I’ve always been a figurative painter. I use bodies in motion to tell my stories, exploring the relationship of a couple as they push, pull, flirt, and chase in dance or play. While doing a body of work on couples underwater, I found myself becoming as interested in the dynamics of the water that moved around my subjects as I was the figures themselves. The shifting water reminded me of the driving force in my work throughout the years: motion.
Suddenly following the currents of water felt as vital to my work as the catching the movements of the couple. In between painting work focused on the figure, I began exploring the water, not as background, but as subject. I’ve come back again and again to this work, and now have devoted the last year and a half to chasing this series. I feel like it is only starting.
What drive me in this work are the forms that shift and move in rhythms that feel tangible yet elusive. These paintings are both water and not. They can easily be considered non-objective paintings about rhythm and movement. The images are often based on photographs taken underwater but quickly deviate into more formal abstract territory: they may start from thoughts of water but function as studies of motion.
While this shift in work may seem abrupt to some, I see it as a continuity of my effort to capture motion on canvas. Now instead of figures, it is paint that pushes and pulls, flirts and chases. One mark calls for a counter mark. One push calls for a counter pull. The paintings become a balancing act of forces. Open space rushes in to fill the void left behind by a strong ripple in the painting.
And the currents dance.
The Water Series
A fluidity of marks, of movement, of the slippery dynamics of relationship, love. Intimacy and connection have been at the heart of my work for years. In the past I have explored these themes through dancers and wrestlers, couples swing dancing or engaged in a pillow fight: it is all the same to me. We, as people, are bound to the ones we love: we circle one another, we flirt, we pursue, we play, we cry, we want from another. My work has used dancing and playing couples to explore these dynamics.
Years ago, I made a group of paintings called the Water Series. During my first year of marriage, I convinced my young wife to sit, swim, and roll through a cold mountain stream while I painted her from shore. Why water? To me, water is the perfect metaphor for love: all-encompassing and powerful. In water/in love, a wave can carry or drown you, but the currents are so irresistible you ignore the concerns from your lungs about breathing. In water/in love, there is nothing else: any other voices are silenced in the enveloping quiet. And in that drowning/flying silence, bodies reach for each other – that is the moment I seek.
This is the relationship of a couple stripped of the social constructs of dance. There is no audience, only these two, raw and unpolished, losing their footing, tumbling, falling, reaching for each other, pulled apart or pushed together by the water.
My mark making has always been fluid. Sliding, running from hand to paper, to canvas: hand to form. Marks find, describe form, around form as water surrounds surface. This new series gives my hand room to play. The abstraction found underwater matches my natural mark-making inclinations, providing me a level of abstraction that I haven’t allowed myself in my recent work.
At its core, this new series goes back to that initial inspiration from early in my career. Here the couple is submerged, out of sorts, upside down, completely immersed: in love. The Water Series is a love story.
Turning Swiftly Through
The complexity of rhythm, connection, and motion found in dance is by nature a whirlwind of sensation. Form flutters in and out of solidity as the focus of attention shifts along the whirling figures. As one sees the splash of light on hair, the arm becomes less important. One feels a light touch of a hand on the back and doesn’t notice the sensation of feet on floor. With this intermittent focus of experience we organize our perceptions, our reality enriched.
These paintings and drawings explore the fleeting perception of bodies in motion.
Clarity in the Flutter
With the painting of figures in motion come certain choices: to allow abstraction to overwhelm or obscure the figuration or to maintain clarity to the point of stillness? It is a necessity of process to lean towards abstraction with the depiction of motion. It’s the blur we see in photographs as the subject moves across the field of view. It’s the flutter in the corner of the eye that alerts us to a shift in the calm.
There are entire careers built on this pursuit: Robert Longo’s figures jump and dodge but ultimately live frozen in clarity. They are depicted in such specific representation that they cannot truly shift from their sole position. There is no flutter in this airless world. His figures in motion cannot move due to the weight of their own rendering. On the other side of the equation we have the figures of Cecily Brown. The lovers in her world move through the pictorial space in a constant flurry. They roll and turn obscured by the elements of landscape. Heavy brushstrokes in the de Kooning tradition carve out figure and surrounding environment with the same intensity. Bodies are lost in the vibration of the marks.
