Leon Sarantos graduated from the College of Arts and Architecture at the University of Michigan. He lives in Chicago and has taken classes at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Hyde Park Art Center. He has explored several artistic styles including representational and abstract, and subjects including landscape and cityscape paintings. His art has been exhibited in numerous venues in the Midwest. Recently, his Still LIfe With Mannequin Handwon the Best of Show award at the CornerStone Art Center and Gallery in Indiana. He was also a recent Artslant Showcase Winner for his abstract painting, Mexican Roadtrip. His figurative painting, Suzanne in Repose, received special recognition in the Figurative Art Exhibition at the Light Space &Time – Online Gallery this past December.
Paintings of the University of Chicago — Digital Gothic
The subjects for my paintings are selected from scenes I observe walking through Chicago, including my home neighborhood of Hyde Park. One of the things about Hyde Park that stands out to me is its richness of vintage architecture. I want to make the public more aware of these architectural beauties through my paintings, and photographs, particularly the Gothic architecture of the University of Chicago campus. My paintings, in general, use a strong interplay and harmony of colors. They also make prominent use of strong heavy lines, and an extreme gradation from light to dark color values. Although the painting process uses techniques of realism (lighting, perspective, modeling), the paint application creates a contemporary feel to the finished work (flattened objects, textures, partial overlays of color, almost cartoon-like figures, strong shapes on flat backgrounds). This series of paintings focuses on scenes from the Main Quadrangle at the University of Chicago campus, including Botany Pond, Gargoyle Overlooking Hull Court, C-Shop, Bond Chapel, and a work in progress, Cobb Hall.
Botany Pond at the University of Chicago was originally built as an outdoor research lab by John Coulter, who was the first chair of the botany department at the university. My painting, Botony Pond, won first prize at the South Side Impressions Group Exhibit 2011 at the Beverly Art Center in Chicago.
Cobb Gate is a neo-Gothic archway at the northern entrance to the Main Quadrangle of the University of Chicago campus. The gate, complete with gargoyles, was donated by Cobb to the university in 1900. According to university lore, gargoyles at the bottom of the gate represent first-year students, second and third-years climb the gate, with this large griffin at the top representing fourth-year students.
Bond Chapel at the University of Chicago was designed by Coolidge & Hodgdon (1925–26) and is another excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture in the Main Quadrangle.
As an architect, as well as an artist commenting on society, these paintings were inspired by both the somber beauty of the Gothic Revival Architecture, and by the electricity in the vitality of the student body. Living in Hyde Park for many years has allowed me to often walk through the campus. The solid, grey stone buildings surrounding the Main Quadrangle always symbolized to me the stable educational structure and traditions of the university. In contrast, the students with their modern digital devices and outward social statements on sex and life style suggest the vibrant liveliness and new ideas of the next generation. These paintings portray my impression that the established order is educating and absorbing the new, and the new in turn is morphing the established order for the demands of the 21st century.
In preparing for a painting, I take photographs of architectural details for reference. Aside from the photographs’ function as a painting reference, I am consider them as part of my body of work because they can reinforce the awareness of this architecture. I have manipulated these photographs digitally to reduce the color gradation and accentuate some colors, all to bring out the Gothic details in stark (and sometimes colorful) presentation. This allows the public to see and relate more readily to the essentials of the Gothic architectural order that exists right here in Hyde Park. The photos are available from my web site as giclee prints.