MARA Art Studio + Gallery presents “About Face,” featuring large-scale contemporary abstracts by Craig Palmer, April 1-29. The opening reception will take place on Friday, April 1, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., and is sponsored by HALO Arts Project. The gallery is at 1421 5th Street, Suite A, Sarasota. For more information, call (941) 914-8110 or visit MaraStudioGallery.com.
Craig Palmer is a classically trained artist who has spent over 30 years specializing in traditional oil portraits. After decades of introspection, he began to explore the integration of realism and abstraction by taking the skills and knowledge he acquired as a realist artist and applying them to abstract painting.
“As I evolved as an artist, I began to see the world through a new and exciting lens,” says Palmer. “I found that I could apply the traditional techniques I had been trained in, which at times felt overwhelming, and learn to appreciate the playfulness of creating large format abstract concepts. Instead of making my subjects come to life , I try to capture the spirit and soul of everything I paint.” He adds that the work presented in this exhibition is “the culmination of my journey from portrait painter to abstract artist”.
Mara Torres González, who opened MARA Art Studio + Gallery in Sarasota’s downtown Rosemary neighborhood in 2020, says she’s excited to show Palmer’s work. “Craig creates paintings that reflect his love for the environment using the colors, shapes and textures found in nature,” she says. “We look forward to sharing his most recent works with the public.”
Craig Palmer graduated from the Parsons School of Design as an illustration major in 1983. His first regular portrait commissions came from painting portraits of retired New York police officers. His work during these early years was devoted to creating highly detailed renderings from photographic references using acrylics and finely sharpened pencil. He was coloring between the lines and was applauded for it. It’s the kind of work that landed him his first full-time job as a commercial illustrator at a daily newspaper. While the work was exciting and exhilarating, he was never truly inspired as an artist; he was just “coloring between the lines and that was just work”. Eventually Palmer met Tom Buechner, an acclaimed artist, who became his mentor. Palmer says Buechner taught him that “painting is simple. All you have to do is take the perfect color, put it in the perfect place with the perfect stroke, and you have a great painting.” Palmer says that while that was still his goal, he spent more years with a “love/hate relationship with the art. I couldn’t get rid of my addiction to detail, beyond rendering of all.” After decades of soul-searching, Palmer did what he thought he could never do… Craig created his first abstract painting. “Finally, at 60, I color outside the lines. My artistic life has come full circle.”
Torres González explains that his gallery is also “a home for workshops, classes and special events and celebrations. I believe strongly in the power of community. We keep our doors open to regional artists.” MARA Art Studio + Gallery features a powerful lineup of local talent including Lisa DiFranza, Grace Howl, Midge Johnson, Craig Palmer, Ralph Berger and David Erdman and others. González adds that she is currently looking for new artists to join the gallery.