Art: The chance to go many miles into one's own mind!
During the evening of May 5 in downtown West Chester, art collectors and enthusiasts can fully indulge their aesthete-driven senses in the borough's annual, self-guided Gallery Walk event.
Sandra Riper, owner of Sunset Hill Jewelers & Fine Arts Gallery, is presenting the 2023 Gallery Walk during a personal milestone year as her team celebrates the group's 40th business anniversary. “Art can be interpreted differently by everyone," she says. "This Many Hats exhibit makes me think about my life in business for the past 40 years."
As a founding supporter of this event, Sandy presided over the West Chester Chamber of Commerce and retail committee that launched the first Walk. "We had 12 fine art galleries and a tremendous amount of artistic talent who lived in our area. We coordinated the Walk with Chester County Day. Every gallery was different, with so many styles and choices -- there was something for everyone, and there still is," she says.
For the upcoming Walk, Sandy will showcase 25 to 30 paintings of the award-winning work of Brandywine rooted but globally renowned Karl J. Kuerner, who specializes in American realism with strong abstract shapes.
"Imagination is key to how you see life. With each painting, I tend to get emotionally involved and lose myself in it. But just when you think a painting is going to go a certain way because you're being clever, the painting signals, 'wait a second, no, this is better.' And you have to be flexible," Karl explains. "Artists are like the chiropractors of painting; you adjust, you adjust and adjust some more."
As a painter who is self-proclaimed "absorbed and moved by farming traditions and Pennsylvanian ancestry," Karl says he had the opportunity to learn the value of capturing life's history and the attributes it takes to sustain true artistry by working alongside and observing the family of Andrew Wyeth, an American visual artist who became one of the best-known U.S. artists of the middle 20th century.
Starting when he was 13 years old, Karl studied under Carolyn Wyeth, Andrew's sister. He exhibited his first show in 1977 beside Carolyn's paintings. He says he also was mentored and "critiqued" by Andrew, which helped him learn to express himself throughout his teenage years.
Karl considers his artistic voice to stem from his keen observations. "It's the personal details and physical beauty of nature or life that catch your eye, and play within your mind. Then studying that concept. Then the idea builds and you have to push beyond your own boundaries. Ultimately, I want to convey what I was thinking and experiencing, and the story that led up to a finished piece," he shares.
"The difference between being a painter or an artist lies in the emotions that a painting evokes."
Solitude plays a huge role in Karl's creativity and artistic style, he confides. "It's about self-exploration, taking chances and not being afraid to go down different avenues."
He says he believes art represents authentic people and places that artists have known, and that a paint brush is an ideal instrument for working "as a different individual" each time one paints, given each artwork embodies a different blend of personal experiences spanning time.
Twenty of Karl's newest paintings will debut in the book titled Emotional Brandywine, about a key American Revolution battle at Chadds Ford. Karl says he again worked with Chester County author Bruce Mowday, following up their book Emotional Gettysburg. The new book is due to be released by the anniversary of the Battle of Brandywine, Sept. 11.
Hailing from Chadds Ford, Karl J. Kuerner was born to third-generation farmers and raised around artists. In fact, he watched realist painter Andrew Wyeth create some of his greatest works at the Kuerner family farm.