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Well-traveled UNR professor and artist exhibits at Reno's Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery.
The reputed Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery at the University of Nevada, Reno, will be launching its 2013 program with the first ever solo exhibition in the United States of British-French-Basque painter Zoe Bray.
The gallery will show a series of her portraits and landscapes from January 21 to February 15. Her paintings will appeal to art lovers for their personal touch to both realism and naturalism.
Identity is central to the work of this talented young artist, who recently moved to Nevada from Europe to take up a position as assistant professor at UNR’s Center for Basque Studies, where she researches and teaches on Art and Politics. Bray paints her subjects directly from life, seeking to go beyond surface appearance and representation to grasp their beauty, spirituality, and psychology.
Amongst the portraits on show, the public will find those of some notable figures of contemporary Basque culture, including the sculptor Nestor Basterretxea, famed in the American West for his creation of the Basque National Monument to the Sheepherder, located at the foot of the Peavine hills north of Reno.
Other portraits are of individuals whom Bray has painted in different settings, in the United States and Europe, some in the intimacy of their homes and some in her studio. In particular, Nevadans will appreciate the portrait of Reno-based contemporary artist Joan Arrizabalaga, renowned for her fantastical sculptures on the theme of casino gaming.
Bray comes to Nevada by a roundabout way. Born in Paris, she has lived in various countries, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Mexico, and Germany. Just before Nevada, she spent a year between London, the Basque Country, and Berlin where she had her painting studio.
This peripatetic life has led Bray to identify with a variety of local and national cultures beyond her French and British citizenship and to become fluent in five languages. After obtaining an MA in Social Anthropology from the University of Edinburgh (Scotland) and a PhD in Social and Political Sciences from the European University Institute in Florence (Italy), Bray trained as a painter at the Charles Cecil Studio and the Florence Academy of Art, following the classical tradition of sight-size painting that also inspired many early 20th-century American painters, notably John Singer Sargent and Cecilia Beaux, but which has largely been lost since. She has also worked with the internationally acclaimed realist painters Antonio Lopez García and Guillermo Muñoz Vera in Spain.
Bray stands out among her peers for her unusual combination of anthropology and art. In her quest for deep connection with her subjects, she acknowledges a debt to the great traditions of painting, going back to the grace and sensitive delineation of form of the artists of the Florentine Renaissance.
The portraits of Spanish 18th-century painter Diego de Velazquez, and especially his depictions of individual members of the Royal Court, have also inspired Bray in her own approach to portraiture, as a face to face with her subject. Indeed, many of her portraits have the quality of engaging directly with her audience as the subject’s eyes attract those of the viewer.
Her sympathetic realism also links her work with that of 19th-century realists such as the Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla and the Frenchman Fernand Pelez, whose own approach to painting was ethnographic, born out of a desire to directly experience and evoke human life in all its rawness.
Beyond this, art for Bray is a continuous search for beauty, all the while grounded and in touch with real life and real people. Exhibition visitors will not remain indifferent.