In my hunt to pictorially discuss the relationship of a couple through the dynamics of motion, I have covered ground on both sides: clarity and abstraction. These forces seem cyclical in my working process. It was only a year ago that my figures were swallowed up by the flurry of marks across the canvas. A year before that, intense, solid red grounds gave my figures a clean slate for the precise marks that carved the action from the space. This current body of work, finds the pendulum at mid-swing. Elements from each side push into the picture plane.
The precision of the white ground allows the flutter of abstraction a forum for play. The mark-making can range from loose and flamboyant to tighter and exact without becoming overwhelmed by either the intensity of the ground color or the flurry of surrounding brushstrokes. Against the white ground the figures can shift, turn, and reach without having the gesture obscured by the environment. The white is not merely ground: it also functions as light. It illuminates the figures, presses on them, pushes past them to get to the viewer. The light in these paintings strives to carve form as well as eclipse the dancers. Hair and hands get lost in the glare. The white, here, is both clarity and abstraction.
Out of this union comes new element in the work, a side effect: extravagance. The white tableau allows the action to unfold closer to the surface, unveiled. The dynamics of the couple are brought to the forefront. The picture plane will not hide them as in paintings past. Therefore, the action is in the spotlight. Moments become bigger. Gesture becomes more of a pageant. The specifics of a flowing lock of hair or the pull of an arm are heightened in the dramatic environment. The pictorial struggle between clarity and abstraction forces my exploration of the interactions of a couple toward grand spectacle.
When the heart of music envelopes us.
A magical moment and us, warm tunes cut from deep. We feel joy beyond time and place, when passion drifts melody our way. Our love is the ballroom, and we dance our desire tune. Moving among our soft breaths, we feel lighter than sound. It is all about feeling the beauty and living it through. We are just two beats in the heart of music! By Rim Salamouny.
- 2000 Masters of Fine Arts Painting: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA
- 1996 Bachelor of Fine Arts Cum Laude
- Painting, Drawing, and Printmaking: Western Carolina University, Cullowhee NC
- 2020 Upcoming Solo Exhibition, Kentlands Mansion, Gaithersbug MD
- 2014 Tangle, F.A.N. Gallery, Philadelphia PA
- 2012 The Water Series, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia PA
- 2012 Of Water and Motion, Exhibit A Contemporary Art, Corning NY
- 2011 Pursuit, Alamance County Arts Council, Graham NC
- 2009 Turning Swiftly Through, Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, Wilmington DE
- 2009 Roundabout, Exhibit A Contemporary Art, Corning NY
- 2008 Extravagance!, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia PA
- 2008 Heat, Melanee Cooper Gallery, Chicago IL
- 2007 Chasing, 171 Cedar Arts Center, Corning NY
- 2007 Tempting, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia PA
- 2007 Tempting, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, New Hope PA
- 2006 Flirting, Melanee Cooper Gallery, Chicago IL
- 2005 Sensing the Rhythm, Philadelphia Airport, Terminal F, Philadelphia PA
- 2005 Wild Ride, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia PA
- 2005 New Paintings, Atrium Gallery, Community College, Corning NY
- 2002 Lead and Follow, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia PA
- 2001 Solo Exhibition, Project Room, Phoenix Gallery, Juror: Feresheteh Daftari, New York NY
- 1999 Heads and Heresy, Meyerson Gallery, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA
- 1996 Experiences, City Lights Gallery, Cullowhee NC
- 1996 Ten Artists- Ten Thousand Dollars, Invitational Group Exhibition/Fund Raiser, Asheville Museum of Art, Asheville NC
Two Person Exhibitions
- 2007 Fever, Susan Street Fine Art Gallery, Solana Beach CA
- 2003 Dueling Overhead: Allen Bentley and Chris Lyon Philadelphia Museum of Art, Museum Restaurant, Philadelphia PA
- 2017 Create! Magazine Vol III, Exhibition in Print, Juror: Bridgette Mayer
- 2008 First Annual Juried Exhibition, Sylvia White Gallery, Ventura CA
- 2006 New American Painting, Mid-Atlantic Edition, Open Studios Press
- 2003 Art of the State, Juror: Mary Yess, The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg PA
- 2001 National Juried Competition, Juror: Janet Fish, Bowery Gallery, New York NY
- 2001 National Spring Open Juried Exhibition Juror: Sam Hunter, Wayne Art Center, Ethel Sergeant Clark Smith Gallery, Wayne PA
- 2001 New Directions, Jurors: Claudia Gould, Christine Filippone, Gary Sangster, Main Line Art Center, Haverford PA
- 2001 Young Talent Show, Washington Art Association, Washington Depot CT
Juried Exhibitions cont.
