ICONS - who is your ICON?

ICONS - who is your ICON?

From admiration to aspiration, it is a common practice in the art world to iconize. The latest exhibition at Gallery500, showcases how our artists represent and reflect influences within their practice.  With a focus on physical figure and form, ICONS, featuring Barbara Betts, Brandon Santiago, Robert Shirk, Renee Lewis and Emerging Artist Will Foerster will be on display November 4, through January 1, 2023.


Will Foerster will take the spotlight as our most recent Emerging Artist. Drawing influence from ancient Greco-Roman sculpture and the Renaissance masters, in addition to photographic icons such as Albert Watson and Herb Ritz, Will’s portrait studies use form and light to create icons of his subject matter. Through abstraction of physical form, these icons become ambiguous. Therefore, the artist makes them less about their forward-facing identity, but rather the subjects’ genuine energy. This is not unlike the practice of abstract painter and previous Emerging Artist, Brandon Santiago, who is also featured in this exhibition. Regarding Icons, Brandon states that

 abstraction helps provide visual symbolism that is effective as representation…I connect icons with idolization too

Regardless of medium, the process of iconizing speaks to the power of identity. Each artist makes deliberate decisions about the icons they create and draw inspiration from.

New to the gallery, Barbara Betts and Renee Lewis each work with woman iconography. Barbara references iconic fashion magazines such as Elle and Vogue to paint impressionistic works which speak to the female identity. Renee Lewis similarly uses woman figures in her work by drawing inspiration from fauvists movements, including Gustav Klimt and Pablo Picasso. Renee’s bio states:

at the core of her work are women – empowered, strong – yet vulnerable, linked to others, beautiful within while sustaining the universe.

Both Barbara and Renee represent an artistic period unlike their own.  A period in which the woman figure was traditionally iconized through the male gaze.  However, by using these styles in present day, they are reclaiming the use of female iconography in the art world.

Icons are vessels of recognition. Artists such as Robert Shirk create paintings representational of famous figures such as Jack Nicolson. These figures are instantly identifiable to the viewer. By working with imagery of such icons, an artist pays homage to their subjects’ work and life. However, sometimes homage is a stylistic choice – we see this through the work of artists like Brandon Santiago, whose artistic identity is inspired by the Neo-expressionist artist, Basquiat.

 Here at Gallery500, we understand that for the viewer, art is all about identity and connection. That’s why we strongly represent artists who are driven to build relationships through their work. An opening reception for our artists and guests will be held on December 9th. We invite you attend and to view these works in person, to find yourself represented or reflected in the Icons a part of our exhibition.


-Annie Scull

GALLERY500 Art Consultant

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