Leveling at Novado Gallery

Diana Schmertz, America’s Social Contract, watercolor on laser cut paper – both sides painted, 7 panels, 28×16 inches each, 2017

“Leveling”, the painting show at Novado Gallery features figurative paintings by Michelle Doll, Charlotta Janssen, Heather Morgan, Stefania Panepinto, Diana Schmertz and Jennifer Watson. Anne Novado,  the director, curator, and co-owner of the gallery, describes the premise of the show as an artistic response to issues that permeate the social, economic, educational, and political landscape –  such as inequality, social status and women’s rights.

The painters, all female, share their commitment to figurative painting, albeit with diverse sensibilities and intent.  Diana Schmertz and Michelle Doll  depict human interactions from different angles, while  Charlotta Janssen and  Stefania Panepinto portray an array of female role models like the unapologetic pioneer women of the Civil Rights movement, and female business leaders. Jennifer Watson looks at notions of beauty in a digital age, and  Heather Morgan’s expressionistic self portraits can read as a form of self empowerment – in a category of her own.

install view Novado Gallery, Leveling Show

Diana Schmertz depicts fragmented intimate moments of contact which lend ambiguity to both the pictorial space and to the boundary between the people portrayed. The viewer is given partial views of the human body, challenging the  perception of what is known and unknown.  Schmertz’s deconstructed bodies are contained in circular shapes which inhabit a white void.  Myriad associations come to mind –  organism cells,  online fragmentation, peepholes, old masters, and old anatomical illustrations among others.  Altogether these cellular shaped vignettes read as part of a logical system which evades categorization.

Michelle Doll  also captures an  intimate connection in a fleeting moment, but her focus seems to be more on  the promise for harmony we can find in human contact and love. She zooms into the moment and captures it as a whole.

Diana Schmertz, Reiteration, oil on wood, 9×9 inches, 2017, photo courtesy of the artist
Diana Schmertz, An Incoherent Longing for Gravity, oil on wood, 20×20 inches, 2015, photo courtesy of the artist
Michelle Doll, Couple (KWTK1), 2017, From the series Between Love and Me, Oil on board, 8 × 8 in
photo courtesy of the artist

In  her collaged painting series “We Didn’t Come Here to be Pretty” Charlotta Janssen  utilizes a rust technique to depict vibrant and bold  female figures with distinct personalities, representing dignified, determined, and often overlooked women of 20th century America.  

In  “Strength in Numbers: Empowered Women Series,” Stefania Panepinto also depicts portraits of women with whom she has had  long-lasting connection, women who empower and transform themselves as well as others.

Charlotta Janssen , Das Geld, 2018, Photo credit of painting: Shannon Greer From the series We Didn’t Come Here to be Pretty, Acrylic, collage, oil on canvas, 2 panels , total dimensions 48 × 54 in, photo courtesy of the artist
Stefania Panepinto , Portrait of Regina Mariano, 2018, Oil on panel, 32 × 32 in, photo courtesy of the artist.

In her meticulous oil paintings Jennifer Watson depicts a Barbie Doll-like Avatar. Overall her work can read as a reflection on the idealized online portrayals of perfection, questioning how physical form and beauty are influenced by mass culture.

Heather Morgan creates with her expressive and incisive brush strokes tumultuous self portraits filled with psychological urgency and at times, alluring sensuality. She eloquently describes her sumptuous self-portraits in the show as oscillating “between an intimate vulnerability and potent self-possession.”  Her female gaze is unabashedly personal – penetrating both inwards at a vulnerable self and outwards at a fluid persona.

Overall, the show enables all six painters to exhibit a substantial body of work which reflects their approach to contemporary figurative painting. Although  “Leveling”  brings attention to female protagonists, the show as a whole embraces meditation on love and human relationship at large.

Heather Morgan , I’ll Fall with your Knife, 2017, Oil on canvas, 20 × 16 in, photo credit: Cary Whittier
Heather Morgan, installation view
Jennifer Watson, Twist IV, 2016, Oil on panel, 18 × 18 in, photo credit: McKay Imaging
Jennifer Watson, The Sweet Spot II, 2015, painting, oil on panel, 20×16 in, photo credit: McKay Imaging

Novado Gallery

The show runs through April 22, 2018

Sun: 12-7, Mon & Fri by appointment, Tues 10-8, Weds/Thurs 10-6, Sat 12-5.

 110 Morgan Street, (In the Modera Lofts Building, Between Washington & Warren), Jersey City, NJ 07302

Artist Talks  

4/15 at  3pm: Charlotta Janssen & Diana Schmertz

4/22 at 3pm: Heather Morgan, Stefania Panepinto  & Jennifer Watson