'Figurative Studies in a Modern World,' an Exhibition of Tim Herron's Work, Opens at Negative Space Gallery This Saturday

click to enlarge “Sister Mary Sinful (and her GQ Jesus)” - Tim Herron
Tim Herron
“Sister Mary Sinful (and her GQ Jesus)”

You might know local artist and owner of The Manly Pad Tim Herron from The Pretentious Cleveland Portrait Artists, his weekly portrait sessions he's been hosting since 2005, or have seen him on a street corner painting a scene.

A new exhibition of his work, opening at Negative Space Gallery (3820 Superior Ave.) this Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m., gives you a chance to catch many of his figurative works all in one place.

Herron, who attened CIA but didn't finish his degree because he felt like the work itself and not the degree was what mattered, worked day jobs at The Plain Dealer, Republic Steel, Lurie Bros Scrap Yard, Eikona Studios, as a cable installer and other odd jobs while working on his drawing and painting, waiting for retirement so that he could make art full time.

In Herron’s figurative work, he renders the subject faithfully while incorporating imaginative elements from a sardonic, hysterical and even sometimes satirical narrative to add another jolly, thought-provoking or jarring sense of fantasy to the scene.

“In my figurative paintings I always hated to put the background that was given the usual figurative set up with the wall, window, drape, desk surroundings so I experimented doing collaborations with artist Robert Ritchie where I would concentrate on the face, hands and exposed flesh and he would do the backgrounds in his non-objective or abstract images,” said Herron. “We would meet in the clothed part with me turning his two-dimensional images more three-dimensional appearing. We entered the old Cleveland May Show at the museum 9 times and only got a drawing of poet Daniel Thompson into the first judging but then rejected. Robert has since passed but I continue to use that experience to create non-objective and abstract images to compliment the figure."

In the piece “Sister Mary Sinful (and her GQ Jesus),” Herron, pulling from his religious upbringing, depicts a Catholic nun sitting in a school desk gripping a ruler and a Rolling Rock, a skull and cross bones necklace chained around her neck.

Jesus is shown bubbling from Mary’s head in a suave fashion-model pose smoking a cigarette. In the background are tripped-out penguins and little guys on surfboards. Bright colors zip around the somber-faced Sister Mary in her own drab ‘penguin suit,’ naked-footed, her boots crumpled beside her in her own sort of Catholic revolution.

The satire against the Catholic religion in this piece is not subtle and gets its point across with its overstatement. If ever there were a piece of art rejecting norms in portraiture whilst embracing all of them, this is it.

In Herron’s work there is a classical reverence laced with humor, rebellion, and just plain fun.

“I really came to despise religion and its belief in an invisible being that knows and loves everyone and lives in the heavens,” said Herron. “What a crock of shit. I have many family members that are religious and I love them dearly but want no part of the Santa Claus Jesus. So I have fun with a concept that was and still is pushed on people. I remember nuns in elementary school and wanted to paint my own version that I thought was hysterical.”

In The Pretentious Cleveland Portrait Artists (PCPA), he hosts weekly sessions where artists from all over tap into his live feed of the models who sit in different poses for a couple of hours, at the end of which the model gets to keep the renderings. It has become highly sought after to pose for this group, which originally started at Tremont’s original The Literary Café.

“So one day at my favorite watering hole The Literary Cafe, Brian Pierce and I were talking about drawing in the back room, which wasn't being used, and offering up our portraits for steady practice,” said Herron. “The owners Linda Baldizzi and Andy Timithy were okay with the idea. While discussing this, another artist, Neil Safron, was having a private conversation which we could overhear, and he was explaining to his friend that Tremont was full of pretentious artists and I thought, bingo that's it. We would be the Pretentious Cleveland Portrait Artists and have fun with it.”

Herron has also been doing plein air painting for roughly 20 years, capturing historic Cleveland buildings, restaurants, delis, bars, and homes. He aims to capture something of historical significance, something with lasting archival value. Plein air painting was popularized as an art form by the French Impressionists. It is the act of painting in the natural environment verses from an image or recollection, from observation rather, whether on-site or indoors.

Herron is primarily interested in the opportunity to make art and wants people to enjoy his work. He doesn’t look at it as way to financially support himself.

“Since I had to work for a living every day to get to practice my art, I do not do it to support myself now, so I don't care about commissions or money but the art I am doing,” said Herron.
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