In Arts & Entertainment

"Sarah Michelle Gellar" hangs in The Social.

In Arts & Entertainment

"I Want You" hangs in Art Bar.

Oates brushes the canvas with pop culture

A few weekends ago, I was convinced that Eric Oates' paintings were stalking me. First, his massive portrait of Sarah Michelle Gellar towered over my table at The Social, and then, the very next night at Art Bar, I found myself coveting a comic-inspired painting that made me laugh out loud, only to realize it was the same painter.

So, who is this Oates guy anyway?

"I first got into art in the late '70s," says Oates, who studied as a kid in the early '80s with central Wisconsin artist Susan Nelson Van Sleet. "But by the time I reached junior high I stopped painting. I thought I had other interests like sports, girls and cars."

Eventually, Oates came back to art -- although he still harbors a hardcore penchant for muscle cars and drives a '67 Camaro - and received bachelor's and master's degrees from UWM in art history. He has been a member of the Milwaukee underground art group HI/IQ Productions since 1997 and his work has been collected and commissioned in Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Today, Oates is a full-time project manager at Lakeshore Gallery in Shorewood, and paints in his spare bedroom.

"I want to make paintings that I want to look at," he says. "My mission is to present emotion and feeling, more specifically the feelings between men and women."

In much of his work, Oates fuses popular culture with oil paint, creating realistic portraits that are both intense and lighthearted. Most of his subjects are women, including oil paintings of Natalie Portman, Julie Delpy, Madonna, Scully (Gillian Anderson's character from The X-files) and "Buffy." He also paints take-offs on comic book frames, like the afore mentioned piece at Art Bar that shows two women, one with a bubble coming from her mouth saying, "He doesn't have to know a thing."

"I like to describe my work as Pop-Expressionism," says Oates, a classic Generation X-er whose influences are all over the map, from Andy Warhol to Jackson Pollock to Kate Moss to Neil Diamond.

Interestingly, one of Oates' strongest pieces is "American Girl," depicting his friend and fellow Milwaukeean, Leslie Siletti. She appears graceful, gorgeous and focused on something or someone other than the painter for an overall emotional feel that is both heartbreaking and empowering. The intensity suggests that although painting the rich and famous is intriguing, the best art often comes from the people we are deeply moved by in everyday life.

Eric Oates' work shows through November at The Social, 118 E. Pittsburgh Ave., and until the end of October at Art Bar, 722 E. Burleigh St.

Talkbacks

OMCreader | Sept. 23, 2005 at 11:47 a.m. (report)

anne said: You can check out more of Oates' work at his site, too: http://www.americanoates.com/

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