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Nestor Topchy Unveils Years-In-The-Making Project ... At a Funeral Home

Nestor Topchy, Jim Pirtle and Andrea Grover with Child
Nestor Topchy, Jim Pirtle and Andrea Grover with Child

This Saturday, one of the most anticipated and unusual visual-art events of the year is taking place at a Tanglewood-area funeral home. For one night only, the well-known Houston artist Nestor Topchy with exhibit his years-in-the-making portrait series, "The Iconic Portrait Strand," in its first-ever public presentation. And what better venue for the solemn and soulful images than a funeral home? From 7 - 10 p.m., Geo. H. Lewis & Sons on Bering Dr. will host the open-to-the-public exhibit, with catering by Stone Kitchen.

Topchy invoked an 800 year-old artistic tradition (Byzantine iconography) to paint over 100 local and national art-world players, including Walter Hopps, Franklin Sirmans, David McGee, Hiram Butler and Edward Albee. We're betting the event will likewise attract a who's-who crowd.

Art Attack chatted with Topchy about his ongoing project.

"I started early 2006, and then it built steam; it started accumulating."

"The Iconic Portrait Strand" was born out of the tradition of making Pysanky, Ukrainian eggs Topchy made as a kid with his mother and grandmother.

"I thought, why not just look back into familiarity? I've been through the same experiences as just about every artist. There's a materialism that justifies just about every absurd and worthless notion for making art. I didn't know how to step out of it, so I stepped out of it intuitively. I think embracing mystery is an honest and forward-thinking way to get something done."
Nestor Topchy, Al LeBlanc and David Brown
Nestor Topchy, Al LeBlanc and David Brown
"I wanted to be able to connect to a person through art. And I wanted to also acknowledge the whole of creation in its divine and complete way without compartmentalizing or infringing on certain branches of theology or religion, or dumping it into 'pop.'"

 

Nestor Topchy, Debbie McNulty and Randall Watson
Nestor Topchy, Debbie McNulty and Randall Watson
"I felt like it would be disingenuous to paint people I didn't know. I had to know them personally and meet them. This is the way things really happen--by transmission. A person to a person ... if you believe in the soul; If you believe in real contact ... it had to be someone I'd met or someone I knew, and then that person would in turn introduce me to another person or recommend another person, so there's a connection and a link. Because I'm an artist, I started with people I knew, which were artists ... people who were around me. I think of them as genes in a strand; a strand of social and cultural DNA. To continue the strand, I just keep adding to it."
Nestor Topchy, Walter Hopps and James Harithas
Nestor Topchy, Walter Hopps and James Harithas

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