Wednesday, October 31, 2012

new energy

Something new is percolating up through our work.  For ages, we've been working from vintage photos. This body of work began around 1996 with a few paintings I made of my great-grandparents.  One of the first was of my great-great-grandfather Alfonso and his wife Madora.  The style was nearly unrecognizable from where we are today...heavy paint, plenty face, and details of the photo's frame included in the painting.  The reference image was probably from the early 1900's.  I liked the contrast of the contemporary style with the traditional imagery and began to mine that vein deeper and deeper.

Early pieces in this series came from late 1800's-early 1900's photographs.  Genna joined me in the work around 2000 and the vintage of the reference imagery we were drawn to began to move very slowly forward.  Working with turn of the century photos, the characters tended to be static, standing tall and creating almost a grid between the figures, the horizon, and the other objects in the scene (architecture, autos, etc). 

These are as early as I can get without going back through slides.  Top image is a 24" square, maybe around 2003, the bottom one is a 4' square circa 2001.

During the first decade of our colaboration, we proceeded slowly through the first half of the twentieth century. In the last few years, the work has reached into the sixties with brief forrays into the seventies.  I even caught myself looking hard at an eighties snapshot the other day (God forbid).

As film became more advanced and cheaper, the characters in these reference images become more and more animated.  Family photos morphed from staid portraits to on-the-fly snapshots.  My skill set as a painter has shifted incrementally hand in hand with our slow trek into this more active imagery.

So, after ten years of painting upright citizens, I'm suddenly (or maybe not at all suddenly) finding myself drawn more and more to photos of movement.  Recently came this:

Which even though it was a 1930's image I wouldn't have considered a few years ago.  I must have enjoyed it as plenty more moving and shaking is in works.  We've just scheduled a solo show with Teresa Roche at Art & Light for January 2013...all dancers!

Work on this sub-series of images will begin just after this weekend's Open Studio event.  I can't wait!  If you're in the upstate area, join us at the gallery Friday 6-9, Saturday 10-6, or Sunday 12-6.  Grushovenko Gallery, 1203 Pendleton Street, Greenville SC 29611.  Hope to see you there!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Fete Greenville cover!


Big thank you to Jay Spivey at Fete Greenville online magazine for the July 2012 cover feature!  We were honored to be chosen.  Additionally, Fete columnist and our very good friend Teresa Roche wrote about us in her page 33 feature "Travel Inspired".  Check out the magazine online at  

Here is lovely Teresa's article:

"Summer-time greetings friends and collectors!  When artists travel, my hear pitter-patters as I anticipate the all-new and completely inspired collections of works that follow. Travel has inspired artists’ creations for centuries, from stunning vistas and landscapes of 19th century Realist painters to the spectacular photographs of Walker-Evans.  Several of Greenville’s finest are spending quality time on the road this summer as well

Greenville’s very own JJ Ohlinger found himself completely and totally inspired on a trip with his wife last year and that trip has resulted in a very exciting project and a brand new body of work.    For JJ, the New York subway system “hosts one of the most elegant dance performances you will ever see, and it’s free to anyone who , takes the time to watch.”   In JJ’s eye, the hundreds of people who load and unload, moving quickly in both directions is like watching an “amazing ballet.”  Because he loves introducing contrasts, with respect to light and dark, in painting, he enjoys the challenge and reward immensely. Just as in life experiences,  JJ explains, “contrasts of life in the City abound in the subway.  At one point you can be wedged between hundreds of people on the platform and be completely alone while in the next moment you can be the only individual in sight, yet you are completely connected with all that is New York City.”  But, to JJ the inspiration came when the trains departed and the halls and walkways were calm.    His F Train project features subway stations in a mode of silence and calm and features amazing tile work, graffiti and layers of grime earned over years of serving the city.  New York is one of my favorite cities on earth – I am thankful to JJ for reminding me of the subway ballet when NY City seems so far away.

"Church and 18th" watercolor by JJ Ohlinger
Signe and Genna Grushovenko, Greenville’s newest art couple is hitting the road this month as well. The husband and wife painting duo’s next art tour takes them to DesMoines, Denver and Madison (WI)” When Genna and Signe travel, they often take a few detours between shows for rest, refueling and inspiration to boot!  Signe comments, “before we make it back home again.  Genna will take time in between the first two shows to camp and fish in Rocky Mountain National Park with fellow artists.  That’s become one of our favorite parts of the festival lifestyle...connecting strongly with our ‘tribe’ and taking mini vacations all over the place.”  Last year they spent time in the Arkansas Mountains and on the Texas coast, neither of which they would ever have done if they hadn’t been cooling their heels waiting for the next festival.  Capturing blissful moments with family and friends in oil paintings is at the heart of the Grushovenko’s work.  Traveling and visiting with art friends at summer art festivals is sure to kick start all new collections – can’t wait to see the results!"

