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Jon Serl
2 Dogs–3 BANDSMEN; and camera
69 1/2 x 22 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson

Childhood experiences performing in the family's traveling vaudeville show provided the grist for much of Serl's work. His first serious paintings, done after World War II, were landscapes, but by the late 1950s, this California artist began painting figures in a loose, expressionistic style. Many of his subjects have the powdered or painted faces typical of vaudeville actors, and they are often crowded together in shallow, stage-like spaces, creating dense, visually compelling images. "You don't see my paintings," Serl insisted, "you feel them."