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 John Motian  (1933 - )

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Lived/Active: Ohio/California      Known for: landscape and religious paintings, female portrait drawing

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A Cleveland, Ohio artist in styles ranging from realism to abstraction, John Motian has been a low profile painter and sketch artist of landscapes, female portraits and religious subjects such as the crucifixion.  Special attention was brought to his artwork in October, 2008 with an exhibition of 39 of his paintings at the Brecksville Center for the Arts in Cleveland.

Motion has had a few exhibitions in the past in his hometown, and also in California where he lived for 20 years.  In an interview leading up to the Brecksville Center exhibition, the following was written:

"At 75, Motian brings a young man's energy to his work. He rises in the pre-dawn hours,   brews coffee, greets and feeds Leche and Picasso, his sweet, raggedy Pekingese-Maltese-mix dogs.

Then he gets busy in his studio -- a south-facing living room in an apartment above a defunct storefront.

Motian inherited the building from his late mother, Rose.  Over the decades, the street-level store has been a butcher shop, a church and, more recently, a junk shop whose owners abandoned some of their inventory.  That included a "little kitsch painting," Motian says, with a walnut frame worth preserving.

In the tradition of frugal artists across the ages, Motian has covered what he says was a pretty bad landscape with an ethereal, almost abstract painting that glows in colors of gold, green and cream.  Ghostly figures have emerged sketchily over the time Motian has been working on the painting. It's still not done.

The most distinct of the figures is perhaps more female-looking than the others. Motian calls the painting Karen's New Dress, and says he thinks that St. John-Vincent doesn't know he has had her in mind as he has been working on the piece.

"Karen's the only beautiful woman I've met recently," he says.

And beautiful women have always been part of his inspiration."

Motian is Armenian-American and was raised by immigrant parents in Cleveland.  His art interest began when he was ten years old and read a library book on French Impressionsm.  he said:  "I knew then that I was going to be an artist".

He studied at Cooper Union and the Art Students League in New York and the Cleveland Institute of Art.  From 1953 to 1955, he was in the army and then dedicated himself to painting, while working labor jobs to earn money.  In 1966, he went to California, was married from 1971 to 1984, and had two children.  After his marriage ended, he returned to Cleveland to care for his aged mother, who died in 1991. 

Dedicated full time to painting, he does work that is mostly "representational, though some veer toward abstraction.  He has paintings that evoke Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gauguin and Matisse, but they're always overlaid with Motian's own sensibility."  Some of his painting reflects his spiritual leanings fed by his regular attendance at a Christian church, but he is not committed to any dogman.  Of the fact that "Images emerge.  Themes emerge.  Ideas, half-articulated, invite the viewer's response rather than dictating it," he says:  "I make things with a lot.  That's when I really feel good.  It reveals more and more."

Karen Sandstrom, "Painter John Motian surprises himself as he sees where the paintbrush takes him", The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, 10/11/2008

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