“In Peony Elegy, from the very beginning, I was in a nostalgic mood, aware of past times, missing friends: this feeling increased as the painting progressed. All still lifes have an undercurrent of the temporary nature of things.”
- Frank Trefny
Gross McCleaf Gallery is thrilled to present Frank Trefny’s newest series of vibrant still-life paintings in Strangely Familiar. Following several notable series featuring vases in picturesque landscapes, this exhibition demonstrates a renewed focus on complex arrangements set within interior scenes. Like his previous work, Trefny’s selection of objects and compositional techniques provide moments of subtle surrealism, narrative depth, and allegorical meaning.
Trefny’s passion lies in capturing the beauty of life’s ephemeral moments. Flowers, fruit, shells and tapestries are arranged alongside elegant dishware, bottles and vases in his colorful oil paintings. Each element carries its own unique story. Trefny’s titles sometimes provide additional context by specifying the different types of ceramic pieces, whether vintage or collected from non-Western cultures. The surfaces of his vases and dishes glimmer with metallic and iridescent ceramic glazes, retaining their exquisite design through time. In contrast, the flowers and fruit have presumably browned and been discarded, illustrating the fleeting nature of their beauty - an enduring theme in the still-life genre, often referred to as dead nature in Romance languages.
Image Left: Marble Table With Conch And Pears, 32″ x 24″, Oil On Panel
While the still-life genre inherently reminds us of mortality, Trefny’s work finds levity as well. At times, he anthropomorphizes his objects during the selection and painting process. A small vase may blush with a pink glow, while a decorative box seems to beckon, “paint me!”, and he readily obliges. His compositions convey the evolving relationship between Trefny and his subjects. Vases peek into the paintings from the edges, eager to become part of the scene. In Marble Table With Conch And Pears, the mouth of the vase mirrors its friend, the conch, with both displaying crimped, wavy edges. These nuanced narrative interactions are subtle but rich, adding beauty and mystery to the serene stillness of each scene.
Frank Trefny was born in Greenwich, Connecticut in 1948. He has lived in Newark, Delaware since 1983. He received his B.F.A. from Syracuse University in 1970 and his M. F. A. in 1974 from the Hoffberger School of Painting at the Maryland Institute, College of Art. He also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1968. He has had 10 solo shows at the Steven Scott Gallery in Baltimore since its opening in 1988, most recently in 2016, and has been included in many group shows there. He has had 6 solo shows at the Gross McCleaf Gallery in Philadelphia, most recently in 2019 and has been included in many group shows there. He has had solo shows at the Bruce R. Lewin Gallery in New York, the Jerald Melberg Gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina and the Coplan Gallery in Boca Raton, Florida among others.
His work has been featured at exhibitions at the Delaware Art Museum, the Noyes Museum in New Jersey, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and The Woodmere Art Museum, both in Philadelphia, as well as other museum venues. Trefny was the cover artist and the subject of a feature article in American Artist Magazine in December 1987 and again in 2009. He was also selected as the cover artist for Reader’s Digest in April 1995. His work has been reviewed in Art in America by critic Gerrit Henry and is represented in numerous major corporate and private collections including that of President Joseph and First Lady Jill Biden.
Image Right: Marble Table With Roses And An Orange, 32″ x 24″, Oil On Panel
October 12 - November 11, 2023
Opening Reception: Saturday, October 14, 1 - 4 pm