The precise convergence of three dynamic forces—culture, environment and talent—combined to produce one of the most collected figurative painters on the American art scene today. Raised by an artistically gifted family near the Caspian Sea in southern Russia, Andre Kohn’s childhood was marked by the natural splendor of mountains and sea, and by an unfettered access to all the creative arts.
His mother was a symphony violinist and his father a noted linguist, writer and sculptor. Both were educators trained in psychology who gave their only child unrestricted opportunity to explore the depths of art and his own obvious talent. Paintings, sculpture and books filled the family’s tiny, one-bedroom home. It was a childhood without material possessions, but a childhood which taught him that the creative arts are the only true wealth. Kohn’s parents also encouraged their son to draw on any surface—including the wallpaper in their home—which they simply re-papered when he grew old enough to favor sketchbooks. His memory of childhood is that “music and art were everywhere.”
While always innovative in drawing and painting, Kohn’s professional art education began at age 15 when he was chosen to apprentice in the studios of Moscow’s most esteemed Impressionist and Social Realism artists. At that time, Impressionism in Russia was nearing the end of a harmonic and prolific century—a prodigious period in Russian art that literally changed the world. Kohn’s childhood and art education corresponded with an eruption of cultural progress in all the arts, including ballet, literature, music and painting. He was principally influenced by such artists as, Nicolai Fechin, Ilya Repin, Valentin Serov, and the classics: Edgar Degas , John Sargent, Joaquin Sorolla.
He fondly remembers the majesty of the University. “The experience was totally unique,” he has said. “The atmosphere was one of huge columns, marble floors and masterworks on the walls. Legends of the Russian art world walked the halls and discussed your work. It was a privilege to be there, and it laid the foundation for my entire career.”
However, fate soon dramatically redirected the young artist’s life and art. His father, a colonel in the Russian Army, was the first candidate to participate in the post-Cold War officer exchange program at the U.S. Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1993, while Kohn was in America visiting his parents, his father announced his intention to defect to the United States. Suddenly, the young artist realized he would never again be permitted to return to his homeland.
Kohn remains a preeminent leader of Figurative Impressionism which seeks to capture the complexity as well as the simplicity and directness of the human form. “I’m seeking my own unique, poetic interpretation of the moment,” he says. “I’m striving to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.”
Kohn’s work is represented by premier galleries in the United States and he is a regular contributor to invitational exhibitions. Kohn is a frequent subject of highly regarded art publications, and his unique ability to communicate the expressiveness of the human form has kept him a mainstay of private, corporate and permanent museum collections worldwide.
Uniquely traditional subjects transformed by a personal vision and a strong sense of color and design distinguish the unusual work of Barbara Gallagher. Her paintings reveal groups of figures that exist in a palette of widely varying settings and moods. She continued to create works of art that were full of mysterious surroundings, of beautiful color; color that is at the same time both vibrant and subtly peaceful. They were carefully composed so that the theme is developed by the viewer's sense of reality and fantasy.
What began for Barbara as a search for a different way to paint figures, in an abstract arrangement of shapes and colors, had evolved into a full commitment to discovering people and their fantasy world within the picture format. The effect is joyful to the soul, moves straight from the eye to the heart, and leaves the admirer wanting to return and enjoy, time and time again.
A dominant figure in the Arts Community for decades, Barbara's work is recognized throughout the United States. A stroke victim in 1995, Barbara had done what people say was impossible; she used her opposite hand to create her paintings. Although the mechanics had changed, the philosophy of the art had not. These mechanics, as once stated by Barbara..."My paintings begin with paint of differing colors randomly applied to the canvas or paper until it is covered. These colors have no direction at this stage. My mind is deliberately open to the suggestions of shapes that appear as the juxtaposition of colors develop. By constanly turning the canvas or paper, and continuing to add glazes and shapes, I work until a shoulder, attitude of head or body appears; then I know what is trying to appear. I continue painting the extraneous shapes, composition, complications, and message of the figures and/or flowers. Pattern intrigues me. So many of my works have elaborate shapes complicating the surface. I work for the pleasure of creating these images, seeing what will appear magically from very random choices of color, and amounts of paint that are applied with as much freedom as possible."
In 2005, Barbara suffered another stroke and it was determined by her family that she should close her gallery (Green Garden Gallery) after 30 years in business. Although her health continued to dwindle, Barbara continued to fight, and paint, up to the time of her death. Barbara was a lover-of-people, understanding of their love for life, and this quality is exposed in every work of art her hands mastered. She is missed terribly by her family, close friends, fans of her work, and all of those that came to know her.
With paintings of guinea foul and roosters, I capture their spirits, laughter, and zest for life. I bring to you the reminder of kindness and simple joys of life. We all celebrate life as human beings. My art says, "Folks, take pride in who you are, laugh, and be nice to one another, but above all 'Celebrate life' past, present and future. Now is what we've got."
My art exudes energy and is a celebration of life, and the overwhelming condition of the human spirit. My art seemed to begin with the death of three relatives that were killed in a ten-wheeler accident in 1995. Through the healing I began to understand and feel the connection with the energy that provides life for all of us. I began to be aware that we are all connected here in the present time to something greater, connected to an eternal force from which we all come. My purpose for this world began to express itself through my art.
I felt directed to express this through my feelings and art. I knew I needed to create something about the importance of the energy of life; the meaning of life to us in this world. But, I didn't have a format for this expression until one day I saw this little chicken in the barnyard, "Being; just happy." I realized that the chicken was a continuation of the life force that is present in all of us.
I began to paint chickens. Chickens with expressions that , were startled, happy, and joyful. Things that were common threads to all of us, not just to the chickens, but also to all of us as human beings; part of the human existence; part of our reason for being here on earth. This revelation came through my growth and understanding of who we are and our connection to the divine force. In the process of painting chickens I began to understand that laughter is a key ingredient in our growth and our understanding of ourselves-who we are and our place with the divine connection with the universe.
When we laugh, we acknowledge in a joyful way that the energy of life is in all of us and in everything in which we are involved. It can be expressed in something as simple as a chicken smiling. I hope as you are enjoying my chickens and my art occupies space in your household ; that every time you look at it, you feel joy come up inside you and it resonates throughout your life. I hope it will make you smile, be happy, and celebrate life. This acknowledgment of ourselves and the joy that comes from being at one with the Universe.