Gabriel Mark Lipper sees horses as a means to explore human society.
The Ashland artist, who maintains a working studio in Talent, is showing masterfully done paintings of horses and people at Hanson Howard Gallery in Ashland through the end of this month.
"I'm looking at the horse as a metaphor," he said. "The horse represents physical power to me. It's interesting to see how that physical power translates into social status."
Lipper travels across the country to polo, dressage and jumping events to view the horses he depicts in his paintings. He also frequents local equestrian events.
He combines them with images of people to create social commentaries.
Lipper often taps local actors, dance company members and friends to serve as models for his paintings.
"I'm creating a character that I've seen in the world, things I've seen in my experience," he said.
The paintings often seem to tell a story about the different sources of people's power.
In "Short Work," a man with a loosened tie and drink in his hand beckons imperiously for someone outside the painting field to come to him. The man obviously thinks that the other person — a waiter perhaps? — should be at his beck and call.
Meanwhile, a bored woman, her cleavage showing, sucks on a martini olive and another woman in a mini dress looks flirtatiously at the viewer. Mounted horses in the background are like props, helping to set the stage for the human drama.
In other paintings, horses are more central. The large-scale piece "Persephone" shows a gray horse coming down from a jump. The horse and its rider are set against a hazy, abstract field of color.
Lipper is showing other works that highlight human drama at Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar in Ashland.
His paintings there show contemporary bar scenes, recalling the unusual angles, drenched colors and nightlife subject matter of famous French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Lipper uses his classical realist training to show men and women drinking in bars, sometimes interested in each other and sometimes not.
Lipper said he is glad to be painting at a time in art history when realism has been re-established and is again being shown respect.
For decades, realism was treated dismissively, while abstract painting held sway.
"Everything has been done, and now things can be revisited without the divisiveness. When painters were breaking new ground, maybe they threw out the baby with the bath water," Lipper said, noting that artists can now make use of traditional skills and techniques.
For people who want to learn more about Lipper and his art, visit http://artofgabriel.com.
For more information about the exhibit at Hanson Howard Gallery, located at 89 Oak St. in downtown Ashland, call 541-488-2562 or see hansonhowardgallery.com.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.