Long-neck ladies and whimsical animals

Estella's Black Hat 2 20 x 16 watercolor on canvas by Tom Barnes

It’s no surprise to any art lover in the Holy City that keeping up with all of the gallery shows is a mighty task. This week we turn our attention to two galleries that have some very specific subjects to show. So if ladies with long necks and hats and colorful, whimsical animals strike your fancy (or even if they don’t), don’t miss these two exhibits.

Artist Tom Barnes knows a few things about the South. A self-taught painter raised in the swampy region of Southern Georgia, Barnes came to paint the subjects of his new exhibit, “Long Neck Ladies in the City of Hats,” by recalling his time in his childhood spent with his elegant, Southern twin aunts, Lila and Bess.

Lila and Bess are the two highly decorated ladies in Barnes exhibit and both of them helped introduce a young Barnes to the shopping, dining and art worlds of Savannah, a truly Southern adventure if ever there was one.

Barnes’ paintings are simultaneously vibrant, comical and endearing. The love and compassion for his subjects comes through in every brush stroke and the personality and high society of the ladies in his portraits are shot through with whimsy and delight.

Every painting of his, whether it captures a single person or a cadre of ladies together on the town, inhabits a world that is both recalled from memory but also made new and extravagant by the scenery. I can’t help but think of Barnes’ work as a deep Southern descendent of the French and European Impressionists such as Degas and Manet. But Barnes is no copycat painter; he’s an individual with a colorful eye all his own.

There are two characteristics about David Aiazzi’s new collection of paintings that you notice first: the color and the eyes. Aiazzi, an Italian painter who now lives in Charleston, finds the souls of the animals he paints in his latest collection. And the windows to the soul are indeed the eyes.

Aiazzi brings the animals to life with a controlled use of the deepest colors that reflect and compliment each other. These colors are the type of pulsating beats that give the subject a heart and a soul.

But color alone doesn’t make a painting come to life. Aiazzi draws the viewer in through color but allows them to discover the soul of the animal through the wide-awake eyes.

Animal lover or not, it’s nearly impossible to look away from the emotions present in the faces of each animal Aiazzi paints.

Take in the lively realms of both artists to get a double dose of vibrancy in your days.