- 2000 National Spring Open Juried Exhibition Juror: Barbara Grossman, Wayne Art Center
- Ethel Sergeant Clark Smith Gallery, Wayne PA
- 2000 MFA Thesis Exhibition, Curator: Claudia Gould, Clay Studio Annex, Philadelphia PA
- 2000 Philadelphia Prize Exhibition, Claire Oliver Fine Art, Philadelphia PA
- 1998 Associated Artists of Winton-Salem’s Southeastern Spectrum Winston-Salem NC
- 2019 Figurative Dialect, Novado Gallery, Jersey City NJ
- 2019 Waterworks, Long Beach Island Foundation of Arts & Science, Loveladies NJ
- 2019 Water, Artsbarn, Gaithersburg MD
- 2019 Faculty Exhibition, Montgomery College, Rockville MD
- 2019 Faculty Exhibition, Montgomery College, Germantown MD
- 2018 Benefit Exhibition for the Rail Park, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia PA
- 2017 Faculty Exhibition, Montgomery College, Rockville MD
- 2016 Invitation 2016, Elder Gallery, Charlotte NC
- 2015 Faculty Exhibition, Montgomery College, Rockville MD
- 2014 Uniting Diverse Artists, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore MD
- 2014 Faculty Exhibition, Montgomery College, Rockville MD
- 2014 Benefit Exhibition for BalletX, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia PA
- 2013 Encounters, F.A.N. Gallery, Philadelphia PA
- 2008 Philadelphia Collects: Works on Paper, Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, Wilmington DE
- 2008 Bridgette Mayer Gallery Group Show, Tierney Communications, Philadelphia PA
- 2007 Black and White Show, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia PA
- 2007 Summer Group Show, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia PA
- 2006 The Red Show, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia PA
- 2006 Firecracker, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, New Hope PA
- 2005 Sum of all Parts, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia PA
- 2005 Bridgette Mayer Gallery Group Show, Tierney Communications, Philadelphia PA
- 2004 The Annual Ithaca Artists Invitational Show, Upstairs Gallery, Ithaca NY
- 2004 Bridgette Mayer Gallery Group Show, Tierney Communications, Philadelphia PA
- 2004 Urban, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia PA
- 2003 A Feast for the Eyes, Thomas Properties Group LLC, One Commerce Square, Philadelphia, PA
- 2003 Drawing as Drawing, Drawing in Painting, Gallery Lounge, Penn State, Harrisburg PA
- 2002 Gallery Group Exhibition, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia PA
- 2002 Adjunct Faculty Exhibition, Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia PA
- 2001 Young and Fun: On Paper, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia PA
- 2001 2001: Contemporary Philosophies, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia PA
- 2000 Faculty Exhibition, C-7 Gallery, Interlochen Center for the Arts, Interlochen MI
- 1999 Group Exhibition, La Terrasse, Philadelphia PA
- 2015 Exceptional Service Teaching Award, Montgomery College, Rockville MD
- 2001 2nd Prize, National Juried Exhibition, Phoenix Gallery, New York NY
- 2001 Juror’s Choice Award, National Spring Open Juried Exhibition, Wayne Art Center, Ethel Sergeant Clark Smith Gallery, Wayne PA
- 2000 Finalist, Philadelphia Prize Exhibition, Claire Oliver Fine Art, Philadelphia PA
- 1999 College of General Studies Teaching Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA
- 1998 Dean’s Merit Scholarship, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA
- 1995 Best in Show, Art Students’ League Annual Show: Western Carolina University
Publications and Reviews
- Studio Visit Magazine, Volume 41, 2018
- Otterbein, Holly. “First Friday Focus,” Philadelphia City Paper, May, 2012
- Apple, Charity, “In ‘pursuit’ of perfection”, Burlington Times News, January 19, 2011
- Hodges, Kadi, “Motion captured in art”, Burlington Times News, January 27, 2011
- Donohoe, Victoria, “His Men and Women Step Lively,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 28, 2009
- Donohoe, Victoria, “Capturing the Dance,” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 24, 2008
- “Featured- Allen Bentley: Heat,” Where Chicago, February 2008
- Toscano, Kendra, “Dancing with Allen Bentley,” Lifestyle Magazine, February 2007
- Strauss, R.B., “Chock full of Goodies,” The Weekly Press, January 31, 2007
- “Of Note: Allen Bentley,” Where Philadelphia, January – February 2007
- “Happenings,” Artmatters, February 2007
- Baker, Alex, Curator. “New American Paintings,” Open Studios Press, Boston, MA, April 2006
- Fallon, Roberta. “New Mayer in Town,” Philadelphia Weekly, Dec. 28, 2005
- Newhall, Edith. “A new Approach,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 10, 2005
- “Happenings,” Artmatters, January 2005.
