Sarah Becktel: Modern Menagerie

Sarah Becktel: Modern Menagerie

Opening Reception: Friday, November 6, 2015, 7–9 p.m.

The Majestic Theatre Condominiums
222 Montgomery Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302

Exhibition on view in the lobby from November 6, 2015 – February 26, 2016

Sarah Becktel, Restless Tides, 2015, Oil on canvas, 18 x 30 inches. Courtesy of Sarah Becktel,

Sarah Becktel, Restless Tides, 2015, Oil on canvas, 18 x 30 inches. Courtesy of Sarah Becktel,

“The word contemporary is important to my work. I’m interested in depicting the world as it is presented to me, and I experience it.” —Sarah Becktel

SILVERMAN AND MAJESTIC THEATRE CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION presents “Sarah Becktel: Modern Menagerie,” curated by Brendan Carroll. This exhibition will present approximately twenty works that includes oil paintings on panel and colored pencil works on paper. Her brand of contemporary realism is defined by clarity of vision, attention to detail, and technical virtuosity.

Becktel uses portraits and landscapes to transform the unusual and make it natural, from stuffed animal heads in a tavern in Wyoming to domestic goats grazing in a cemetery in gritty Jersey City. Her paintings and drawings explore how humans relate to and interact with animals in the modern world. Her work is as much about biodiversity, sustainability, and conservation, as it is about the sober observation and depiction of the world.

Animals appear as confidant, pastoral beast, and stuffed trophy. In one painting, the artist and a raccoon sit at a table to share confidences and Oreo cookies. In another, goats stand and loll atop headstones in an overgrown Harsimus cemetery under the midday sun. However, the relationship between species is not always as benign as it appears. Several works depict taxidermy animal heads eyeballing the viewer with their impenetrable, and vacant stares.

Sarah Becktel, Lost and Found III, 2015, Oil on Panel, 11 x 14 inches

Sarah Becktel, Lost and Found III, 2015, Oil on Panel, 11 x 14 inches

The German Expressionist Franz Marc said that painting animals brought out “All that was good in me.” Becktel shares the same sentiment. “Interacting with and observing animals probably gives me the highest level of joy,” notes Becktel. Her love of animals did not seamlessly find its way into her work. At first, she used them as symbols for abstract psychological ideas. Now, animals are more the central subjects of her work.

The development of her paintings is not a fixed phenomenon. At times, an image is the impetus that drives the painting. “I could be out in the world and observe something that just sticks with me…so in that case, the imagery is the inspiration into a painting composition,” she notes. That said, Becktel does not always rely on the visual alone to inspire an image. In some instances, an abstract idea is the motivation for a given work. In these cases, she has to find “the best way to translate the concept into a tangible image.”

Becktel, who began studying with a classical realist at age ten, is proud of her academic training, but she is not beholden to it. Reference photography plays a pivotal role in the development of her paintings. “Anytime something strikes me as interesting, I snap a photo,” says Becktel. “I’m always coming across things that might end up in a painting.” The link between photograph and realized painting is not instantaneous. It may take months or years before the initial interest develops into a more concrete painting idea. During the gestation period, she often clicks through her photo libraries to see what jumps out at her.

Sarah Becktel, Wolf Tavern, 2013, Oil on Panel, 20 x 16 inches

Sarah Becktel, Wolf Tavern, 2013, Oil on Panel, 20 x 16 inches

Once a raw idea starts to become more tangible, she will do some sketches to determine the scale and composition of a piece. Sketches never become complete works. She finds spending too much time on preliminary drawings can sap the excitement and energy of her paintings. “I like to save the detail for the actual painting,” notes Becktel.

Becktel is drawn to representational painting because it puts her in control of how much information to give or withhold from the viewer. “You essentially set the scene for them,” Becktel said. What I find interesting in her work is how it manages to create immediately recognizable images without sacrificing mystery or suggestion.

Sarah Becktel is a painter who specializes in contemporary realism. She received her B.F.A. from Tyler School of Art in 2005. She continued her studies of figurative drawing and painting at Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia and the Art Students League in New York City. Jersey City Museum, Trenton City Museum, Monmouth Museum, Ben Shahn Center for Visual Arts, and Salmagundi Art Club, among other institutions, have organized exhibitions featuring of her work. Becktel has received numerous honors, including PLAYA Artist Residency in Summer Lake, Oregon, and Brush Creek Arts Foundation Residency in Laramie, Wyoming. She currently resides in Jersey City, NJ and works out of her studio in Newark, NJ.

The exhibition will be on view at Majestic Theatre Condominium Association through February 26, 2016. For further information, please visit us at SILVERMAN or call number (201) 435-8000. Majestic Theatre is located at 222 Montgomery Street in Jersey City.

“Sarah Becktel: Modern Menagerie” is the twenty-eighth exhibition that Brendan Carroll will organize for SILVERMAN. For additional information on the artist, go here: Sarah Becktel.

SILVERMAN has presented the works of Kati Vilim, Mark Dagley, Candy Le Sueur, Ed Fausty, Anna Mogilevsky, Ali Harrington, Sara Wolfe, Anne Percoco, Shauna Finn, Melanie Vote, Paul Lempa, Fanny Allié, Michael Meadors, John A. Patterson, Charlotte Becket, Roger Sayre, Karina Aguilera Skvirsky, Tom McGlynn, Margaret Murphy, Valeri Larko, Tenesh Webber, Glenn Garver, Jennifer Krause Chapeau, Michelle Doll, Tim Heins, Megan Maloy, Laurie Riccadonna, Thomas John Carlson, Tim Daly, Ann Flaherty, Scott Taylor, Jason Seder, Sara Wolfe, Beth Gilfilen, Andrzej Lech, Hiroshi Kumagai, Victoria Calabro, Asha Ganpat, Darren Jones, Ryan Roa,Laura Napier, Risa Puno, Nyugen E. Smith, Amanda Thackray, and Kai Vierstra.

Transportation directions from Lower Manhattan to downtown Jersey City.

Transportation directions from Lower Manhattan to downtown Jersey City.

Transportation directions from Lower Manhattan to downtown Jersey City.


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