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Scott Noel: Apples of Pomona & Mickayel Thurin: Frame of Mind

“Painting beautiful people and things in beautiful light, indeed finding almost every moment of perception a candidate for this beauty, I wonder if a certain fidelity to the ever-renewed ripening of an orchard through all its necessary stages of metamorphosis isn’t an analogy for the privilege of painting.”

- Scott Noel, The Apples of Pomona, 2024 catalog


Gross McCleaf Gallery is pleased to present Apples of Pomona, an exhibition of new works by Scott Noel showcasing a vibrant array of new oil paintings and several acrylic and pastel works on rag board. Each painting is alive with Noel’s spirited intention to, “vary and reconfigure painting’s visual eloquence to express the beauty of the world”.  While the small to medium-sized paintings range in subject from the nude to still-life and landscape, the exhibition is anchored by three monumental, multi-panel figure compositions that demonstrate Noel’s devotion to layered narratives, sophisticated color mixing and his signature painterly touch. These large-scale pieces draw on the themes and archetypes of ancient to contemporary times, masterfully transforming everyday neighborhood scenes into settings where the grand narratives of Western drama unfold.

In Apples of Pomona, two of Noel’s largest paintings feature scenes from the basketball court, using the sport’s inherent rhythm and movement as metaphors for broader human interactions. Complex and enthralling, Parker St. Shootaround, Hippomenes and Atalanta, measures over six feet tall and thirteen feet wide and depicts an impossible number of games unfolding simultaneously on a single court. This work, titled after the mythic race between the swift-footed Atalanta and her suitor Hippomenes, offers an allegory for the playful, yet competitive, dynamics of modern relationships. It could also suggest a commentary on the complexities of today’s digital interactions—where multiple conversations and connections, each within their own sphere, occur all at once on the stage of virtual reality. In this canvas, even the logos adorning the players’ shoes speak to the wider cultural narrative of brand allegiance, yet another type of association. Noel comments, “The Jazz-like rhythm of the playground is, of course, full of cultural and political associations. The movements of basketball can be beautiful and, at times, cathartic. Spins and crossovers are dance-like steps.” Indeed, amid the chaos of the twenty figures and eleven basketballs, a sense of order and choreography is revealed, each player’s movement a part of a greater dance orchestrated by the artist.

Noel’s vast oeuvre evokes a lineage that connects antiquity and the Italian Renaissance with the expressive impulses of Degas and the bold innovations of the Modernists, positioning Noel in the esteemed company of contemporary perceptualists and magical realists. Stimulated by the perpetual confluence of intuition, imagination, perception, scientific theories, mythology and conventional understandings vs. moment to moment consciousness, Noel’s own artistic practice can also be viewed as allegory. When painting, he traverses through the sacred orchard of the Roman goddess Pomona, absorbing and embracing all that surrounds him. Much like Vertumnus, Pomona’s suitor, he is in pursuit of something eternal and beautiful. He summarily opines, “Artists search for a form with enough amplitude to contain everything they care about, everything, however embarrassing, they have loved. For me, painting doesn’t simply show the world, but makes a world so replete, so richly textured, our experience becomes clearer, more nuanced and more meaningful.”

Scott Noel is an artist and educator who has lived and worked in Philadelphia for over forty years. His work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions across the country, notably at The State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, Hollins University in Virginia, and The Bowery Gallery in New York City. His pieces are featured in prominent collections including the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and many others. Apples of Pomona marks Noel’s thirteenth exhibition with Gross McCleaf Gallery.


“The easiest way to reach the universal is through the personal and the vulnerable… I think about [Mickayel’s] portraits as a funnel through to these shared emotions. Her works are an amalgamation of a universal emotion represented through her body.”

-TK Smith, The Scream: Self-Portraiture that expresses Universal Emotion, YouTube, 2023

Gross McCleaf Gallery is pleased to present Frame of Mind, a new body of collaged and tufted textile paintings by Mickayel Thurin. A new visual strategy has recently emerged from Thurin’s work wherein she combines intimate elements from the personal sphere, such as clothing, blankets, and soft craft materials, to create profoundly felt and vulnerable portraits. By depicting deeply personal concepts, Thurin creates pathways for connection and platforms for conversations around subjects that might otherwise be seen as private, sensitive, or even taboo.

Thurin draws directly from her life as a first-generation Haitian American woman living with her young family in the United States, saying, “I’ve always made work based on emotions, but once the work became more intimate and expressive, it became illustrations of emotions. I find the emotions connect people to the work and to our shared experiences.” It is through these illustrations that broader demographic groups such as Black Americans, young working mothers, those who’ve experienced intergenerational trauma, or who struggle with self-acceptance, can find sympathetic and meaningful connections. Furthermore, each portrait has the ability to represent a larger collective sharing, whether it be of maternal peace, the mending ability of a self-soothing mantra or the cathartic power of a guttural scream.

Thurin’s works are inherently attractive, providing a rich experience of color, texture and form. She thoughtfully chooses brightly saturated patterns and textured materials, interweaving them with expressive, painted faces and bodies. Reds, oranges and yellows generate emotive activity, be it zipping across the picture energetically or rippling outward to mimic a holistic aura. This is beautifully demonstrated in Peace, where a pregnant figure radiates divine equanimity with eyes closed, hands embracing her round belly, as she draws the viewer into her moment of glowing presence. In Self Care Sunday, the subject directly engages the viewer while unapologetically relishing in bath time. Beyond the charm and confidence of the expectant mother’s character on display is Thurin’s delightful utilization of an array of surprising colors and mixed-media, such as painted patterning on the drapes and planters, cheerful lime green water, a completely tufted clawfoot tub and gold-leafed floor tiles. In Comfort, the soft blue skin of two figures sinks into the surface with calming stillness, as the couple melts into a protective embrace, their heads replicating the gentle looping ovals of the adjacent fabric.

Each visual notation Thurin incorporates aids the formal interpretation of space and serves to reinforce the narrative details of her works. She regularly enhances her portraits with written words, phrases, and sometimes direct missives in order to make a strong point or to underscore the emotional state of her subjects. For example, the self-affirming language, “you are truly amazing”, hovers elegantly above the depiction of a third eye in Astral Projecting as the figure lays hand on heart beneath a starry night. In Our Words Have Power, Thurin’s main message emphatically suggesting that one “speak with intent”, is comprehensively supported with a myriad of surrounding memos.

Thurin’s deep and thorough understanding of her own internal emotional landscape is deftly conveyed through her paintings. Through pictorial imagery, tactile materials, and messaging, she both mirrors and channels these personal experiences. This approach not only mirrors the artist’s journey, but also offers viewers an opportunity to find their own healing and growth through engagement with her work.

Mickayel Thurin has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Pennsylvania and a Certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She has exhibited her work in group exhibitions across the Mid-Atlantic region and has had four solo exhibitions including “Enter the Subconscious” at Delaware Contemporary Art Museum and “Big Energy” at the Saginaw Art Museum. This is her fourth solo exhibition with Gross McCleaf Gallery, and she has a solo project with Philadelphia International Airport coming up this year. Her work has been featured in and she guest starred on the WHYY television series “The Infinite Art Hunt” in the episode “The Me I See”, which aired on July 26, 2023. She was an Artist in Residence at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in June and July of 2023 and a Visiting Artist at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in September of 2022. In 2023, Thurin received an award for funding from The Foundation of Contemporary Arts. Mickayel Thurin lives with her husband, artist Ben Passione, and their two sons Maurice and Maximo in Philadelphia.