If you get the chance to visit our Museum Gallery this month, twenty-one portraits will be there to greet you! Created by Jon Osborne and Daniel White, these portraits, each with their own stories and emotions, interact with each other to challenge our perceptions of portraiture. You will not find the traditional, formalized portrait style in this exhibition; rather, you’ll find abstract, symbolic portraits stemming from the artists' personal stories. The visual conversation taking place in the Museum Gallery in the month of November between the portraits of Osborne and White is one of vibrancy, personal narrative, and rebirth.
Osborne is a self-taught, contemporary artist from Birmingham, Alabama whose artistic process parallels a stream of consciousness narrative. His portraits reveal events in his personal life or the journeys of those around him. His paintings—many of which gaze directly at the viewer—tell stories of the need for empathy, multicultural acceptance, and personal connection.
Osborne’s Pride and Strength, above, honors the personal story of a friend struggling with LGBTQ+ identity and the strength required for personal acceptance and perseverance. In his Artist Talk during the exhibition opening, Osborne mentioned he created this piece to empower and honor his friend. The bright colors and texture used throughout Osborne’s work are not simply an aesthetic choice; they also represent life and contribute to the paintings’ overall meaning.
“I like to use bright colors because I love things to be alive, uplifting, and inspiring. I do have some work that is more subdued, and I attribute that to what I was feeling at the time." - Jon Osborne
Daniel White is the current director of the Paul R. Jones Museum and the University Gallery at the University of Alabama. Though White comes from an academic background (he holds an MFA in Ceramics from the School for American Crafts at RIT), many of the reasons he creates mirror those of Osborne.
"I paint to understand the world around me, to connect with art history, to connect with others." – Daniel White
White’s oil paintings focus heavily on memory, often depicting water scenes from his childhood or ceramic bowls from his graduate studies. Each portrait gazes off canvas, not making direct eye contact with the viewer. White says he works methodically on the eyes until they feel correct—he never wants to create a traditional portrait where the eyes seem to follow the viewer around the room. The subjects’ gaze serves as the viewer’s transportation into White’s personal memories, revealing a sense of vulnerability and honesty.
“I think that painters have a preferred color palette; and it’s not something you just sit down and write out on paper. It’s an intuitive thing. I do have a preference for mid tones….As a student of art history, I’m drawn to more subdued mid tones often seen in older, traditional paintings. If I can make a brown interesting, that’s fun for me!” - Daniel White
While Osborne uses primarily high-key, vibrant colors, White prefers to use mid-tone colors throughout his work. The color palette, reminiscent of old film photographs, stirs up nostalgia as the viewer gazes into the painting.
Growth is a central theme and is often depicted with natural foliage by both artists. Throughout Osborne's body of work, leaves (seemingly just fallen from a tree) symbolize overcoming adversity, letting go, and moving forward. Three of White's portraits feature leafy vines cascading over the face of his subjects, which, for White, symbolize growth and change in his own journey as an artist.
At first glance, Osborne’s and White’s work have little to do with the other and vary wildly in color and composition. However, when the show was installed in our gallery, it was as if a visual conversation began. Each intentionally placed painting highlights aesthetic and symbolic choices in the ones surrounding it. Each complements the other: Jon's high intensity pinks bring out the brown-pinks of Daniel's work, and Daniel's neutrals highlight the greys and tans of Jon's work.
The twenty-one portraits that fill the Museum Gallery create a conversation about connection, overcoming adversity, and the perception of portraiture.
Face to Face by Jon Osborne and Daniel White is in Kentuck Art Center’s Museum Gallery until November 23, 2020. We encourage you to visit to see this work in person! We are currently open regular hours—Monday-Friday, 9:30-5:30 and Saturday-Sunday, 12-4. Facial coverings and social distancing required.
Please contact us at 205-758-1257 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase before November 23, 2020.
Jon Osborne is a self-taught Contemporary Artist in Birmingham, AL who works mainly in acrylics. Jon holds an Associates degree in Graphic Communications from Trenholm State Technical College and has recently started creating art full time which has been his passion since early childhood. The principal themes of Jon's work are unity, awareness, and identity. He combines these elements to explore issues surrounding the ideas of understanding human experience and interconnection. Jon uses his unique techniques of storytelling, psychology, theory, and meditation to illustrate his view of the uncontrollable world around us while seeing the beauty in it. Jon's style of work has been described as 'bold' and 'intriguing' while using symbolism hidden words, and thought-provoking inspirations to bring awareness of our perceptions.
First Row: Strength is Written All Over the Face, Courage of the Humble, Cham Dance
Second Row: Sandra's Smile, Pride and Strength, In This Moment Be
Third Row: Embrace Change, The Sunshine is for Both of Us, Tabula Rasa Sun
Fourth Row: Face to Face, Perspective of Courage
Daniel White is the current Museum Director at the Paul R. Jones Gallery in Tuscaloosa, AL. His work is figurative painting that explores the realm of personal narratives and the formal principles of painting. The aim is to create a formal painting using informal subject matter. Often, Daniel uses bodies of water as the backdrops in the painting, which is a familiar scene from his childhood. Daniel says, “I paint to understand the world around me, to connect with art history, to connect with others. In my recent work I have focused mainly on the figures in my painting, but it goes back and forth between figures and narrative scenes.”
First Row: Faun, Distiller #2, Boy from Palermo
Second Row: Night Swimming, Distiller #1, Encounter
Third Row: Study in Blue, Memory Painting #1, Erin
Fourth Row: The Hiding Stick