Letty Nowak’s exhibition Faces will open at Hal Bromm Gallery in Tribeca on September 24, 2009.
A drinks reception for the artist will be held Wednesday, 23 September from 6 – 9
Hal Bromm Gallery: Letty Nowak
Nowak’s focus is painting faces, but her works are not “portraits” in the classical sense. Described as “Paintings strong enough to get people to pay attention to the quality of the work rather than the person portrayed,” Letty Nowak’s work is rich with color and shadow. Her skill as a painter allows her to capture something beyond the face before her, imparting a sense of deep drama, with creases and wrinkles becoming challenging landscapes. Nowak’s brush brings an unseen perspective to her pictures, inviting viewers to experience a composition that uses light and shadow to amplify and exaggerate facial features, with each face becoming a rich subject for investigation.
Nowak is well known for her Faces of Key West series, painted in Florida where she lives and works. Featuring 100 portraits of Key West citizens, the group includes assorted street performers, police officers, visitors, residents and the city’s mayor. Ranging in size from an intimately scaled nine by six inches to as large as five feet, the oil paintings span a four-year period. All one-hundred were included in a 2004 exhibition at the Lemonade Stand Art Studio, and featured in Nowak’s book Faces of Key West, available at the gallery or through www.lettynowak.com.
The artist talks about her work and career:
My story begins in South Haven, Michigan, a small resort town that hugs the shores of Lake Michigan. My family owned beach shops that catered to tourists looking to soak up every bit of sun in the short summer months. I learned to never let a day go to waste and to love the feeling of a tourist town. I didn’t anticipate this time in my life having such an impact on where I would end up painting.
My interest in portraits started while I was working towards my Bachelor of Fine Arts at Michigan State University. I found it intriguing and challenging to take the image of a face to a new level by giving it a life of its own as a two-dimensional painted surface. I took my subjects outdoors into natural light to let the sun intensify the shadows that were cast on them, which added a new depth to my paintings.
As graduation approached, I knew I needed to find a place to help this passion for painting grow. One October afternoon the answer came to me—Key West, a thriving resort town with a funky attitude. Plus, it was summer all year round with perfect light. It was the ideal place for me to continue my studies. A year later, I was pulling into my new Simonton Street apartment with a trailer full of art supplies.
I painted every chance I had until I was offered an exhibition of my portraits. Once I contacted my first subjects, the Faces of Key West project was born. From the beginning, I knew that I would make 100 and eventually they would all show together as one body of work. The entire project took over three years. I showed the paintings in four different exhibitions as I finished them, starting with the first two shows in 2001. The third and fourth series were exhibited in 2002 and 2003 in my new studio and gallery, the Lemonade Stand Art Studio. The final show of all 100 portraits filled the Lemonade Stand’s walls in 2004. The Faces of Key West book starts with series one and culminates with the last portraits in series four.
From start to finish, the Key West community has given me a great amount of support. I have met an incredible group of people, newcomers and Conchs alike. I even developed an endless stream of models to paint from. This little island town has helped my dream become a reality. I hope you enjoy the Faces of Key West book as much as I enjoyed every moment of the journey.