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The Narrative Paintings of Steve Behar

19 April - 2024
by Vincent Moleveld


Steve Behar, a narrative painter hailing from San Diego, California, offers viewers a unique journey through his artwork, which blends influences from psychology, media studies, and the vibrant aesthetics of Midcentury America. With a background in psychology, specializing in testing, Behar brings a distinctive perspective to his artistic practice, drawing inspiration from the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) and the intentional ambiguity it presents.

The Thematic Apperception Test, a psychological assessment tool developed in the 1930s, portrays individuals engaged in interpersonal interactions depicted in ambiguous scenarios. These scenarios, often illustrated through magazine illustrations by artists like Leon Kroll and Harry Morse Meyers, require observers to interpret the underlying narrative. Behar's fascination with the TAT manifests in his paintings, where he explores the nuances of human interaction and the complexities of interpretation.

However, Behar's artistic influences extend beyond the realm of psychology. He also draws inspiration from Midcentury media, including advertising, television, and film. This period in American history was characterized by a sense of optimism and idealism, epitomized by the promises of a better life presented in advertisements and on the silver screen. Yet, beneath the surface, there existed a stark contrast between the idealized images depicted in media and the realities of everyday life.

In his work, Behar seeks to capture this dissonance between the ideal and the actual, creating digital collages that juxtapose borrowed media imagery with his own painted interpretations. Through this process, he invites viewers to reflect on the gap between perception and reality, challenging them to reconsider the narratives presented to them by society and media.

One of the most compelling aspects of Behar's art is its ability to evoke a sense of nostalgia while simultaneously critiquing the era from which it draws inspiration. By incorporating elements of Midcentury media into his work, he prompts viewers to confront the complexities of memory and perception, inviting them to interrogate the narratives that shape their understanding of the past and present.

Behar's paintings have garnered attention in prestigious institutions such as the San Diego Museum of Art, the Butler Institute of American Art, and the Ankrum Gallery in Los Angeles, where his thought-provoking compositions continue to captivate audiences and spark dialogue about the intersection of psychology, media, and art.

In a world inundated with images and narratives vying for our attention, Steve Behar's narrative paintings serve as a poignant reminder of the power of interpretation and the importance of questioning the stories we tell ourselves and others. Through his exploration of ambiguity and Midcentury media, Behar invites us to reconsider our understanding of the past and present, offering a glimpse into the complexities of the human experience.

Visit the page of Steve Behar for more work on Online Gallery.