Beached, oil on canvas, 28″ x 22″, 2019-2020
Beginning, oil on canvas, 28″ x 22″, 2019-2020
Cliff, oil on canvas, 28″ x 22″, 2019-2020
Crest, oil on canvas, 28″ x 22″, 2019-2020
Dragon, oil on canvas, 28″ x 22″, 2019-2020
Eclipse, oil on canvas, 28″ x 22″, 2019-2020
End, 28″ x 22″, 2019-2020
Orthogonals, oil on canvas, 28″ x 22″, 2019-2020
Slab, oil on canvas, 28″ x 22″, 2019-2020
Three Copy, oil on canvas, 28″ x 22″, 2019-2020
Tilt, oil on canvas, 28″ x 22″, 2019-2020
Editor’s Note: All of the images here are all from Anthony Apesos’s Tarot series and were completed between 2019 and 2020. Two additional images of work from the series can be seen at the blog Writing Without Paper, November 19, 2020.
I seek to make manifest the non-tangible in the material world. Through visual metaphor, I represent the nature of human longing — longing for what we’ve never seen and for what we have had and have lost; my paintings are about the ongoing emptiness that propels us through time.
The human figure is my primary vehicle of expression because the viewer’s natural, empathetic response to another’s body renders the expression more vital and clear. At the same time, however, my deeper motive is to capture the fleetingness of individual human lives.
A New Tarot Series
I have always been interested in narrative in text and image but, recently, I have been interested in how images can generate narratives.
I began a series of paintings that I imagined a viewer would be able to arrange and re-arrange while developing stories from each. I realized that this concept had the quality of a tarot deck, so I allowed my series to assume this form.
Traditionally, a tarot deck consists of 78 cards. There are five groups of cards: one is the Major Arcana, with 22 cards; the remaining four groups are suits of 14 cards each, and these comprise the 56 cards of the Minor Arcana.
In the traditional Minor Arcana, the four suits are swords, coins, batons, and cups; for my series, I replaced these with light, wood and stone, history, and animals. The 22 paintings that replace the traditional Greater Arcana do not correspond directly to the traditional deck, although they do reflect the cards’ esoteric quality. What I found was that the tarot deck gave me a structure that in turn, gave me the freedom to explore, in a new way, the kinds of subjects that have always interested me.
My intention is to reproduce this entire series in a limited edition of 100 boxed sets of all 78 cards that can be arranged and re-arranged into countless different sequences to create narratives that might not divine the future but that, at least, will stimulate the imagination.
My process involves working from life, memory, and photographs to create a drawn composition, which then is transferred to panel or canvas. I then proceed to work up the image in oil paint, using the full range of that medium’s technical potentials of opacity, transparency, and opalescent scumbles (translucent layers of pigment placed over solid colors to produce for viewers the effects of depth and texture).
Tradition vs Unfamiliar
While indebted to the American Realist tradition, my work is informed by my fascination with mythology and archetypal themes; in this respect, it has striking parallels with the visual art of the Romantic poet and artist William Blake. Technically, I draw upon the traditions of late Renaissance painting, in particular, that of the Venetian masters. My work is characterized by use of opalescent scumbles and inventive, often unsettling, modes of composition in which figures and background are juxtaposed in simultaneously traditional and unfamiliar ways.
About the Artist
Anthony Apesos was born in January, 1953, in Newark, New Jersey; later that year, his family returned to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where his parents were restaurateurs.
Anthony Apesos attended The Episcopal Academy from 1965 to 1972, after which he received his bachelor of arts degree in religion from Vassar College. He studied painting under Morris Blackburn, Arthur de Costa, Ben Kamahira, and Sidney Goodman at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1975 to 1979, and received a master’s degree in fine arts in 1991 from Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College.
After moving in 1992 to Boston, Massachusetts, Anthony Apesos became chair of the Fine Arts department at the Art Institute of Boston, which now is part of Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Currently, he is a professor of fine arts there, where he founded the institute’s M.F.A. program.
A recipient of many Lesley University Faculty Development Grants, Anthony Apesos also has been awarded a New England Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and a Kress Traveling Fellowship from Philadelphia College of Art.
In addition to solo exhibitions throughout the Northeast, most recently at Boston’s Arnold Arboretum of Harvard (Fall 2020), Anthony Apesos also has shown his work in San Francisco, California. Moreover, he has participated in invitational exhibitions in the Northeast, including New York City, and at Tiajin Fine Arts College, People’s Republic of China. Anthony Apesos’s most recent invitational show was “Three Fabulists” at New Art Center, Newton, Massachusetts.
Forthcoming in Spring 2021 in Source: Notes on the History of Art is Anthony Apesos’s article “Michelangelo’s Jonah: A Study in Multi-tasking.” Currently working on a series of articles on self-portraiture in narrative paintings, as well as book on historical painting methods, Anthony Apesos is the author of Anatomy for Artists: A New Approach to Discovering, Learning, and Remembering the Body, which has been published not only in English but also in French, German, and Spanish.
Anthony Apesos currently lives in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.