"Dapper Dans", oil on linen, 36" x 48"

Read more on Teresa's blog at  Teresa is a visual artist, a writer, a gallerist, an interior designer, and as far as I'm concerned, the glue that holds the Greenville art scene together!  Her gallery, Art & Light, is moving this month from the Flat Iron Studios building in the Farthest West End to a fantastic little spot right off Augusta Street.  Read all about it and see the 'before' pics of her new space on her blog.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

artsy forager

God bless Lesley Frenz...aka 'the artsy forager'...for her thoughtful blog post about our work last week.  I think artists are sometimes too close to their own work to properly describe it, and Lesley has probably topped me here in her understanding of our motives and goals.  It's truly a thrill to have someone so beautifully describe what we do.

Lesley is also doing a beautiful job forging connections in the art world.  I heard from several prospective clients and one gallery shortly after this blog posted.  One of the clients, a lovely lady on the west coast who would probably never have known of us otherwise, purchased a small painting.  We've been having a nice little email correspondence since, the last installment of which included pictures of our painting amongst it's new neighbors in her collection.  The piece hanging directly above ours caught my eye and turned out to be by one of our collectors and new friends Ruth Fiege who will be our booth neighbor at the Cherry Creek Festival in Denver this fall.  Small world!  

Thank you, thank you, thank you Lesley!

It's all much prettier on Lesley's page, but I'm inserting her text here just to make sure I can always find it!

Every family has an unofficial photographer.  That one person you can always count on to be there, camera in hand, to capture milestones, special gatherings and stolen moments.  My maternal grandmother played the role in my family.  She filled album after album of memories to leave behind and those photographs are among my most treasured possessions.  They are a visual storybook of our family history.  Greenville, South Carolina artists Signe and Genna Grushovenko find the precious memories of strangers and translate them into paint.

Though the source photographs themselves have been abandoned by their owners, whether by choice or loss, the artists capture the moments and further anonymize them, erasing faces of features and expressions.  Thus they become instantly relatable.  The faces could be you.. your brothers.. your mother.. your grandmother.

The husband and wife painting duo collaborate on each canvas, husband Genna supplies the underlying layers of color, pattern and texture onto which wife Signe applies the inspired composition of color blocked figures and settings.  The use of a vibrant, limited palette allows the eye to focus on form and depth– and there is plenty of it to be had!

We always tend to look back on “the good ol’ days” with fondness.  Whether or not the days were really good is debatable, I suppose.  But I think there is much we can learn by looking back on the imagery of our past.  How to be content.  Living with less but living more.  Enjoying simple moments with family and friends.

I hope your weekend was filled with simple, blissful living!  To see more of Signe & Genna Grushovenko’s work, please visit their website.  Oh and be sure to check out one of their gorgeous pieces hanging in the 2012 HGTV Green Home!  PS– My hubby is convinced that we’re going to win one of the dream homes. ;-)

-Lesley Frenz, the Artsy Forager

Sunday, May 6, 2012

splitting the team

 Genna and I have been together for 13 years this July, collaborating for over ten, and traveling to festivals for about eight.  We both work from home and we spend around four hundred hours a year in a van together.  People often ask us jokingly what this is like, as they assume its probably filled with strife and irritation, and I always answer that it's fantastic...89% of the time.  The truth is that it's fantastic 98% of the time, but 89% is funnier.  98% sounds both fake and cloyingly sweet.

There was lots of fighting at the very beginning of our travels.  It generally revolved around the setting up of our tent/display and my irrational nerves over traveling.  Over time, we worked out all of the kinks and got the fighting down to maybe once every three or four shows.  We've done our respective 'setting up' jobs so many times now that we barely need to speak to one another.  It's like a mime ballet.

A handful of weeks ago, fate conspired to split our team.  Running low on work during a 5 week 'tour', we decided I would sit out a show and stay home to paint.  Shortly after making that decision, we were invited to the ribbon cutting ceremony for the 2012 HGTV Green Home during the time we were scheduled to be at the Brookside Art Annual in Kansas City.  Reluctantly, I agreed to stay back and attend and leave sweet Genna on his own for a second festival.

