December 2016

Samantha Saturn

Founder of Saturn Advisory, a marketing consulting firm, and Director of the American Artisan Festival, started by her mother Nancy Saturn, which will be returning for its 44th year in June of 2017


Robert Gniewek, Chinatown, 1985, Oil on Canvas, 35” x 49”

Artist Bio: Robert Gniewek

Considered a second-generation photorealist painter, Robert Gniewek (born 1951) paints scenes of mid-century American roadside culture and contemporary cityscapes. Using three or four photographic images of his subjects, Gniewek meticulously produces large-scale paintings of diners, movie theaters, motels, gas stations, cafes, and urban vistas—usually in his native Detroit but also in New York and Las Vegas. Like Robert Cottingham and Ron Kleemann before him, Gniewek shares a love of American signs of the 1940s and 50s, though as a member of a younger generation he sometimes portrays them as neglected and time worn, expressing nostalgia for a bygone era. He received both his B.F.A. and M.A. from Wayne State University in Detroit.


Samantha Saturn; Photograph by Jerry Atnip

I first laid eyes on this painting when I was fifteen years old. It was hanging in the corner at a group show at the Zimmerman Saturn Gallery, where I was helping out my mother with her art opening that night. I remember walking over to it and staring at it for a very long time trying to take it all in. My father, Alan Saturn, was there too, and together we stood and stared at this incredible work of photorealism, sinking into that dark scene on a street in Chinatown that was finally quiet after a busy day. I wondered if the car was backing up or just idling for a short while. My father and I both loved being in New York with the grit and the hustle of it all—but the quiet was something I hadn’t thought about much. The next week my father bought that painting by Gniewek, and he brought it home and hung it in our dining room. It was dark and mysterious, but we all loved it. He told me we could keep thinking about whether that person in the car was coming or going (and more important, did he have takeout). I have always loved this group of photo realists who take regular everyday scenes in American life and focus us in on just that—the quiet beauty of the everyday moments and places we breeze by in our busy lives. Decades later, I now have it hanging in my dining room in Nashville, and I still love to stop and stare at that quiet scene in Chinatown all the time.

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