Sanam | Visual Art | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
Pin It
Favorite

Sanam 

_Sanam_, Jon Gernon, egg tempera and gold leaf on panel, 2006.
  • _Sanam_, Jon Gernon, egg tempera and gold leaf on panel, 2006.


The idea for the painting Sanam came to Troy-based artist Jon Gernon, as he puts it, in a “flash” when he saw a family friend wearing a T-shirt she’d made based on the “Coexist” bumper sticker. There she was—Sanam, a young Pakistani immigrant, raised in the Muslim tradition, proudly displaying on her body a statement about peace that was written with the combined symbols of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. In that flash, Gernon visualized an iconlike image that would embody a myriad of contemporary and historical issues, as well as a few of his own, while retaining its simple truth as the portrait of a friend.

A self-described nonbeliever, the 38-year-old artist is nonetheless a reverent follower of art history (including its vast store of religious imagery) and an avid reader of books about religion. He is something of an anomaly in the contemporary art world—someone who decided not to finish college in favor of learning his techniques through experience and directly from other practicing artists. After a long period of making mezzotints, a very exacting printmaking technique, he has settled on the equally difficult medium of egg tempera, which is the second-oldest method of painting (after encaustic), and one of the longest-lasting.

Gernon is inspired by such sources as 16th-century Dutch paintings, Russian icons, and the American magic realist George Tooker, but he works in a modern way, starting with a photo session from which he will choose a single pose in black and white as the basis for a painting. With this method he can create a high degree of realism, but he is also creating the colors from memory, which allows an element of expression that is different than painting from life. “I can’t paint from life [in egg tempera],” he says, explaining that the medium builds up slowly with multiple layers. “The model would be there way too long.”

Gernon does not intend his painting to be an attack on any religion, but he admires Sanam’s gutsiness in wearing the shirt when she knows it could draw anger from other Muslims. Perhaps intentionally, his depiction of her with averted gaze defuses the image’s sense of confrontation, giving it instead an air of mystery. As one admirer recently wrote, “Jon’s work reminds us that mysticism is still to be found in our modern age, and that the history of human experience and the art that has captured it from centuries past still resonates today.”
Gernon has deftly woven that combination of mysticism and modernism, the past and the present into his contemporary icons, but he is still seeking clarity and meaning as an artist working outside the mainstream. “Egg tempera is not a dead medium,” he says. “It’s just a misunderstood medium.” Maybe so, but Gernon’s message comes through loud and clear.

Jon Gernon’s paintings are on exhibit through December 21 at Visions Gallery, 40 North Main Avenue, Albany, (518) 453-6645; and through December 26 at Clement Art Gallery, 201 Broadway, Troy, (518) 272-6811; www.clementart.com. www.jongernon.com.

Tags:

Pin It
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Hudson Valley Events

submit event
Summer Flowers @ Gallery at 46 Green Street

Summer Flowers

Aug. 10-Sept. 29 — Summer Flowers combines plant drawings, glass sculpture and wall drawings by songwriter...
Dia Staff Art Show @ Atlas Studios

Dia Staff Art Show

July 19-Aug. 18 — The staff of Dia Art Foundation presents an annual multidisciplinary art exhibition...

View all of today's events

Chronogram on Instagram

Latest in Arts & Culture

  • A Little Touch of Stardust: Where to Celebrate 50 Years of Woodstock in the Hudson Valley
  • A Little Touch of Stardust: Where to Celebrate 50 Years of Woodstock in the Hudson Valley

    Here in the Hudson Valley and Catskills there’s a coziness about the Woodstock '69 50th anniversary. While tie dye and tolerance have never really gone out of style around here, those who’d like to mark the anniversary in some way have a number of local goings-on to slake their thirst for nostalgia, peace, love and music. Hey now, we still know how to brew that stuff from scratch.
    • Aug 16, 2019
  • Voices of the Earth Festival at Seed Song Farm
  • Voices of the Earth Festival at Seed Song Farm

    The first ever Voices of the Earth Festival on Labor Day weekend brings together musicians, dancers, artists, and speakers of both indigenous and transplanted heritage, with environmental groups to inspire a culture of celebration and action toward a healthy Earth.
    • Aug 15, 2019
  • Iconic Woodstock-New Paltz Art and Crafts Fair is Paradise For Lovers of the Handmade
  • Iconic Woodstock-New Paltz Art and Crafts Fair is Paradise For Lovers of the Handmade

    The Ulster County Fairgrounds in New Paltz will transform into a wonderland of creativity, packed with dozens of masterful makers: fiber artists, metal sculptors, woodcrafters, fine artists, jewelers and more for the Woodstock-New Paltz Art and Crafts Fair, which has been happening each Memorial Day and Labor Day for nearly four decades.
    • Aug 15, 2019
  • More »