Discerning Eye Blog Dr. Leslie Hammond

03/29/13 - Colorful Spring

Last week I had the most delightful time reconnecting with the wonderful artist Irene Neal and her husband Paul in Merritt Island, Florida. We first met when I was the Chief Curator at the Appleton Museum of Art and were introduced through another artist, Graham Peacock, who contacted me about donating his work to the museum. Graham, Irene and others formed a group that began in the late 1970s that is called the “New New Painters” because they made use of the “new” acrylic gel paints (iridescent, glitter, fluorescent) developed by the paint chemists Sam Golden. The New New Painters were championed by Dr. Kenworth Moffitt, the former Curator of 20th century art at the MFA, Boston and Director of the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art and they continue to exhibit collectively and individually throughout the world.

Irene and Paul are wonderfully kind people with a down to earth sensibility that make you simply enjoy spending time with them and listening to their stories of traveling and living on various continents. Undoubtedly these experiences and sensibilities influence Irene’s work, but not always in an obvious way. Irene’s creations are organic, a free-flowing process culminating in mostly nonobjective paintings but often with descriptive titles that allow you to see through her eyes.

Irene is a petite lady and seeing her massive works tower beside her puts it all into perspective. Unfortunately images to not justly replicate the experience one has being in direct view of one of her works. These are three dimensional paintings with physical depth and texture that makes a Van Gogh painting look flat. The oozing, undulating surfaces invite your participation while the intense color palette cannot help but make you smile.


Previously Irene used wooden panels on which to create her paintings but now she is experimenting with lighter surfaces like watercolor canvas, paper and a polycarbonate resin called Lexan. What has not changed however is the flow of her creative spirit and process which is in perfect balance with the vibrant colors and materials she uses. While each makes a statement in its own right, the communion with one another sings in perfect harmony.


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