the revealing portraits of aaron westerberg


Great art, some have argued, is like a mirror: If we look, we will see our own nature, our own humanity reflected. Great works of art attract our attention and show us all of the emotions and ideas we bring with us.

If this is true, if great art does reflect something inside us and show something about ourselves, then LePrince Fine Art on King Street is a hall of mirrors.

And at this moment, none beg for our attention and our reflection more than the paintings of Aaron Westerberg.

When Westerberg’s exhibition opens at LePrince Fine Art on November 1, everyone in the Lowcountry will have the chance to see his expressive portraits. Although he’s displayed his work in the area in the past, this is the first time Westerberg will show his work in Charleston, and he’s eager to have the chance.

“I can’t wait to visit the town and meet the people,” Westerberg says. “I’m excited to see the sights, hear the sounds, and talk about the history of the people and paintings and the artists that have lived there.”

Westerberg’s oil portraits are a study in color and personality. He often uses a cool, subdued palette in the background, which allows his subjects—in pinks, reds, purples or oranges— to pop. This effect is especially powerful in his Kimono series, where he blends color and form to create eye-catching garments.

Butane Match, Oil on panel, 12″ x 12″

His portraits surprise viewers. Here, his dog, Stella, stares thoughtfully ahead; there a woman lights a cigarette with the brilliant white flame of a butane lighter. Each painting shows us something about the subject and tells us a story.

Every painting is unique and alive. The details are true. Above all, Westerberg captures the humanity of each subject.

“I try to express the vision I have for each portrait,” he says. “Each painting is very different, whether it’s a self-portrait, my dog or a woman in a kimono.”

Westerberg continues: “I’m very lucky to be able to do this. It’s been a hard road, but I can’t see myself doing anything else. I feel blessed to be able to paint for a living.”

Art consultant and gallery curator Laura Todd says that Westerberg’s art is inspiring. “He’s the closest thing we have to another John Singer Sargent,” she says. “Sargent is regarded by many as the greatest portrait artist this country has had, and Aaron does his legacy justice.”

Lucy in Yellow, Oil on panel, 10″ × 8″

Heartstrings, Oil on panel, 32″ x 24″

LePrince Fine Art showcases the work of some of the most talented artists around. Their award-winning paintings are strong and compelling, giving art buyers many choices in size, color, technique and style: LePrince hangs realistic, abstract and landscape paintings, as well portraits and still lifes. Artists like these and Westerberg have given LePrince a reputation as a respected gallery.

“I like to look for up-andcoming artists,” says gallery owner Kevin LePrince. “I like nothing better than to find a hungry painter who consistently produces great paintings and prices themselves competitively based on the quality of their work. Aaron is a great example of this: He consistently creates exemplary work while still allowing many collectors to hang his paintings in their homes.”

The gallery also shows LePrince’s own work. His paintings hang in many spaces throughout the Lowcountry, including The Sanctuary on Kiawah Island. LePrince also donates some of his paintings to charity, including the Greenspace Conservancy on Seabrook Island. If art truly is a mirror, then Westerberg’s work is worth a look. You never know what you might see!

M. Luke Yoder is a writer based in Charleston. Learn more at mlukeyoder.com.

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