New York: America’s great metropolis. Its architectural bones are enormous; its pace of life so fast that the human panorama goes by in a blur. But for artist Doug Safranek, New York is a city of details; human, structural, neighborhood, intimate. His egg tempera paintings are exquisite evocations of the city’s smaller glories amid its gigantic mass.
Born in 1956, Doug Safranek was raised in Spokane, Washington. He eventually went east to attend Boston College, and afterwards pursued his Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Two of his professors at Madison, John Wilde and James Watrous, proved crucial to the development of his art. Wilde introduced him to the painstaking process of egg tempera, a medium of egg yolk mixed with dried pigment and whose execution requires very fine brushstrokes; Watrous, who had known the American Regionalist painters of the 1930s, gave Doug Safranek pigments which had belonged to Regionalist masters Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry. Though Benton’s and Curry’s focus was almost exclusively rural, when using their pigments Doug Safranek felt kinship with these artists, who, like himself, not only found intimate narratives within a vast environment but who remained faithful to Realism at a time when Modernism and abstraction were dominant.
In today’s “anything goes” art environment of creative experimentation, Realism still survives in the hands of artists whose technical skill cannot be ignored and whose vision speaks to human experience. Doug Safranek’s urban narratives take their place among this honored tradition. Whether city dwellers or country cousins, we all nonetheless recognize the entwined familiarity and secrets of life in a community; for Doug Safranek, it is the community of the city block.
We all recognize the loneliness and maybe even anxiety of waiting all alone at night in a big empty space, or walking along the nighttime street or subway station. And whether we hail from the big city or a small town, we all recognize the beauty of a neon sign at night, the crowded colors of an amusement park, and lovers sharing a moment in time. These are the feelings conveyed in his work. Though his paintings may be viewed as urban love letters, they are also love letters to art itself, to art’s ability to share both the personal and the universal in human experience.
Doug Safranek has been honored with several awards including Montreal’s Elizabeth Greenshield Grant, New York City’s E. D. Foundation Award, the Gold Medal of Honor from the National Arts Club, among others. His work is represented in important collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of the City of New York, New-York Historical Society, Frye Museum of Art in Seattle and the Arkansas Arts Center, among many others.
Doug Safranek lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Reference: Doug Safranek, Both Sides of the Bridge: New York in Egg Tempera, essay by Jane Schwartz. ACA Galleries, New York