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Gary Moran Makes Art From the Ordinary

by Tracy Kaler

 Gary Moran stands in front of Large Bass, approximately 132" X 55", pastel on paper.

At first glance, Gary Moran’s art may seem conventional --- but his unique approach to what most would deem ordinary subject matter creates an element of the unexpected in his work --- making it far from ordinary. 

Moran’s drawings and photographs will be exhibited for the first time in 20 years this Thursday, October 18, at Rooq Fine Arts in NoHo. The one-man show, entitled “Dogs and Fishes,” is a combination of enhanced photos and pastel drawings of exactly these, “dogs” and “fish.” 

The dog photographs are full of movement, life, and vigor, and resemble pastel drawings or even watercolors, but Moran uses a camera to capture the animals in motion. He shot the images throughout the dog parks of the Upper West Side, and his Yellow Labradoodle “Gypsy” can be seen as the subject matter romping throughout most of the photos. 

Two Dogs, 24" X 24", Archival inkjet print

The fish are quite the opposite --- calm, serene and most are precisely sketched in pastels. He began these with photos that he had taken while on a trip to Canada this past summer. “These are not exotic fish,” said Moran, "These are very humble fish that anyone can catch -- such as small-mouth bass, sunfish, and rock bass ." As a devout pescetarian, Moran prepares and eats seafood regularly. Fish are a small but somewhat significant part of his life on an almost daily basis.

Moran, who grew up in Pennsylvania and Virginia, is no stranger to the arts. He holds a BFA and a M.M. (Master of Music) from Virginia Commonwealth, and a MFA from The Art Institute of Chicago. As a veteran jazz pianist, Moran has more than 20 years experience playing as a soloist and as an accompanist. 

"I love the Great American Songbook, but I love Bebop and Hard Bop too.  I also love Nat King Cole’s piano playing.  He’s known as a singer mostly today, but he was a very influential pianist and had a great trio in the ‘40s. Some of the pianists who influenced me the most are: Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Cedar Walton, Sonny Clark, and Bill Evans."

"My dad had an influence on my jazz mostly because he had some records. I played rock and roll drums in junior high and high school, but then I started to listen to some of his records in high school. I started studying music and I could appreciate those records more. Jazz became something we shared. We would go out to jazz clubs and listen together.” 

Moran’s musical accomplishments include receiving a full scholarship to become a Carpenter Center Performing Scholar at VCU, playing at the well-known Virginia resort, The Homestead, the famous West Virginia Greenbrier Hotel, touring throughout the U.S., and becoming a professor of Jazz Studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He held that position for three years and taught Jazz Theory, Jazz Improvisation, Jazz Piano and also directed a small jazz ensemble while performing regular music gigs in Center City Philadelphia.  

But art was his first love, and after a successful musical career, in 2011, Moran decided to pursue art full-time. His years as a performer and teacher have influenced his visual art. Moran is actually quite analytical when speaking about it.

“My work is process-oriented. I like exploring the intersection of drawing and photography, and how they influence and interact with each other. Photographs are drawn. Drawings are photographed and redrawn.”

Black Dog,  24" X 24", Archival inkjet print

Moran’s connection to his art is a prime example of how everyday elements in our lives form and shape us as individuals --- what seems unnecessary can become significant. 

“What I love most about the art in this exhibit is that it’s a small part of my life, but I made it into something bigger. I want these images to resonate with the viewer. Something that is common and overlooked in someone’s life can become a larger and more fascinating presence.”

You can see the art of Gary Moran at ROOQ.  
October 18 - November 29
13 East 4th St. New York, NY

Opening Reception and Meet the Artist on October 18 from 6 to 8 p.m.

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