Art Live: The Sky Painter

If you’re having a bad day, go visit David Katz.   The infectious jubilance of his nature is bound to cheer you up. You’ll leave him with a smile, and maybe a new painting or two. He unlocked the door to his new gallery in West Chester on September 11, 2020. This is, of course, a date always remembered now but what’s more incredible, is the fact that he opened his new business in the midst of a pandemic. What was he thinking? Well, believe it or not, many experts say it’s not such a bad idea. Writer Michelle Mekky said this in a recent Forbes article, “Despite the incredible economic uncertainty of these times, starting a business is a far less off-the-wall idea than you might think. In fact, economic downturns can be the best time for entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams of creating small businesses. Some of the world’s most well-known companies started in very dark times. General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Hyatt and Trader Joe’s were all born during economic downturns… It’s the silver lining of difficult economic times.”

"Entrance Strouds Preserve" by David Katz

Katz’s confidence in taking on this new venture stems from his vast experience in business. Long before he became known as “The Sky Painter”, he had his own retail business in Philadelphia; a health and beauty aid shop, which he ran for 22 years. Along the way he also operated a small hotel and he sold cars. And, sometimes he would create still life paintings after work, assembling various tchotchkes found around the house. When he lived in Fairmount, he fortuitously met his neighbor Elizabeth Osborne while they were out walking dogs. One of Philadelphia’s best known painters, Osborne also taught at PAFA. Katz invited her to see what he was doing and she insisted he should enroll there. He followed her advice and was forever changed by the experience. While at PAFA, he learned more about still life but also successfully mastered portraiture, landscape, abstract and collage.

"Garcia" by David Katz

In 2012, he moved to West Chester for a change of pace and fell in love with the bucolic area. During his first plein air event with friends, he looked up instead of looking out and then he fell in love with painting skies. “I carry a camera with me and walk all over Chester County. I snap a picture when opportunity knocks… now that I’m getting older though, I’ve become strictly a studio painter and interpret my artwork from the photos I’ve taken.” A small corner studio is in the window of his gallery so visitors can see him at work. Asked about artists he admires, Katz mentions Randall Exon as a major influence. “I own one of his paintings and have it hanging in my bedroom. It gives me so much inspiration.” While most of Exon’s paintings are fictions rather than real scenes from life, skies are oftentimes his primary focus too.

The day this columnist visited the gallery, Katz was holding court with several visitors; a wonderful sight to see during these trying times, and he introduced me to a proud new owner of one of his paintings. Six days a week you can stop in and see Katz’s sky paintings along with works by other popular Chester County artists including John Baker, Sarah Baptist, Leander Fontaine, Katherine Noska, Monique Sarkessian, Lynnette Shelley, and Vaughn Stadtmiller. For hours of operation and more, visit David Katz Gallery.

While in West Chester, see The Art Trust’s latest show, “CELEBRATE! Art Ability”. It features the work of 17 artists from the annual Art Ability Exhibition held at Bryn Mawr Rehab. A Covid-19 safe reception is being planned for First Friday, Oct. 2ndClick here for more information. Church Street Gallery is hosting HM Levan in October. In lieu of an opening reception, the gallery will keep its doors open on Friday, Oct 2nd from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. so visitors can stop in at their leisure.

"The Beautiful Woman Has Come" by Marguerita Hagan

Other events worth checking out: Two new exhibitions at the Michener Art Museum make trekking to Doylestown worth the trip. “Rising Tides: Contemporary Art and the Ecology of Water”, is a stunning exhibition showcasing Philadelphia-area artists whose work considers the impact of global warming. On view through Jan. 10, 2021, it includes large-scale painting, works on paper, sculpture and installation work by Emily Brown, Diane Burko, Janet Filomeno, Marguerita Hagan, Pat Martin, Stacy Levy and the late Paula Winokur. Coming soon on October 16 is “Syd Carpenter: Portraits of Our Places.”  Sculptor and Swarthmore professor Carpenter investigated African American gardens in the rural South and created ceramic and steel sculptures combining botanical imagery with tools, clothespins, and other things found in backyards. Visit here for details.

Whatever you do this week, support the arts!!

About Constance McBride

A native of Philadelphia, Constance McBride lived in Arizona for 16 years, where desert observations made a transformative impact on her work as a research based visual artist. Passionate about contemporary art, she was actively engaged in the local arts community. She served as a board member for several art organizations, managed an artist collective/gallery space, curated and juried several exhibitions and wrote for two arts publications in Phoenix. She taught ceramics at Shemer Art Center and Museum and exhibited her work both locally and nationally. McBride returned to Pennsylvania in 2018 and resides in Chester Springs with her husband and two dogs. In West Chester, she serves as a board member at The Art Trust Gallery at Meridian Bank and teaches ceramics at Chester County Art Association. She also teaches at Clay on Main in Oley, PA. She is a member of American Craft Council, Philadelphia Sculptors, and Women’s Caucus for Art, Philadelphia Chapter.

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