Art — James Aponovich

James Aponovich


By Michelle Saturley


An artist’s view on art - Aponovich shares his still-life visions and dreams

It’s less than 24 hours until the opening of what artist James Aponovich says is the biggest show of his life, and the artist, who has assisted the Currier in obtaining paintings as well as mounting them, is pacing through the exhibition space, inspecting the canvases to make sure they’re tight enough.

“This is my third show here, and it’s the biggest,” the artist said, while keying the canvas of his portrait of former New Hampshire governor Steve Merrill. “It’s certainly the most comprehensive.”

“James Aponovich: A Retrospective” is the latest chapter in the continuing relationship between the artist and the city of Manchester, which began with a solo show back in 1979 at the Currier. The Nashua native has various times lived in Manchester, Concord, Peterborough, and now in Hancock. Many of Aponovich’s earlier paintings reflect his NH heritage, including a series of landscapes of the Merrimack River, along with a large-scale cityscape of the old State Theatre in downtown Manchester.

“I don’t think living in New Hampshire is important to my work, but I like it here,” he said. “It’s beautiful, it’s quiet, it’s calm. Is it the easiest place to make a living as an artist? No.”

In addition to making a living as one of the most celebrated contemporary American painters in America, Aponovich is currently the artist in residence at the New Hampshire Institute of Art.

“It’s probably the best job I’ve ever had — very important,” he said. “I have a studio there, which is working out well. I didn’t think I’d be able to paint there, with people coming in and out all the time, but I‘ve found that I can, quite well. I’m there to teach, but I’m also there to mentor.”

One aspect of being an artist that Aponovich likes to discuss with students is the commercial side — one that he feels is often overlooked.

“By the time these students come to the Institute, they’ve made a commitment to being artists,” he said. “I try to tell them that there’s more to being an artist than creating. There are other factors— how to price your work, how to work with galleries, mounting shows, marketing yourself, paying the bills. The kind of things nobody really wants to talk about, but everyone needs to know.”

When pressed for a favorite among the 50 selected pieces, Aponovich was reluctant to select one.

“I think it’s an artist’s natural tendency to be the most fond of what he’s worked on most recently,” he said. “But if I choose one of those, that wouldn’t be fair to some of the older pieces that have more personal value.”

Aponovich finally decides on two paintings, one old and one new. The earlier painting is “Portrait of Ana,” created in 1984. The painting captures his daughter, who was battling leukemia at the time. In the portrait, the youngster, who is nude, has lost her hair, and sits pensively in front of a collection of plants. Her resemblance to the artist is striking. Ana has since recovered from her illness and will be attending the opening to take photographs.

The new favorite, “Castillo Nuovo: Still Life With Day Lilies and Watermelon,” reflects Aponovich’s trek to Italy in 1995. The trip reinvigorated his work, particularly his still life creations, by infusing them with a new energy and mesmerizing backdrops of the Tuscan landscape.

“Every artist should have the opportunity to go to Italy,” he said. “The landscape, the history—it’s transforming.”

Next, Aponovich is gearing up for a series of gallery talks and demonstrations at both the Currier and NHIA, and then it’s off to another major show in San Francisco. But for now, his mind is totally focused on getting through the next 24 hours.

“Working with Kurt [Sundstrom, the Currier’s curator for the exhibit] has been a positive experience for me, one that I enjoyed,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the public reaction to the results of all that work we’ve done.”

—Michelle Saturley

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