Having brought a rich new color palette to the Stark Center lobby for the past eight months, the paintings of Igor Galanin, graciously on loan from the artist and his family, will be coming down from our walls and returning to their rightful homes in New York. June 9th will be the last day that the paintings will be on display to the public. So, if you haven’t been able to visit The Stark Center and see this show, I highly recommend you do so in the next few weeks.
Galanin’s paintings embrace light-hearted nods to Mannerism and Surrealism in landscapes filled with large, sensually-depicted women, unexpected animals, and flying objects. Now 85, and living in Millwood, New York, Galanin continues to paint while classical music and Russian opera fill his second-story studio. Galanin’s women athletes, like all the women he paints, have delicate, aristocratic features, tiny feet and rounded, voluptuous bodies. Their strength is not shown through delineated musculature, but rather through the graceful shape of their physiques created by underlying muscle, their large size, and their placement in the foreground of the canvas. None of them, Galanin claims, are based on real people; they are women from his imagination, painted in bold colors as a celebration of his ideal of athletic beauty. We find Galanin’s women of strength and skill worth celebrating too.
It has been The Stark Center’s great privilege to host these wonderful paintings. They brought a pop of color to our main lobby, but they also brought a different perspective on strength, sport, and the active woman. Galanin’s departure from the Soviet Union and arrival in America coincided with the passage of Title IX in 1972. Over the next decade or so, magazines and television programs were filled with stories about the rise of women’s sport and the new generation of women athletes. It’s possible that Galanin, inspired by this new world of strong, skillful women, began painting women athletes, then a highly unusual subject for the world of art. And in all of their depictions, the female athlete is presented in a sort of celebration––of grace, power, and skill.