The University of Mississippi Museum is debuting a brand new exhibit this month. “Brief Encounters” by Martin Arnold is a collection of nearly life-size oil paintings of human subjects. Viewers will be left in awe as the paintings, as clear as photographs, capture their attention.
Arnold, originally from Michigan, has lived in Mississippi for eight years. He received his undergraduate degree in art education from Mississippi University for Women and a master’s degree in fine arts from UM.
For 37 years, Arnold’s career was designing automation machinery for the automotive industry before he decided to pursue his lifelong dream of figure painting. In addition to painting, he teaches art at East Mississippi Community College’s Golden Triangle Campus.
“The human figure, in all of its expressiveness, is the language that I use to graphically parse our mental, physical and spiritual human facets,” Arnold said.
Arnold’s subjects include people of all ages, ethnicities and genders, and his goal is to make viewers wonder about the subjects, as he does while painting them, asking “Who is this person?” and “What is going through this person’s mind?”
“With little else to ponder, the viewer’s attention is left to linger on the stark humanity of the person before them,” he said. “Viewers must become incrementally aware that my subjects reciprocate their curiosity and scrutiny. Metaphorically, my paintings function as psychological mirrors, wherein viewers may recognize and examine aspects of their own psyche in its penetrating, unrelenting reflection.”
Arnold adds that the intention of his painting, unlike conventional portraiture, is to probe both the individuality of the subjects as well as common traits that bring everyone together.
“Martin Arnold’s figural paintings are extraordinary representations of the human form and his work has received numerous regional and national awards,” said Robert Saarnio, UM Museum director. “As an artist, Arnold strives to create ‘a psychological mirror’ with his almost life-sized oil paintings. The University Museum is honored to exhibit the work of this deeply talented north Mississippi artist.”
The exhibit is up for viewing through May in the Lower Skipwith Gallery. A grand opening reception is set for 6 to 8 p.m. during the monthly Oxford Art Crawl on Tuesday (March 24). Arnold will also give a lecture about his exhibit at noon Wednesday (March 25) at the University Museum as part of the Brown Bag lecture series.
In his lecture, Arnold will describe how he approaches his paintings as psychological studies and how they differ from portraits. He wants viewers to study the paintings and sense that the subjects are returning their scrutiny.
The University Museum is offering free entry as part of its celebration of 75 years of service to the community. The UM Museum is opened from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information about exhibits, how to become a museum member and other activities, visit the museum website.