Secretly, I was delighted.  I felt like a child that was getting to stay home from school.  No sweaty set sitting around for three days in the heat (or rain, or wind) waiting.  Our team splitting experiment is now nearly done and I can say without hesitation that I never want to do it again!  I missed the sweaty set up.  I missed the sitting around.  I missed the dinners and drinks with our artist friend posse.  I even missed the riding in the van.  To rub salt in the wound, Genna gave himself some little vacations in between shows and visited museums, antique stores, and Elvis's house.  Jerk.  Mostly, though, I missed Genna.  Our everyday mime ballet is hard to do with one person.  I think he felt the same.  It took him around six hours to break down our booth from the first show.

On the plus side, I attended the Green Home ribbon cutting with my mother and my very best friend, and it was a beautiful, proud moment that I was more than happy to share with them.  Serenbe, the site of the Green Home, is a 1000 acre wooded retreat that I would highly recommend checking out if you're anywhere near the Atlanta area.  Dinner and breakfast at the Farmhouse were spectacular.  We toured the Green Home and took a hundred blurry iphone pictures in front of our painting.  All in all a great two days that I won't ever forget.

That said, I'm ready for my man to come home.  I'm bored of my own company and ready to resume our 24 hour a day collaboration!

Monday, April 16, 2012

HGTV Green Home Artist 2012

We are two of them! Or I guess since we're a team...We are one of them! The designers of the new HGTV Green Home at Serenbe selected our "Boy Line, Bike Tangle" as the focal artwork in the main living area of the home. The Green Home 2012 special is playing everyday from now until the house is given away on June 1st, so DVR it and check it out!

See it online here.

We have more than 60 new paintings available now on the website, including two smaller versions of the "Bike Boys".

This weekend kicks off 5 straight weekends of travel for us...Main Street Ft Worth, Magic City Art Connection in Birmingham, Brookside Art Annual in Kansas City, Artisphere in Greenville SC, and the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival in Reston VA. Hoping to see you somewhere along the way!

Monday, February 6, 2012

new year, new ideas

Being a full time painter, its easy to find myself in a rut with imagery, technique, ever-thing. Its a huge blessing that people think enough of what Genna and I do to want to give us money for it, but it's also the tiniest of curses as it keeps me partially confined to the style that we've come to be recognized for.

What I think is great about this 'problem' is that it's allowed (forced) me to sink very deeply into my technique and work it out to a level of consistency and fluidity that I would never have achieved if I could jump from media to media and method to method whenever I felt the urge.

Instead, I achieve change glacially...more fine tuning than broad strokes. Lately, though, there's something brewing. My process for ages has been painting largely in the negative shapes. So, instead of painting trees, I would paint the sky around it, allowing the underpainting layer to stand in for the tree form. Faces are often defined by cutting in the background form to it's edge. So, a few weeks ago I began this piece:

Like this:

Instead of painting the sky shape, I painted the trees. This doesn't seem like a huge deal, but to me it looks and feels totally different...kind of like writing with my left hand. The bottom half of the piece was completed with my usual technique, but the top remained entirely a positive painting with the underpainting representing the sky without any tinkering on my part.

Then I took that idea even a little farther and made this:

The underpainting stands entirely pristine as the sky.

And again here:

Then last week I took the plunge and advanced this idea even further. In this image, I painted only the figures and let Genna's underpainting serve as both the sky and the ground.

While this is an image I've worked with before, this feels like a completely new idea to me. One thing I really like about this piece is that while the figures are all painted in the positive, the negative painting technique still exists within each figure. Like with the ties of this girl's bonnet and the detailing of her ruff:

I have plans for a whole new series based on this concept but have typed enough for now and can't imagine anyone read this far. I'll show it to you once it happens!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

an embarrassment of riches

Studio mate Joey brought me a great album of old photos a few months ago that touched off an all out photo buying free-for-all at the Grushovenko household. Over the course of a week or so I 'won' around a dozen ebay auctions for large lots of old pictures. Boxes of hundreds of new images began arriving at our house. For the first few days this was almost unbearably exciting, followed by days of mild excitement, followed by a few days of 'eh', followed by a feeling of mild nausea as if I had eaten too much sugar. I became so overwhelmed by the sheer number of possibilities that I basically had to hide them all from myself and turn back to some tried-and-true references for a while.

It's been long enough now that my image indigestion has abated and I have begun pulling out my new babies and working them into our repertoire. Here is a newbie, "Three Boating".

30" x 40" oil on linen, $1800

And here is "Four Layered Lounge" new favorite.

36" x 36" oil on linen, $2200

Many of our new purchases didn't make the cut for use in our work, and some of those have gone into a 'wallpaper' type project at the gallery:

Paintings in this photo are by our good friend Melinda Clair.