- Slupe, Ellen. “Art of the State in Harrisburg,” Artmatters, August 2003
- Donohoe, Victoria. “Art of the State Shows Regional Talent,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 2003
- Lewis, Zachary. “State of the Arts,” Patriot News, Harrisburg, PA, June 2003
- Fallon, Roberta. “Dance Fever,” Philadelphia Weekly, October, 2002
- Hill, Lori. “First Friday Focus,” Philadelphia City Paper, October, 2002
- Brakeman, Mark. “Over 100 Artists at 915,” Weekly Press, November, 2001
- Strauss, R.B. “A New Exhibition Makes A Strong Impression,” Avon Sun Grove, September, 2001
- Aramark, Philadelphia, PA
- Tierney Communications, Philadelphia, PA
- The Fox School of Business at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
- The Lofts at Logan View, Philadelphia, PA
- The AYER, Philadelphia, PA
- The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
- Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC
- Adjunct Professor, Montgomery College, Rockville MD, 2013-present
- Figure Drawing I, Figure Drawing II, Professional Practice, Intro Drawing, 2D Design
- Selection Committee Chair: The Christopher Leland Lyon Memorial Scholarship
- The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA, 2008-present
- Workshop, Gaithersburg Fine Arts Association, Gaithersburg MD, September 2019
- Artist Talk, Gaithersburg Fine Arts Association, Gaithersburg MD, September 2019
- Juror for “Risk” National Juried Exhibition, Gallery Underground, Arlington VA, April 2019
- Juror for “Watermarks” Potomac Valley Watercolorists, St. Andrew’s Show, Arlington VA November 2018
- Artist Talk, Gaithersburg Fine Arts Association, Gaithersburg MD, October 2018
- Juror for Gaithersburg Fine Arts Association Exhibition at Kentlands Mansion,
- Gaithersburg, MD April 2018
- Artist Talk, Montgomery College, Rockville MD, 2014
- Visiting Artist, Critic for MFA and BFA programs, The University of Texas at Tyler, Tyler TX, March 2012
- Visiting Artist, The University of Texas at Tyler, Tyler TX 2008
- Adjunct Professor, Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia PA, 2005-2006
- Summer Art and Design Institute: Figure Drawing, Portfolio Preparation, Painting
- Visiting Lecturer, Corning Community College, Corning NY, 2005-06
- Painting I, Drawing I
- Panelist, Rock Solid Finance, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia PA, 2005
- Adjunct Professor, Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia PA, 2001-2003
- Basics Department: Basic Drawing I, II; Figure Drawing I, II
- Summer Fine Art Institute: Figure Drawing, Painting
- Instructor, Chester Springs Studio, Chester Springs PA, 2002
- Figure Painting, Drawing for Young Adults
- Coadjunct Instructor, Delaware County Community College, Media PA, 2000-2001
- Drawing I, Painting I
- Instructor, Interlochen Center for the Arts, Interlochen MI, 2000
- Drawing II, Life Drawing
- Instructor, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA, 1999
- Life Drawing and Anatomy