New Kensington art gallery features the return of Dan Bolick

January 09, 2013

Displaying a new creative style, Pittsburgh artist Dan Bolick returns to the art gallery at Penn State New Kensington for a two-month show, which began Jan. 7.

The one-man exhibit, “In Your Face,” comprises 35 portraits, or faces, hence the title, and features paintings and drawings that have a story. Text is incorporated into some of the pieces.

The show is an integration of his traditional expressionistic style and his neo-three-dimensional style. An expressionist working in acrylic and latex or pen, pencil and marker, Bolick developed in the past year the new style that utilizes the assemblage/collage approach.

“As an artist I believe that it is important to try new things and to go to certain creative areas that I am not totally comfortable with,” said Bolick, a retired art teacher from the Pittsburgh Public School System. “Also, I get easily bored and creatively stagnant constantly working in the same format. Especially when creating portraits. That is why I am attempting this new three-dimensional approach”.

Nine of the “In Your Face” pieces, including three of his family, reflect his novel style. His wife, Iphiyenia, son, Eli, and daughter, Sabrina, are portrayed using wooden assemblage. Bolick’s “Self-Portrait” is painted in his customary acrylic and latex.

“I have been painting or drawing my family for years. My studio is in my house. They are here. They are my muse,” said Bolick, a graduate of Kent State University with a bachelor's degree in fine arts. “They appear in a number of my works. Hopefully their portraits will be passed down to their children and to their children's children.”

Included in the show are 10 pieces, five paintings and five drawings, from Bolick’s "Resurrected" travelling exhibit that made a stop at the campus in 2010. That exhibit featured 10 men who were freed from prison after years of sitting on death row or facing life sentences.

“The paintings from my ‘Resurrected’ series fit with the exhibit in that, in and of themselves, they are faces,” said Bolick, who recently showed the 10 works in the East Village in New York. “Two of the pieces were not in the exhibit three years ago.”

Bolick took up the cause in 2007 to help wrongfully incarcerated prisoners. Working with the Innocence Institute of Point Park University, a nonprofit organization that investigates possible wrongful convictions, Bolick met the subjects of his exhibit face-to-face. He used his paint brush to humanize the men and to make an argument against the death penalty.

“I was able to help these people who truly were wronged by society, said Bolick, who donates a percentage of sales from the ‘Resurrected’ series to the Innocence Project Network. “Stylistically speaking, it let me see that the usage of text in the background of my portraits visually works.”

His involvement with the Innocence Institute came about after a previous project, “The ABCs of Crime,” stalled in the early going. He had planned a series of 26 portraits, A through Z, of actual criminals who committed the crimes beginning with that particular letter of the alphabet.

“I was going to try to get into each criminals’ mindset through the use of text in the background,” said Bolick, who taught at Schiller Classical Academy for 20 years. “The whole project was filled with problems from the start, not the least of which was the fact that I was dealing with mug shot photo files and would never actually be able to sit with the actual person. And there were legal ramifications. Also, what crime begins with an X ?”

Sitting down with the subjects was paramount for Bolick. Overcoming the legal obstacles might have been possible; however, the logistics involved with painting the portraits would be nearly impossible to surmount.

“Portrait artists always face a certain dilemma. Since portraiture is a two-way activity, how can I depict the individuality of my subject as if they were not being closely observed? But I can only accomplish this by observing them closely,” said Bolick, a member of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh. “I enjoy this dilemma. Perhaps the true subject of each portrait is the interchange that occurs between the person depicted and myself.”

After two paintings, Bolick abandoned the project and focused on his quest to fight wrongful convictions. The two finished pieces, “Arson” and Burglary,” are a part of the campus exhibit.

“I'm glad I started it though, because it led to my investigations of convicted people who were actually innocent,” said Bolick, who won the Gallery Chiz Award at the 101st Annual Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Juried Exhibition in 2011. “They were people who I could, and did, actually meet.”

Bolick brings his style to the New Kensington campus at the request of colleague and campus faculty member Bud Gibbons, professor of visual arts and director of the Art Gallery. Both award-winning artists have exhibited at the Andy Warhol Museum, Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

Many of Bolick's portraits are for sale. The exhibit runs until Feb. 28, and is free to the public. An artist’s reception will be announced at a later date. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. weekends.

For more information, contact Bolick at
For more about the artist, visit online.


  • "Arson" by Dan Bolick from the defunct “The ABCs of Crime” series.

    IMAGE: Bill Woodard

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Last Updated January 10, 2013