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Blazing Trails

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Traveling with Lee Alban

Havre de Grace, Maryland is home to artist Lee Alban, who is an oil painter with a classical foundation in figure drawing, sculpture, anatomy, portraiture, and still life painting. By stretching canvases, applying glue sizing and lead primer, grinding pigments with black oil, and producing Maroger medium, Lee has continued a legacy that began in the 16th century. A graduate of the Shuler School of Fine Arts in Baltimore, Lee is a national and international award winning artist and instructor at his teaching studio.

He is also new to Lovetts Gallery!

Lee is skilled in every Realist genre, from Landscape and Still Life, to Portraiture and Trompe L’oeil, using traditional techniques to the achievement of contemporary results. He draws on nostalgic themes in creating work in series that have included steam trains, landscapes, vintage toys and landscapes.

His “American Heritage” series highlights industry and its production as a great American legacy, by bringing to life the monumental story of early oil exploration. From fields to boomtowns, from pastures to offshore, Alban richly portrays the history and hard work and of the rig workers, the derricks, the striking of oil and gushers; a story of determination and discovery.

Come and listen to my story about an artist named Lee,
An extremely talented artist who always keeps his passion free,
And then one day he was in a venerate mood,
And across his canvas, came a bubbling crude.
Oil that is, Black Gold, Texas Tea!

(Sorry!.....I couldn’t help myself!)

The “Silk and Steel” series depicts the hardworking women of industry in the 1940’s, beautifully combining the feminine and masculine elements in progress and productivity. Women in railroad settings, working on steam trains and a railway workshop, not only honors those who entered the work force during World War II, but reflects the skills and work ethic of contemporary females.

“Spirits of the American West” series weaves traditional landscape paintings of the American West with Trompe L’oeil renderings of vintage Native American photographs that are evocative of feelings of history and Native American heritage. His purpose in juxtaposing these two styles in one painting is to provide a powerful narrative. He painted modern western scenes and vintage “photos” of American Indians to look as though they were real photographs taped on top of a finished landscape painting. In this way, he “returned” Native Americans to their traditional lands in the modern landscape, positioning them in such a way that they seemed to belong in the scene.

In the” Americana” series one sees retro classic diners, iconic steam trains, vintage toys and landscapes and portraits to reflect the nostalgia of yesteryear.

Whether rural scenes and cityscapes to European sites or pastures and deserts or an intimate encounter with a purple Iris or cactus bloom, that’s the many places Alban creatively travels to……….and he will take you there too!

All Aboard!!

WELCOME TO THE STEAM POWERED IMAGINATION OF LEE ALBAN

FYI: What is Maroger? Maroger medium is named for Jacques Maroger, chief conservateur/Laboratory Director at the Louvre in Paris before WWII, and president of the Restorers of France. As a trained chemist, he devoted his life to rediscovering the medium of the Old Masters, whose paintings had an inner glow and permanency of color. He arrived in the United States in 1939 and took a teaching position with the Maryland Institute College of Art. He was a dedicated art mentor and scientist and an important person in the legacy of the Schuler School of Fine Arts. The Maroger medium is taught by the Schuler School. The Maroger medium gives the paint an even and luxurious sheen, and over time, prevents the darkening of the painting. With his “secret formula”, Maroger claimed to have introduced to the modern day artist what the masters achieved centuries before in their paintings; as well as arguing that paint is of the freshest highest quality if it is hand-mixed. By those artists skilled in its application, they also know the secret is applying it sparingly. Along with this use approach for Lee Alban, artist Anthony Waichulis, also a former student at Maryland, likewise uses the Maroger medium.

 

This story has its critics and plenty of controversy. Yes, the world of art has drama! Archival quality, formulations and the advent of convenience have swirled around the legitimacy of the Maroger medium.

Always seek the unvarnished truth in all your pursuits. If you seek varnish, by all means, learn about Maroger medium. This medium is mastic varnish mixed with black oil. Mastic varnish is mastic crystals dissolved in turpentine. It is a thick yellow liquid. The mastic crystals are from the mastic tree sap, found on an island in Greece. They have been used for centuries.

FYI: According to History.com, January 10th 1901, marked the day a drilling derrick at Spindletop Hill near Beaumont, Texas, produced an enormous gusher of crude oil, coating the landscape for hundreds of feet and signaling the advent of the American oil industry. The geyser was discovered at a depth of over 1,000 feet, flowed at an initial rate of approximately 100,000 barrels a day and took nine days to cap. Following the discovery, petroleum, which until that time had been used in the U.S. primarily as a lubricant and in kerosene for lamps, would become the main fuel source for new inventions such as cars and airplanes; coal-powered forms of transportation including ships and trains would also convert to the liquid fuel.

 

Crude oil, which became the world’s first trillion dollar industry, is a natural mix of hundreds of different hydrocarbon compounds trapped in underground rock. The hydrocarbons were formed millions of years ago when tiny aquatic plants and animals died and settled on the bottoms of ancient waterways, creating a thick layer of organic material. Sediment later covered this material, putting heat and pressure on it and transforming it into the petroleum that comes out of the ground today.

 

In the early 1890’s, Texas businessman and self-taught geologist, Patillo Higgins, became convinced there was a large pool of oil under a salt-dome formation south of Beaumont. He and several partners established the Gladys City Oil, Gas and Manufacturing Company and made several unsuccessful drilling attempts before Higgins left the company. In 1899, Higgins leased a tract of land at Spindletop to mining engineer Anthony Lucas. The Lucas gusher blew on January 10, 1901, and ushered in the liquid fuel age. Unfortunately for Higgins, he’d lost his ownership stake by that point.

 

Beaumont became a “black gold” boomtown, its population tripling in three months. The town filled up with oil workers, investors, and merchants. Within a year, there were more than 285 active wells at Spindletop and an estimated 500 oil and land companies operating in the area. Lee Alban’s canvased narrative…. with oil…. about oil….is definitely a wonderful rendering of a part of our American heritage.

 

!! EUREKA !!

WELCOME TO THE IMAGINATION AT LOVETTS GALLERY

Raven Sawyer

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