway marks her first solo show. Hazard seems to begin from a frenzy of color and electric line, which is honed into representational, metaphoric oil paintings.

“Janet Werner and Ariana Hugget, and Elly Hazard: One” continues through November 15 at Portrait Society Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo Street, Fifth Floor.

Janet Werner and Ariana Hugget, and Elly Hazard: One


Covered Bridge Studio Art Tour 

The Covered Bridge Art Studio Tour takes place this weekend.

The Covered Bridge Art Studio Tour takes place this weekend.

Friday, October 10, 6-9pm

Saturday, October 11 10am-5pm

Sunday October 12 12-4pm

This annual tour spanning Mequon, Thiensville, Grafton, Port Washington, and other points further afield is an open house of more than 50 artists’ studios. Maps for the self-guided, free tour can be obtained at the Cedarburg Cultural Center (W62 N546 Washington Avenue, Cedarburg), which is also the venue for the Saturday evening Shindig Party from 6 to 9pm.


Performing for Cyclops, an Exhibition of Contemporary Video Art 

The Pitch Project Gallery & Artists Studios

706 S. 5th Street

Closing reception and gallery talk

Saturday, 5:30-8pm

This is the last chance to catch this installation of contemporary video pieces by five international artists. Brooklyn-based Kambui Olujimi will speak at the exhibition closing, with a reception to follow at Brenner Brewing.


0 thoughts on “Visual Art: The Colors of Today”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Kat Murrell, Thank you for this fine review of the three women painters at The Portrait Society. Every time I read your reviews I feel armed with insight and knowledge when I go to see a new show, which is invaluable!

  2. Anonymous says:

    On Gallery Night last Friday I did see the show at The Portrait Gallery, and I especially liked paging through Janet Werner’s sketchbook, which was very alive and wondrous.

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