Art  Zoller  Wagner
Realist Painting: Oskaloosa Herald Review


Pella artist creates paintings with a photographic style

by Tom Hardesty
Oskaloosa Herald (Iowa)
16 March 1999, p. 1

An exhibit of oil paintings at the Mills Gallery on the campus of Central College in Pella is sure to fool the eyes of some viewers. The photographic quality of these paintings may be misleading, but they are certainly thought provoking.

Art Zoller Wagner, the artist, has been doing figure painting and nudes for years, as he investigates what he can learn from painting and what painting can teach him.

Through ink drawings and paintings, he explores what he calls, "the intersection of the sacred and the psychological."

Belly Tales 2 & 4, diptych shown at Central College exhibition

Belly Tales 2 & 4
Art Zoller Wagner
A diptych displayed in the Central College exhibition

Originally from Baltimore, Wagner, 46, comes from a family in which painting was quite ordinary.

"My grandfather, Emil Fernandez, was a house painter and an interior decorator in Clarksburg, West Virginia," Wagner said. "He didn't just paint walls, he painted murals for churches and bars and did fancy ceiling paintings in homes, too. Having someone like that in my family always made me think it was possible to be a painter."

His father was an engineer. His mother, a school teacher.

"But she painted some," he said, "and was very much involved in crafts."

The artist's wife, JoAnne Zoller Wagner, is an assistant professor at Central College, where she teaches English as a Second Language, ESL teaching methods, and linguistics.

Pursuing his education and his craft has taken the artist to Washington, D.C., Cedar Falls, Chicago, Ill., Morgantown, W.V., and Madrid, Spain.

"I paint to understand," Wagner said, "to cross the threshold between the known and as yet unknown. This series of paintings records a process of discovery."

Anyone who takes a moment from their busy life to contemplate these beguiling paintings and reflect for a moment in the quiet surroundings of the Mills Gallery may discover that what the artist has said is true--there is something to be learned from looking at a painting.

Mermaid Lesson II, oil painting in exhibition

Mermaid Lesson II
Art Zoller Wagner
One of the monochromatic paintings in the exhibition

Several of the paintings are done as self-portraits. Two paintings show the artist curled up on his side in a fetal position in what appears to be an old bathtub. Something to think about. Not your usual bathing scene.

"Our bodies are very real," Wagner said. "Although the human figure is highly idealized in the media, our own average bodies are earthy, often painfully real. They fascinate us, and yet they also frighten us."

Wagner earned his MFA in visual arts from Vermont College of Norwich University in Montpelier, Vt., and his bachelor's degree from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. His training in art is broad and impressive. He has exhibited widely and has followed a career as a fine arts instructor and artist-in-residence.

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