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Church romance–Bryan Willette at B Square Gallery


IMG_8844 Bryan Willette
Bryan Willette, The Demon Lover, oil on panel

In a show inspired by melodramatic holy cards and D&D, Bryan Willette proves pre-Raphaelite tastes persist beyond Wilmington (where the Delaware Art Museum has rooms of the 19th century craze).

IMG_8853 Bryan Willette
Bryan Willette, The Oracle of Roses, glass in cherry frame

Willette, at B Square Gallery, is a stained glass artist by day. By night, when he has time, he makes obsessively detailed paintings of angel-like figures that have sensuous underpinnings.

The naughtiness overcomes the saintliness best, in The Demon Lover, a single, small painting of a sexy red devil ravishing a buxom blonde (the artist’s wife is the model for the blonde, and religious, too, according to gallery owner Heather Bryson). The sexual excitement here feels genuine and direct. It is one of three new paintings in the exhibit; the remainder of the exhibit has shown before.

IMG_8843 Bryan Willette
Bryan Willette, The Moon, block print

All the work mixes imagery from paintings of Catholic saints with a vague fantasy cosmology, using retro-looking stained glass, woodblock prints, and oil paintings on panel. The craftsmanship is noteworthy. Some of the work–all of it quite small–is lovingly framed in elaborate wood cases reminiscent of church architectural detail.

Bryan Willette, Black Angel, oil on panel, one of the new works at B Square
Bryan Willette, Black Angel, oil on panel, one of the new works at B Square

Despite all the suggestions of loopy, non-standard back-stories and bits of sexuality, Willette’s work is closer to its romanticized Catholic sources than to pop culture fantasy.

The show remains up until Dec. 22.