Dominic Avant Finds New Energy After 'Repose'

Arts & Culture

At the height of the pandemic, Dominic Avant wasn’t painting.

Between COVID-19 and yet another national reckoning over police brutality and systemic racism, negativity had made a home in his head and found a way into his studio. “I was paralyzed,” he says. But there was a bright spot hanging on the wall. A painting he had completed shortly before the pandemic began—the intended beginning of a whole series, now cut short. On a lark, he submitted it to the 15th International ARC Salon, vying with 4,941 artists from 83 countries for a chance to show in the Art Renewal Center’s traveling exhibition this year, to see his work hang in the European Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona.

The painting won four awards. It is one of only five selected for publication in Collection Magazine in China.

Titled Repose, the painting began from a trip to The Petit Palais in Paris, France, where Avant found himself captivated by the work of one painter in particular. He doesn’t remember the name, but he remembers what he saw. “Beautiful paintings of these African subjects,” Avant says. “I loved his handling of the skin tone—the temperature range he was getting. He was painting with such beauty.” As an artist, Avant wanted to explore that beauty himself, that delicate dance of near-hidden greens and blues and violets. As a man of African heritage, he felt conflicted. “You should have already done this a number of times,” he says to himself still.

Returning to Sarasota, serendipity knocked in the form of a muse—a figure model named Bianca Sel-Ket. Invited to an artist’s home where Sel-Ket was sitting for a session, Avant was immediately struck by her elegance. “She looked like everything I wanted to capture in the painting I’d been envisioning,” Avant says. “That first session, I knew it was a perfect match.” When the session ended, he told her about the series he was planning—a series celebrating African heritage and beauty, of positive and uplifting representation. And when they later met for a second session, outside to take advantage of the natural light, Avant remembers the “exquisite” moment a single shaft of sunlight broke through the foliage like a spotlight on Sel-Ket. “Everything aligned perfectly,” he says.

According to the Art Renewal Center, Repose “shows an immense understanding of the human figure, composition and light.” To Avant, it’s a sign to keep going, to keep painting, to trust his artist instincts.

“This was a personal thing for me,” he says. And he’s ready to finish the series.

Currently on display in Sotheby’s New York, Repose will later travel to the European Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona, Spain, where it will be on display from October 8 through December 12.

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