Mélange of Milieu, a new exploration of modern technique and genre, opens this February at Agora Gallery. This group exhibition features eight artists from all over the world who are finding innovative ways to deploy timeless materials: oil, acrylic, bronze, stone, wood, and thread are all represented.

There are paintings of elaborate, multi-figure scenes steeped in western mythology; supersaturated, almost confrontational realistic paintings of the human body in close-up; and beautifully detailed bronze statuettes of imaginary animals.

All eight of the artists have created works that seem to move with their own life. Each artist approaches his or her work with both care and a concept. The exhibition as a whole is raucous and thoughtful at the same time.

Claude Morlot’s sculptures turn stone into a surprisingly fluid medium. Emphasizing sinuous curves and smooth surfaces, his works give their material a refined aura that combines with a feel for movement and texture to set a distinctive, compelling tone. Morlot says the juxtaposition of rough and smooth in his sculptures is an attempt to capture the contrasts he sees in life. “The themes in my work are related to the natural and human environment,” he says, and one of the strongest aspects of his sculpture is the way in which it brings a feeling of life and spontaneity to materials we usually think of as solid and unmoving.

Born in France, the sculptor has been living in Tahiti for the past 32 years, and the influence of French Polynesia is strong in his work. Another powerful force is that of femininity, whether through depicting the female form or referring to symbols and mythologies related to female energy. With their textural contrasts, expressive use of color and form, and solid sense of line and proportion, Morlot’s sculptures create a world that is complex, multi-layered and thoroughly engaging.

Doris Brown creates meticulous yet wondrous paintings that pull from nature, fiction, and spirituality to inspire her audience. Brown uses her chosen medium of acrylic to achieve crisp lines, smooth textures, and the kind of precise color mixing that is only possible in an expert’s hands. She portrays figures, plants, and animals with a realism that goes beyond mere depiction and moves into the realm of celebration. Brown paints subjects that are beautiful, in tableaux that are thought-provoking.

Though her style is undeniably realistic, Brown employs her aesthetic to depict improbable or wholly otherworldly scenes. Her paintings are often featuring angels and classical characters from operas. She drops the background out of her scenes, selectively placing a tree here or a plant there to complicate the work’s silhouette. By combining text and images in some works, Brown enters an entirely different genre altogether: she tells entire stories with her pieces with an original visual language that still leaves room for the viewer’s imagination.

Brown was born in Wolhusen, Switzerland and today lives in Burg, Switzerland, where she works as a teacher for disadvantaged children.

Rita Galambos was born in Hungary, she studied graphic design at the School of Art in Szombathely and the University of West Hungary, Sopron. Her paintings alternate between abstract and figurative, a necessity, she says, given the way “realistic art sets too many boundaries.” Though the approaches are different, Galambos’ body of work is nearly always bound by water, which she sees as a conduit for her own emotions. “I try to be very smooth and ethereal with my art,” Galambos says. “I also try to paint fast to ensure my current feelings are captured in the painting.”

This channeling of emotion can, at times, lead to a more textured approach that Galambos achieves with the use of thick brushes, painting knives, and plastic cards. These pieces diverge in feeling from the calm pastel waterfronts, sailboats, and trees that typically fill her work, yet there’s a sense that they reflect the same world from a different view. Human nature, she advises, can be seen “through different streams of color.”

Rita Galambos lives and works in Feldkirch, Austria.

Stacie Hernandez has undergone several shifts in artistic style, including one between abstract to figurative. Both her more naturalistic paintings and her lyrical abstractions demonstrate in their own ways that Hernandez excels at employing contrasting forms of light and dark, space and density, and color combinations in a way that viewers intuitively understand as experiential. A thoughtful and deliberate artist, Hernandez builds each painting slowly and carefully, focusing on creating expressive and elegant lines, drawing directly onto her canvas with thin layers of paint. Through a laborious process of addition and subtraction, Hernandez works until she discovers something in each piece that surprises her. Her paintings are highly personal, reflecting Hernandez’s emotional state and landscape at a fixed point in time. She describes her approach to painting as combining physical action with meticulous and precise visual observation.

Hernandez holds a MFA from Pratt Institute and is currently the director and artist in residence of Palencia Fine Arts Academy. She lives in St. Augustine, Florida.

