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TRAC 2014 featured live demonstrations by notable figurative painters Jeremy Lipking (l) and Tony Pro (r).

TRAC 2014: Representational Phenomena

Is art simply a record of events, of objects, and of history? Or is it perhaps a form of deeper communication and spiritual expression? These and many other questions on art and art-making formed the basis for passionate discussion at The Representational Art Conference (TRAC), held last week in Ventura, California.
Organized by Michael Pearce, Michael Lynn Adams, and a team that includes Cindy Keitel, Jeff Miller, Tony Pro, and Nathan Tierny, Ph.D., of California Lutheran University's Arts Initiatives, The Representational Art Conference is the premier academic forum for discussion and exploration of representational art in the 21st century.

Keynote speaker Roger Scruton addresses conference attendees at the opening of TRAC 2014. Photo: Vanessa Rothe
At TRAC 2014 in Ventura, a large community of more than 250 scholars, philosophers, artists, editors, professors, and curators joined together to both discuss and celebrate representational fine art. The conference explored an abundance of in-depth philosophical subjects and theories surrounding representational art and art-making. Does art serve as a record, a symbol of the real thing, propaganda, or the human spirit at work? Is it a conveyance of life, beauty, a mode of self-expression and reflection? And what of beauty in art? What terms should describe the art in question: Realist? Representational? Is this an official art movement? If so, is it growing?

Michael Pearce speaking on "The Future of Representational Art," with fellow panelists Candice Bohannon, Graydon Parrish, Peter Trippi, Kara Ross, and F. Scott Hess. Photo: Vanessa Rothe
Citing philosophers from Hegel to Descartes, poets from Oscar Wilde to T.S. Elliot, and painters from Rembrandt to de Kooning, conference presenters examined various aspects of the contemporary art, deconstructing, shifting, and rebuilding its boundaries. A hearty camaraderie was formed as like-minded individuals, from many sides of the world, united under their belief in -- and commitment to -- representational fine art.

Artists Sadie Valeri, Teresa Oaxaca, and Candice Bohannon pose in front of their paintings at the "Women by Women" exhibition. Photo: Vanessa Rothe 

The event included moving lectures and panel discussions by Roger Scruton -- famed philosopher, author of Beauty, and widely known for his BBC2 television show "Why Beauty Matters" -- along with Odd Nerdrum, the revered artist and writer who espouses bold theories on art and its vast possibilities. Juliette Aristides delivered an inspirational keynote speech that charged those present with conveying the human spirit with their work. In her own work Aristides has committed to rebuilding classical and traditional arts education in the U.S., and she has written three important books on the matter. Other highlights of TRAC 2014 included live painting demonstrations by Jeremy Lipking, Tony Pro, Virgil Elliott, Alexey Steele, Pam Hawkes, and Steven Perkins; a lively discussion of color theory led by Graydon Parrish and Steve Linberg; and a visit to the "Women by Women" paintings exhibition on view at the Kwan Fong Gallery of Art and Culture on the campus of California Lutheran University.

Michael Pearce moderates a session with featured speakers Roger Scruton and Odd Nerdrum. Photo: Vanessa Rothe
In attendance were a host of notable artists and art scholars, including Sadie Valeri, Jeremy Lipking, Tony Pro, Alexey Steele, Daniel Graves, Alan Lawson, Pam Hawkes, Jan-Ove Tuv, Richard Thomas Scott, Teresa Oaxaca, Vanessa Françoise Rothe, William Havlicek, Juliette Aristedes, Peter Trippi, Graydon Parrish, Kara Ross, Carl Dobsky, Steven DaLuz, Brandon Kralik, F. Scott Hess, Betty Shelton, Michael Pearce, Michael Lynn Adams, Candice Bohannon, Julio Reyes, Roger Scruton, Odd Nedrum, Jan-Ove Tuv, Peter Adams, Stephen Hicks, Stephen Perkins, Patricia Watwood, John Seed, Virgil Elliott, Michael Zakian, and Ruth Weisberg.
The conference goal was not to form a "monolithic aesthetic," but to better understand the disparate elements of the world of representational art, to explore its position in the grand scheme of the art world today, and to provide some illumination for the future of representational art. More than 35 academic papers covered these intriguing topics and many more.

Graydon Parrish (l) and Steve Linberg (r) offered a presentation on using the Munsell Color System. Photo: Vanessa Rothe

After three days of highly intellectual discourse tinged with emotional expression, the attendees left the conference with raised spirits, a profound sense of fellowship, and the determination to make a difference in the representational art world today. 

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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