Kyle Staver Art Opening Adventure

"She bestows power upon the women in her paintings, lifting them out of the familiar role of victim and vessel.  By transforming a pagan world into one in which women can be heroes, she advances the likelihood that we will have to revise everything that we know if we are to proceed."

--John Yau, "A Different History"

"Cardinal" oil on canvas, 50x58"

In early September, I discovered that there was going to be a solo show of paintings by one of my favorite artists:  Kyle Staver!  I had discovered her work online about a year ago, and have been madly in love with it ever since.  (As evidenced by this blog post I wrote back in March: A Love Poem for Kyle Staver.)

I deeply longed to see her paintings in real life!  The only time I had ever seen a real-life Kyle Staver painting was earlier this year, in April, when I walked into the artist Ken Kewley's house and right there, in the entrance way, was a huge, amazing Kyle Staver painting!  It took my breath away; I felt physically struck with emotion.  

Consequently, I started to cry.  (This is an embarrassing story for another, future blog post.)

"Hero and Leander" 68x154"

all of the paintings, studded with bits of intense luminosity...

Art-emotion-addict that I am, I desperately wanted to go to the show, but I was scared of the idea of going into Manhattan by myself for an evening, something I had never done before.  A friend suggested I drive to the train station in Morristown, NJ, and then take a train into Penn Station, so that's what I did.  I felt especially grateful for my rockstar husband, who took over all the dinner-making, homework-helping, and bedtime-enforcing responsibilities that evening so that I could escape.

All during my drive, and then during the hour long train ride, I kept imagining what it would be like.  Would I get lost trying to find the gallery?  Would I get to meet Kyle Staver?  I fantasized that I would be in a vast, quiet gallery radiantly brimming with Kyle Staver paintings, elegantly sipping champagne with Kyle Staver and perhaps a few other interesting artists, while we talked about painting for hours...

"Bathers" by Kyle Staver, 58x68" oil on canvas  

A woman surrounded by admirers, not unlike the real Kyle Staver surrounded by all of her friends and fans at the art opening.

But....when I got there, it was like another world.  In the first place, I had never been to Chelsea before, and I was completely unprepared for the intensity of it.  There were about fifteen thousand galleries all having openings on that same street!  It was insane!  It was like every art opening I had ever gone to in my life in Easton, where I live, times a million!  It seemed like there were dozens of galleries within each building, galleries within galleries within galleries...  People were pouring out onto the sidewalk with wine and arty-expressions, engaged in arty conversations, and I realized how very small I was, how very small my little town of Easton was, and how massive New York City was.  

Then I finally found the right gallery.  (I had to ask some arty-people for help.)  When I walked inside, the heat of the hundreds of bodies hit me like a powerful ocean wave.  I saw Kyle Staver in the crowd but she was absolutely surrounded by people.  I knew, with a sinking feeling, that I would never get within twenty feet of her.  The place was PACKED!  It was hard to see the paintings, but I did slowly make my way around, floating in my own private bliss.  I spent lots of time looking at each painting, and I had thoughts like this:  

"What would it feel like to paint this large?"

"Could I be brave enough to use colors like this?"

"How could I ever give myself permission to paint so brazenly?"

Here's a picture I took with my phone, up close, looking at the space between Leander's thighs.  I just loved these bright, golden fish, swimming out of that sexy space!

Suddenly I was overcome with shyness.  I didn't want to be around so many people; I didn't know anybody.  I wanted to be back home where it was safe and cozy.  I felt lonely and pathetic.  I saw a bench in a shadowy corner, and there was a spot open, so I sat down to hide in the darkness.  Next to me on the bench was woman who smiled at me in a friendly way.  Her name was Martha, and we started talking.  She was so sympathetic and kind, that I found myself opening up and telling her about my whole adventure, my long trip, my deep desire to meet Kyle Staver, and my overwhelming feelings of shyness...

"Well, I happen to know Kyle Staver very well," she said.  "My daughter has been best friends with Kyle Staver for decades.  My daughter is a painter too, Janice Nowinski."

Here's a picture of Martha and me.  There's a whole album of pictures from opening night if you're interested. 

My jaw dropped: I recognized the name Janice Nowinski!  

I remembered that I pinned "The Pink Bathing Suit" on Pinterest.  (I loooove Pinterest.)


So, Martha and I looked at the art together for awhile; it was so wonderful talking with her about art and life!  Then she introduced me to her daughter, and also to Kyle Staver.  

I had this conversation with Kyle Staver:

"I really admire your work!" I said.

"Thanks!" she said.


And that was that.  And yet, I was elated!  As I traveled home, I felt lucky in so many ways!  

But my favorite part of the adventure had been meeting Martha!

That night, I wrote this on the Kent Art Gallery Facebook Event Page:

"I'm so glad I came and got to see your paintings in person!  They were so large and evocative, I felt like I could almost step inside them.  This curve of light against her side was my favorite part, but it made me feel like a voyeur."

Thanks for reading my blog!  For further related reading:

a great review of this exhibit by William Eckhardt Kohler of the Huffington Post.

this one is even better: A Different History by John Yau from