Peterborough artist showing at Manchester gallery

  • Peterborough artist James Aponovich is currently showing some of his recent work at Kelley Stelling Contemporary in Manchester through June 28. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin

  • Self-Portrait; Maine landscape, (in-progress), James Aponovich. Courtesy photo—

  • The Soup Kitchen, James Aponovich. Courtesy photo—

  • Portrait of a Painter, D.T., James Aponovich. Courtesy photo—

  • Peonies in a Black Vase, James Aponovich. Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/12/2019 1:16:24 PM

Early in his career, James Aponovich did a lot of figurative work.

While he’s best known for his still life paintings of peonies, sunflowers and bowls of realistic looking fruit, Aponovich greatly enjoyed painting the human figure, subjects that included former N.H. Governor Steve Merrill, which hangs in the State House.

But models are expensive and quite honestly “people don’t want pictures of naked people in their house,” he said. So he switched gears, became known worldwide for his still life work and only did portraits intermittently, mostly for family and friends.

“The market tends to direct an artist,” Aponovich said.

Then a few years back, he decided to pick it back up at the request of a friend. His friend’s wife was dying and the couple wanted a portrait of her on her death bed. The painting was never finished, as she passed before he could complete the work, but it reinvigorated his passion for the work.

“I always wanted to do a painting on the fragility of life,” Aponovich said.

So for two years, he did nothing but figurative work, putting together a series entitled Soup Kitchens. A number of those pieces, along with a self-portrait and select still life pieces – 30 in all – now hang in the Kelley Stelling Contemporary in Manchester for his first solo exhibition in the state in well over a decade. The show, titled Out of the Studio, is on display through June 28.

A pair of local subjects are featured prominently in the show. It all started at Nature’s Green Grocer in Peterborough when he came across a man by the name of Peter Skelly. There was just something about Skelly that gave Aponovich this urge to paint him.

“He had such a gentle form. Rembrandt would paint this guy,” he said.

So Aponovich used Skelly in a number of his works, both in portrait form and included in group paintings. He also approached fellow local artist Daniel Thibeault because as Aponovich put it, “he has such a unique figure.”

There are pieces that include both Skelly and Thibeault, along with others that he encountered while doing research at a Manchester soup kitchen near the gallery.

The paintings are much more than just a group sitting at a table. Aponovich wants viewers to put themselves in the situation and think.

“It’s all dealing with the psychology of the table,” he said. “These are like little one-act plays. The job of the viewer is to figure out what’s happening.”

Aponovich also included a self-portrait that shows him sketching out a figure with a painting of a Maine landscape in the background, as well as his Peonies in a Black Vase, which he did while living in Italy.

He likes to believe they include all elements of a renaissance painting.

“Everything that went into a painting from the 1500s in Florence,” he said.

Aponovich will have a show this fall at the Clark Gallery in Lincoln, Massachusetts, where he is represented. He is also represented at Hirschl & Adler Modern in New York City, and has pieces at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester. This show is unique though.

“It’s meant to profile a lot of the new figurative work,” he said.

Admission to the gallery is free. Gallery hours are Wednesdays through Friday, noon to 3 p.m. and by appointment, but there will be special viewing hours this Saturday, from 1 to 5 p.m. to view the show.


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