Article By: ED COURRIER Special to The Press
For Dana Van Horn,
a career on canvas
“I am attracted to subjects whose beauty resides in the truth of their reality rather than their exoticism. I believe that beauty derives from how something is portrayed, not from what is portrayed. The subject that engages me most fully is the human figure. The challenge of creating an image that embodies the reality and personality of the sitter is endlessly fascinating.”
- Dana Van Horn
Those faces staring down from the walls are reflections of the faces looking up at them.
Several of master painter Dana Van Horn’s models, chosen from his friends, family, students and acquaintances, were in attendance at the artist’s reception Jan. 19 for “Portraits by Dana Van Horn,” through March 4, Ronald K. De Long Gallery at Penn State Lehigh Valley, Center Valley.
The large portraits, in oil on linen, and the smaller ones, oil on wood panels, are stunningly accurate, as are the two charcoal drawings on display. Van Horn is a realist in the classical tradition who paints ordinary people, some with children, others with pets, with a steady hand.
Not only does he catch the likeness of each subject, the spark of life within is also apparent in each work of art. Van Horn describes his style on his web site thusly: “Although the subject matter and style may vary, my work represents a search for a synthesis between illusion and abstraction with the balance weighted [in] favor of illusionary realism.”
He chooses to paint the smaller portraits on wood “… because you want a little more detail, so the texture of the canvas can get in the way. I mean you can make canvas absolutely smooth, but it’s just more expedient to work on a wood panel.”
When asked if there were artists whose work may have influenced or inspired him, Van Horn says, “As a teenager in San Diego, there was an artist named Richard Allen Morris who exemplified the kind of artist I wanted to be. In my 20s, I met Jack Beal and his wife, Sondra, who became my mentors and surrogate parents. I apprenticed with them for many years.”
Van Horn received a Master of Fine Arts in 1974 from Yale University. He later lived and exhibited his work in New York City. Having completed a major commission for the Catholic Diocese of Allentown, Van Horn and his wife, Nancy Lloyd, relocated to the Lehigh Valley.
Van Horn teaches at The Baum School of Art, Allentown, and is on the faculty of Moravian College, Bethlehem. In addition to painting in oil, he also works in watercolor, sculpture and “fell into” painting restoration. The master painter’s advice to those who study under him: “… I would say be ambitious, curious and spend the many hours it takes to develop your skills.”
Gallery hours: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday - Thursday, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Saturday. For additional evening hours, call 610-285-5078. Information: lehighvalley.psu.edu/gallery.