Run (or drive)—do not walk—to the former site of Dress Barn in the Westborough Shopping Plaza off Lyman Street. Displayed in the window are six large-scale oil canvases by Hopkinton's 28-year-old Dustin Neece, who one day may be a famous artist. That's what Ed Turner, owner of the Art and Frame Emporium thinks.
Neece already tasted fame. When he was in high school, his painting The Bowler was hung in the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, DC) when it won the nation’s top student prize (Scholastic Art Award).
Some of Neece's art will also be displayed at the Art and Frame Emporium. The exhibit will run through May 24, but may go longer. A small reception was held at the Emporium on Thursday, May 3 to launch this project.
Turner said, "There are people who make things happen, who watch things happen, and who wonder what happened. I make things happen." He continued, "I have a thousand ideas, but I can only work on the first three." One of Turner's ideas is to display art and products in empty storefronts in the plaza. He's worked with the mall owners to make this happen.
Neece, a 2002 graduate of Hopkinton High School, and a 2006 graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), is a classically trained figurative artist. He is serious and centered about his craft. He told Patch, "During the past six years, I've spent my time and energy pouring myself and every ounce of energy and attention I have into making my work as strong as I possibly can."
He said later, "I have to be willing to dive within myself to figure out what is meaningful and powerful emotionally."
Neece, who is inspired by Wyeth and Rembrandt, focuses on landscapes and figures. Using a muted limited palette (which he says is all he needs), he spends hours defining face and form in each canvas. He said, "I search for developing as many painterly qualities as I can... I paint as if I'm painting for the last time. If a section isn't good enough, I paint over it, sand it down, and paint it again." He also crops his canvases when he's done to define the final layout of his compositions.
Turner describes Neece's process as, "A tremendous desire to create an almost alchemical effect, where it's not paint anymore. There's an attempt to transcend the physical piece of art."
When Neece was 16, his grandfather died and left him oil paints. He had painted for fun when he was 8 or 9, but now his real art began. At that time, an exhibit of Hopkinton-based artist Jaime Alfonso inspired Neece. He spent that summer studying with Alfonso, and then continued to paint at Hopkinton High.
After high school, Neece studied graphic design at RISD, where he also painted. His work was discovered and purchased by art collectors from New York and Israel. He continued to develop his craft after RISD by studying in Norway with Odd Nerdrum, a renowned painter, and in London with Israel Zohar, an impressionistic painter.
Sales and Commissions
Neece said that he has sold many of his paintings. He's also been awarded commissions, including a series that he calls Honoring the Spirit. Funded by members of the business community in Hopkinton, the first painting in this series is called The Spirit of Hopkinton. He said that seven Hopkinton residents fought in Iwo Jima, and they all returned. In their honor, Neece painted a single soldier pushing up a flag.
He recently completed a second painting in this series, which honors the 30th Boston Marathon run by father-and-son team Dick and Rick Hoyt. Funded by Appleton Partners, Goodwin Proctor, and Laddawn, proceeds from the sale of lithographs of this painting will benefit Easter Seals Massachusetts and the Hoyt Foundation.
Neece worked on this painting, on-and-off, for three months, visiting Dick and Rick at Rick's apartment in the Sturbridge area. He said, "Working with Rick was interesting since my models usually talk to me. Rick is a joyful person who expresses himself most fully when he's smiling."
The painting captures the strong bond between father and son. Situated behind Rick's racing chair, Dick leans forward with his hand on Ric's shoulder. To the left of the figures, is a hazy image from behind of the two powering through a race.
Some of Neece's paintings and prints are for sale through the Emporium.