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'sinister gentility'

“Sinister Gentility”

Local Painter Steve Negrón shows at Gaga Gallery through June

By Deahn Berrini Leblang (Patch Poster) - May 20, 2012 1:06 am ET

A rabbit runs across Walker Road, just in front of Steve Negrón’s car. It escapes death in two ways. One, Negrón doesn’t hit and kill it. Two, its image finds its way into one of his paintings.

The painting, acrylic on board, is “misses bates takes another lover,” and the rabbit flees toward the upper right side of the canvas, away from the woman who hides a knife behind her back.

The rabbit seems to sense what the man holding his head in his hands in the lower right corner knows, that Misses Bates, whoever she is, plots a murder. What’s funny or alarming, depending on your point of view, is that the intended victim, wine glass casually by his side, has no idea of what’s to come. And really neither does the viewer. This is exactly the way Negrón likes it--while his work tells stories, he also “wants them to be open to interpretations.”

The stylized figures, the blue toned colors, the distorted perspective, and the geometric patterns that look almost like fabric are all signature Negrón. He credits a combination of varied influences. Negrón readily admits “an affinity” for the dark humor of Edward Gorey, whose lanky gothic figures are the opening credits public television’s Mystery. Egyptian art, with its flattened figures “still inform him.” Over 20 years ago, while a student, Negrón spent a summer as a security guard in the Egyptian wing of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Travels are another influence. He owns a small house in the Abruzzo region in Italy, near the Adriatic Sea and spends time there every year. Early Renaissance artists, like Giotto, are another source of inspiration, as well as Fellini’s movies. And, Negrón’s perspective—sometimes the ground can crawl up the side of a painting—echoes Japanese art.

Images repeat themselves in his pictures as well, an urn, a sliver of a moon. Negrón explains, “When I work one painting begins to inform the next painting.” Negrón sketches beforehand, does a thumbnail working with composition and characters before he begins to paint. And the witty titles, such as “another item for Paloma’s blog” or “to Marcia the outdoor world was an encyclopedia of bad news?” He laughs, “They come after the paintings.”

Negrón, a graduate of the Parsons School of Design in New York, spent the beginning of his career working in art education as an administrator and teacher. But he wasn’t able to do much of his own work. The decision to go back to school for a Masters in Education and Art at Endicott College in Beverly brought him back to work in art more seriously. While enrolled he also worked at Lynn Arts and Northern Essex Community College. The degree completed in 2001, Negrón is now a “mild mannered administrator”--the Director of Enrollment and Advising at the Van Loan School of Graduate and Professional Studies at Endicott College.

He also has a home studio in Lynn, paints at night and on weekends, and is represented by the Chameleon Gallery in Newburyport. At long last, Negrón says, his current situation has brought him the long sought balance between his art work and earning a living.

Negrón’s paintings will be at Gaga Gallery on 459 Humphrey Street through June, along with the work of Pauline Webber, Stephanie Osser, and Rich Flynn. More of his work is available for viewing at Negrón’s website:

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