Taking a Closer Look at “Portraits of Bohemia”

“Obliteration” by Jason Rudolph Pena. Photos courtesy of artists.

Beautiful portraits adorn the walls as you enter {9} The Gallery – a relatively new gallery located downtown on Grand Avenue, owned and curated by Laura Dragon. The current exhibition is Portraits of Bohemia featuring two local artists Jason Rudolph Pena and Carol Roque. They are self-taught artists that focus on expressing themselves through their art focusing on portraiture. There is a tremendous body of work within the gallery with both artists coming together harmoniously since their styles are so complimentary. Each artist demonstrates great use of color and shadowing bringing an added edge and drama to the portraits while relating pure raw emotion to the viewer. Together these two exciting artists have skillfully reinterpreted the idea of the modern portrait.

Ms. Dragon has been wanting to put together a portrait exhibition at {9} The Gallery but it wasn’t until about six months ago when she met Jason during art detour that the idea became a realty. Laura knew she wanted to exhibit his work and said, “Jason’s work is amazing and I love how he uses found materials to paint on”. Immediately she thought of pairing his work with Carol Roque whom she first met four years ago during First Friday. Laura purchased a print of Carol’s entitled “Rubber Ducky Never Judges” and she has since watched her career and style progress over the years. The inspiration for the title Portraits of Bohemia came from Ms. Dragon’s love of her community and portraiture, “Grand is very bohemian in every sense of the word” she said. When I asked the artists why portraits, Pena simply said “I usually paint portraits because I feel that is the best way to capture an emotion”. While Roque said portraits allow her freedom to “paint what I love or find interesting, and that often involves expressing those feelings through the individuals I create.”

Jason’s portraits are slightly abstracted with the composition cropped to emphasize the face. We see a brilliant use of color that draws the viewer through the portraits, highlighting the subject’s eyes. Compositionally he limits the background distraction allowing the viewer to focus on the face like with his piece “Obliteration”. Jason uses acrylic, watercolor, and ink on found material to creature his pieces. When I asked him about the inspiration behind his current artwork, he simply said “his fans.” Jason said, “people who collect my work, the people who share my posts on social media, the people who tell me they are inspired by what I do; they collectively inspire me.” He has an immense amount of respect for his fans and this is definitely evident throughout his work with the care he takes when depicting each subject.

“Cecilia Deals with Growth” by Carol Roque

Carol’s portraits transport you inside her imagination: playful, witty, with a dark twist. She incorporates a rich color palette, brilliant use of line and shadowing, and a delicate abstraction of her subject. Carol creates amazing original oil paintings, hand made dolls, and prints. A great example of her style is “Cecilia Deals With Growth”, a stunning portrait with beautiful lighting and imagery. When asked about how she chooses the models Carol said, “I based them on what I wanted to express, I find a pose I want to use and change it until it matches what I want to say through the work.” Her work is a reflection of her life experiences which she draws inspiration from for her paintings. Carol said, “sometimes it comes from what I know and understand, and while other times it’s something I don’t truly understand until after I’m finished.”

The Portraits of Bohemia exhibition is an incredible portrait exhibition that you don’t want to miss and it runs until October 4th with a special artist reception on Sept. 20th. Plus, there will be a poetry slam on September 17th with poet Andrea Gibson and an ASU Poetry Slam on Sept. 27 so mark your calendars and head down to {9} The Gallery!

Gallery Teaser
Jason Rudolph Pena Website
Carol Roque Website

by Nicole Royse
Contributing Writer
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