Lehigh Valley Style feature: The Great Creators

Richly Ambiguous Creations

Darrell George

Darrell George’s first shows filled the walls of a café in Red Bank, New Jersey in 1999. Bill Levine, who represented for Salvador Dali in the United States, attended and bought one of his paintings. A year later, George had another show. Levine showed up again and purchased a second piece. One of these creations now hangs above a Salvador Dali painting in Levine’s residence.

Years later, George, who is currently in residence at Bethlehem’s Banana Factory, was on the road for work and stuck in a hotel during a snowstorm. He was watching a YouTube video of Juliette Lewis performing with her band. He then came across pictures of her whipping her hair around and screaming during one of her performances. He emailed her manager, Brandy Lewis, to obtain a high-resolution file of this energized image so he could create a painting. She emailed back the next day and asked for prices on three of his paintings—not even mentioning his proposition. Actor Ethan Suplee (Brandy Lewis’ husband), contacted him shortly thereafter and purchased one as well. Six months and four sales later, he mailed the painting originally proposed to Lewis.

George’s path into the arts has been an anomalous one. He made the rare jump from hardcore jock to fully-focused artist. He received a five-year football scholarship from the University of Delaware where he studied advertising and design. During his freshman year, George enrolled in a painting class and encountered the work of Francis Bacon and Richard Diebenkorn. This ignited his desire to be a professional painter. He says art kept him from being a better athlete because he was so strongly pulled into the world of oils, brushes and canvases.

While these astonishing artists have clearly influenced his work, George continues to cultivate a fertile direction that is very much his own. He explores the tensions, harmonies and latent potentialities between abstract and representational painting. This zone of inquiry continues to yield strange, enticing fruit, engendering diverse narratives in the imagination with his richly ambiguous creations.

The turbulent surfaces of his work draw the viewer into an enlivened world of textures, gorgeous colors and stridently lyrical lines. It is not uncommon to find compelling compact areas within the painting exerting a pull on one’s attention, forming a momentary whole within the greater whole. This is achieved, in part, by George consciously thickening the oils and then altering the surface until it yields a weathered, agitated appearance.

George masterfully balances these heavily worked areas with aerated spaces that slide into colorful stillness, producing provocative spatial situations. He intuitively grasps the shaping powers of color and proportion and allows each piece to follow its own internal logic and trajectory. This leaves room for figures that exude punchy personalities, intriguing landscapes, striking angular abstractions and expressive specters that are aborning or vanishing into subtly rendered atmospheres.  

At times, his athletic sensibly engenders virile characters traversing thick, abstract zones, infusing the painted air around them with febrile energy. Sometimes figures seem to be etched across time, leaving traces of their smeared essence as they progress. Others yield their lithe limbs to the intoxicating presence of water or air. George’s figures are tinged with tension and awake in a dream—the body and mind re-imagined in subjective time.

George is one of the most promising painters working today. He has grown tremendously in the last decade and his fascinating art continues to draw new clients and fans.

So what’s next? George’s work is now being exhibited at the Creason’s Fine Art Gallery on Royal Street in New Orleans. Locally, he is participating in an art event called the Evolution of Collaboration (at the Fowler Family Southside Center, 511 E. Third St., Bethlehem) with artists Marlow Rodale, Chris Kostyo and Daniel Paashaus. The show can be seen from May 15th to August 15th (celebrating June and July First Friday events from 5 to 10 p.m.).

Banana Factory Studio 242 | 25 W. Third St., Bethlehem | darrellgeorge.com