Sixteen artists take a look at the world that lies behind the figure and form in the exhibition Manifestation of Milieu. In abstract and figurative works, these artists explore what it means to interact with one's environment, be it a physical, emotional, or purely conceptual one. Drawing from various fields of expertise and from an invigorating mixture of styles, these artists explore the concept of context: the manifestation of milieu.

For Dutch-born artist Lex Heilijgers, he first studies his subject and then abstracts it, removing what is concrete and boiling the work down to its essence. The light-filled paintings of artist mj loftus also abstract reality, show skies that loom over landscapes, resulting in scenes that draw our eyes towards the heavens.

“I aimed to echo reality,” says Aleksandar Bunčić of his earlier work, “whereas now I feel the need to deconstruct it.” He achieves this by exploring the energy and clarity present in industrial structures. For NYC artist James Falciano, his time spent walking through the city mirrors his childhood searches for the overlooked: for those lone flowers living among a world of weeds. Today, he brings those hidden details to the forefront of his work and cascades them with light and color.

Some artists use their culture to create their own reality. Born and raised in Morocco, Bettina Caro brings the intensity of the Mediterranean sun alive in her landscapes, and in her portraits and still lifes she balances light and shadow to give each image depth and presence. Tao Jiang's paintings on paper and canvas draw from Chinese folk art, the Bible, nature, and real life scenes to inspire a sense of poetry and faith in her viewers.

Other artists use painting as a meditative act. Each of Croatian artist Dario Vukorepa's paintings explore humanity's inner wealth, transforming it into rich landscapes with atmospheres that appear both beautiful to moody, while Margaret Raven’s subjects focus on a great sense of peace and act as a reminder that the most important things in life are the most simple: love, goodness, happiness, and the authenticity of a smile.

Vibeke Lillefjære also finds painting private and personal. Lillefjære considers art to be a positive force in her life, so it makes sense that her paintings are consistently expressive of optimistic energy and have the ability to touch people and inspire them. In Oliwia Biela’s work, the line between artist and artwork almost disappears. “My artworks are a piece of me,” she says. “You see all of my feelings and emotions in the painting.”

“My subjects may come from observing my surroundings, nature, people, or childhood memories,” Betty Neely says, “but my concept will be unique, spiritual, or have a mysterious quality rather than what is physically observed.”

When viewing the works by Carolina Brave, it is clear to see that freedom is a defining element of her process. “My works emerge from the desire to freely express emotions and sensation," she says.

With a background in TV and radio, Jewish-American artist Judy Zimbert also focuses on the emotional quality of the historical or current event to weave a visual narrative for her viewer, inviting that viewer to immerse himself or herself into the depth of emotional experience that spans across human history. Similarly, the oil paintngs of Terry Firkins speak an emotional, abstract language drawn from philosophy, American history, and the human experience.

Italian artist Rocco Cardinale utilizes painting and writing in his collages to create emotive, gritty, and honest portraits of mankind. By using simple geometries, rough scribblings, and an almost monochromatic color palette, Cardinale evokes a sense of primitivism that speaks to the universality of the human experience.

Polish-American painter Radoslaw Zipper focuses not on tangible figures or scenes, but on his medium itself: color. “Color is the most important element of my painting,” he says. “For me, colors are the objects.”

The exhibition opens on December 1st and will run until December 22nd, 2015. The opening reception will take place Thursday, December 3rd, from 6-8 PM. The exhibition and opening reception are open to the public.