'People on the Periphery' at MOWA Offers Retrospective Look at David Lenz's Work

Oct 27, 2016

"Youth and the Great Divide", 2016, oil on canvas, 50 x 76 inches
Credit Lent by John and Cynthia L. White

Looking at a portrait by David Lenz is almost like looking at a photograph. The realist painter creates familiar scenes with delicate brushstrokes and crisp lines that mirror and elevate their real-life subjects.

Lenz is perhaps most well-known for his piece “Sam and the Perfect World,” which depicts his son Sam, who has Down Syndrome, and was awarded the grand prize at the inaugural Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition

This painting follows a theme in Lenz’s work, which inspired the title of his current exhibit, “People on the Periphery,” now on display at the Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA). The paintings feature a myriad of subjects and scenes that Lenz finds important and inspiring. 

"It's things that are really meaningful to me, things that get to me. Ideas and situations that I feel really strongly about, and when I feel strongly about something I need to make a painting, ya know, that's my mode of communication," he says. 

"Through the Snow", 2000, oil on canvas, 60” x 84”
Credit Lent by Children's Hospital of Wisconsin

Lenz is very particular about his subjects. Graeme Reid, the curator of the exhibit and director of collections at MOWA, says that unlike many artists, Lenz really only works on paintings he's passionate about. 

"I know for a fact he's left money on the table because somebody's asked him to paint something that he just has no interest [in], it doesn't fit into his worldview, his philosophy, his beliefs, his areas of interest, his area of expertise," says Reid. "And I think that's kind of rare." 

The "David Lenz: People on the Periphery" exhibit will be on display at the Museum of Wisconsin Art through the first week of January.