Yoshiko Kanai is both a poignant tribute to traditional Japanese art and a beautiful expression of the many ways in which our global cultures intersect to create new and lovely themes and contextual meanings. Kanai’s art is unique, in that she uses acrylic paints on small wood pieces and then wraps them with threads to form a variety of visual effects. Each pattern contains its own visual connotation, inspired by nature and the modern world in both physical and metaphysical ways.

Although she studied and worked in the United States for decades, today Yoshiko Kanai lives and works in Yugawara, Japan. Her art, in a way, reflects this journey... inspired at once by an early 20th century NYC thread factory and Japanese artistic traditions. As the artist explains quite eloquently, "My work is a reflection of my life. It contains everything about myself in the present and the past strung through by a long piece of thread. Now, these beautiful threads will lead me to new creative possibilities."

Michael Alberon’s experimental, dream-like paintings are lyrical visions of the body in motion. Alberon often uses both acrylic and oil on the same canvas, with impeccably controlled technique. Paint is doled out with utmost efficiency, texture is achieved with the fewest number of brushstrokes possible, and lines are crisp and sure. These are not minimalist works, but rather images of perfect eloquence. Within this space, Alberon straddles the line between realism and gentle surrealism.

Alberon decribes his artistic approach as being primarily “interested in the human figure and its significance in the art world.” His compositions foreground the body, which is displayed in elaborate positions taken from the classical language of painting. Each work features multiple figures in varied poses that create a beautiful pattern of organic, positive, and negative space. Surrealist touches make up their environments: a colossal fist, a room that recedes from color to black and white, or simply more figures - that fly.

Alberon was born in Paris, France, where he continues to live today. He studied fine art in both Paris and New York City.

Yuliya Pogreb was born in Latvia, she graduated from the Avni Institute of Art And Design in Israel, and worked as a graphic artist and art director for 13 years. She currently lives in Brooklyn.

The oversized portraits and still-life paintings of Yuliya Pogreb are masterful representations of light and color, awash in detail. Fascinated by large-format images, Yuliya prefers working with giant canvases because it makes her feel like a five-year-old again, full of wonder, sitting in an echoing blotchy studio in a small Eastern European suburban movie theater and watching for hours how posters for films are being painted by hand triple her size. To achieve precision and accuracy in her paintings, Yuliya works from a photograph, breaking images into tiny squares and then blowing them up following a grid pattern. “It's a building blocks game for a 40-year-old,” she says. Although Yuliya’s work is hyper-realistic and based on photos, she doesn’t consider her paintings photorealistic. Rather, instead of trying to capture how people appear, or their personality, she wants to portray their souls. Because her subjects faces are so large, they demand a psychological exchange between themselves and the viewer, transforming what is not so obvious into something conspicuously beautiful.

Hermine currently lives and works in Baie-Saint-Paul in Quebec, Canada.

The work of Canadian photographer, painter, and sculptress Hermine seeks to uncover what the artist herself calls a “strange beauty” in everyday subjects and recognizable objects. Each work of art is extraordinarily dynamic, transforming the ordinary into something that’s so much more: visual images that are both transcendent yet very much of this earth. Hermine is a master of color and composition, and her work is compelling, profound, and utterly beautiful.

One of the elements that makes the art so appealing is the artist’s understanding and implementation of spatial relationships, which serve both to reduce the subject to its simplest manifestation and also expand it to achieve greater understanding of its essence. As Hermine so eloquently explains, “I seek to define the elusive beauty that surrounds me. I see to witness and immortalize the intangible human condition. Materialization is transcribed by fracturing, amputating, and geometrically rendering shapes. I cut and uproot the subject that takes life under my fingers.”

Anna Voloshko was born in the Ukraine, Voloshko currently works as a sculptor for Matiola in Kiev. Voloshko was recognized as one of Top Artists of 2015 by Art Business News and her sculptures have been exhibited, and can be found, in private collections all around the world.

The quirky and unique bronze sculptures of Anna Voloshko lift the heart and touch the soul. Ranging in style from steampunk to modern and grotesque to classic, all of Voloshko’s works are united in their expressive sense of personality and animation. There is a delightful feeling of olde-timey-ness to Voloshko’s pieces, as if they capture the charm of bygone eras or stories frozen in time. In fact, one of Volosho’s main goals in her work is to eschew what she sees as the impersonal, utilitarian, and technologically overrun modern world in favor of subjects that she believes will offer energy, peace, and comfort to her viewers. Voloshko says that no matter what, her work reflects her experiences, emotions, and relationships, as well as her philosophical view of the world. She wants her art to help viewers discover a moment where they can reconnect with themselves and God.