Welcome to our first exhibition since we relocated to our renovated warehouse showrooms in the Siler Rufina Arts District!


Anecdotal Scenarios is a nuanced duet between two highly articulate storytelling painters at GVG Contemporary.


Abstract expressionist painter Lori Schappe-Youens presents large-scale paintings with pandemic-inspired titles such as: The parties are over—what’s next? and How many days until I can go where I want? 


These appear alongside new mythical landscapes by representational realist (edging into surrealist) painter Oliver Polzin.

Perhaps more now than ever, the stories we tell are essential.


For these two painters, equally important is the more ontological question of how we tell and receive stories.


It may be that an exhibition focused on narrative seems surprising at gallery known for contemporary nonobjective/abstract art.


But abstraction tells stories too.


Like what’s left over after everything is distilled—the maker is handing over only the purest sip of experience.


Such is the felt experience of paintings by Schappe-Youens and Polzin, who both create mythic universes rooted in nature.

As the world navigates crisis and change during the pandemic, many contemporary visual artists are incorporating new and universally shared experiences of isolation, uncertainty, and community into their work.


Schappe-Youens and Polzin already have visual vocabularies for such existential questioning, and have increasingly been asking questions in their paintings like:


Where does the self end and other begin?

What about dreams and reality?

The subconscious and conscious minds?

Humanity and nature?

This new work promises new revelations as well as technical mastery.

Lori Schappe Youens

Schappe-Youens—a US-born artist now based in South Africa—has created a series of large-scale, primarily square paintings in oil and mixed media, with layers of opacity and translucency that play with texture and blur boundaries, much like the act of imagination itself.

Oliver Polzin

Polzin, a Santa Fe–based painter and installation artist, is working mostly in gouache, which gives him the flexibility to paint outside as he continues to explore “the lore” he encounters in the wild.

Interestingly, prior to the pandemic, both artists addressed ideas of climate change and how our relationship with nature has shifted over time. Now, the urgency has intensified, evident by their use of bolder colors and heightened textures, and, in Polzin’s case, with the appearance of lone, archetypal figures and apocalyptic imagery.  At the same time, what emerges is a theme of survival—and the sense of humor it may require.


In Schappe-Youen’s the calm after the fire, for instance, a bemused parrot looks to the left, as if this creature can see beyond the raging flames of the past.

Each painting is an anecdote that’s still being told, as though we’ve walked in on someone else’s dream or stumbled on a fireside storyteller. Bird creatures, floating numbers, and scratched marks permeate these Schappe-Youens paintings, as if the artist has beautified a cave of isolation while inviting us to take part in a somehow still jolly tale.


“Marking the wall with a tool and fantasizing about escaping come to mind,” she laughs.  As for the narrative content, she says:

Often I find that only when I’m on my last layer of the painting—which includes most of the topical mark making and detail work—does the story truly unfold.
close up shot of 'shifting from dense to light'
detail, 'shifting from dense to light'

Schappe-Youens crafts abstracted landscapes that compound perspective, as if one is simultaneously flying bird’s-eye-view while being right there in the land or sea.


What it comes down to is the relationship we have with nature, the artist explains—and it’s also about claiming responsibility. “I feel that we should be stewards of the planet,” she says.

The fires around the world, the floods, the devastation of animal life … Now more than ever, I can feel the pain and suffering we’ve caused.

Polzin takes a wide lens on nature, time, and existence. A painter who grew up romping around the forests of northern Michigan, spent his adolescence in Sedona, Arizona, and the last decade in Santa Fe, Polzin has been pretty integrated with nature his entire life.


“Through years of plein air painting and wilderness exploration, I have amassed a library of lived experiences in nature from which I render my work,” he says.

He’s interested in how humanity has built narratives around our relationship with nature, and how these become cultural and personal paradigms that may be difficult—and yet necessary—to shift.


“In this late stage of extractive civilization, I think it’s a misnomer to think of nature as an edifice,” says Polzin, who says that the modern urge to “protect” the natural world “looms large in the human psyche.”

Part of the consideration here is where the lines around the self even are.

He finds it interesting that we feel control over this world, as if it wasn’t always grander and more complex than us. “Really we’re embedded in something so wildly beyond our comprehension,” he says.


Fittingly, he plays with gouache paint to create layers of translucency and opacity to create scenes that at first seem familiar.


Deeper looking, in Polzin’s case, always reveals more.

While Schappe-Youens intersects abstract expressionism with symbolism, Polzin is at first glance a representational painter. And yet erosive cliff-sides become hand-like at the water’s edge, and a primordial, nude figure emerges into the edge of the scene, small in a vast wilderness. Perhaps all is not as it first appears.


What are the stories we tell each other about humanity, nature, and existence at large?


What do we tell ourselves?


And can the stories change?

The paintings by Lori Schappe-Youens and Oliver Polzin are available for purchase online (unless marked as SOLD). Please click on the images of work above to access more information and our secure shopping cart. Visit the artist pages to see additional pieces by Lori and Oliver.


We welcome visitors to view the exhibition in-person at our new warehouse location in Santa Fe, or via Zoom from wherever you may be.


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