Julie Heffernan, Sky Burial (diptych), 2016, Oil on canvas, 54″ × 100″


The 13th Annual

Art of Painting in the 21st Century Conference

April 17 2021




Julian Bell || Julie Heffernan || Chester Arnold || 

F. Scott Hess || John Seed




13th Annual Art of Painting in the 21st Century Exhibition
John Natsoulas Gallery Davis, CA
CONFERENCE: Friday, April 17th 2021


10am-11am: Julian Bell
11am-12pm: Julie Heffernan
12pm-1pm: Lunch Break
1pm-2pm: Chester Arnold
2pm-3pm: F. Scott Hess
3pm-4pm: John Seed

The Art of Painting in the 21st Century is an annual conference and exhibition in its 13th year and is geared towards nurturing dialog on contemporary painting and the shared ideas that define current trends in the field. Many painters work alone, an isolated process that deprives the artist of thriving debate until the work is shown. This year’s online conference will feature some of the most talented and well known painters working today, such as Chester Arnold, Julian Bell, F. Scott Hess & Julie Heffernan. The event will conclude with a lecture by writer and art historian, John Seed. 

This conference provides a unique opportunity and an intimate setting to interact with top artists. UC Davis, home to artist Roy de Forest, Roland Peterson, Wayne Thiebaud, and Robert Arneson, was instrumental in defining a new direction for a uniquely West Coast style. Nowhere else in the country will the participant be able to interact and discuss the purity of painting in one place. Meet face-to-face with distinguished artists you might only otherwise read about.

“This is the kind of educational, intellectual event one expects from museums or universities, but which public institutions seem less and less able to provide.” – Artweek Magazine




Julie Heffernan

Julie Heffernan is an American painter whose artwork has been described by the writer Rebecca Solnit as “a new kind of history painting” and by The New Yorker as “ironic rococo surrealism with a social-satirical twist.” Portraiture is a dominant subject in Heffernan’s painting, even while she also reflects on environmental, (art) historical, feminist, literary, social, and political subjects. Akin to Magical Realism, Julie Heffernan’s lush self-portraiture utilizes a myriad of art historical references to present a sensual interior narrative, a self-allegory whose half- hidden political agenda is the literal background of the paintings. The dark, Grimm fairy tale-like undercurrent transforms her aristocratic, operatic portraits into a contemporary vanitas or memento mori, acting as both a stylized fantasy and a Bosch-like warning.  

Heffernan was raised in Northern California, received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in printmaking and painting from University of California at Santa Cruz, and earned a Master of Fine Arts at Yale School of Art. She is a Professor of Fine Arts at Montclair State University and Co-founder of the journal Painters on Paintings. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.



Painting of woman standing in front of frames holding a scarf

Julie Heffernan, Self Portrait with Daughters, 2019, oil on canvas

Chester Arnold

painting of trash ball rolling down mountain

Chester Arnold, Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, 2013, oil on linen, 77″ x 90 ¼”



American by birth, but raised in post-war Germany during the formative years of his childhood, Chester Arnold is interested in the capacity of painting to convey the complexities of the human psyche. His compositions present skewed linear perspectives that place the viewer at a remove, above and beyond an unfolding narrative. The romantic beauty of natural landscapes, in part informed by historic master Caspar David Friedrich, is subverted by Arnold’s preoccupation with the detritus of human accumulation.

Chester Arnold is a San Francisco Bay Area oil painter whose works explore contemporary landscapes. Each of his naturalistic paintings is a scene in the narrative, a juxtaposition of nature and the human presence. Arnold embraces the craft of painting, but eschews traditional, romantic portrayals of the natural environment. He chooses instead to depict the landscape as we encounter it, warts and all. He leads us on an odyssey through entropic litterscapes and canyons carved by excavators and probed by prospectors. He guides us along rivers of asphalt and over mountains of tires, showing us nature’s struggle in the midst of growing human consumption and waste. And he provides glimpses of nature’s resilience, as frogs emerge from the cracked pavement and trees rise above itinerant scatters of trash. Arnold supplies us with a birds-eye view of these scenes, inviting us to transcend the tainted landscape and to restore its natural state.

Julian Bell

Julian Bell, The Arrest at Nevada Bob's painting oil on canvas

Julian Bell, The Arrest at Nevada Bob’s, 1999, oil on canvas, 84″ x 74″, 



Julian Bell is the son of art historian and author Quentin Bell, the grandson of artist Vanessa Bell and the great-nephew of author Virginia Woolf.  His sister Cressida is a notable textile designer.  Julian Bell grew up in Newcastle and Leeds, spending summers at the historic Bloomsbury house Charleston in Sussex, and then read English Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford. He has worked as a self-employed painter since his twenties. His work, often exhibited in London and New York, is held in collections including the Museum of London and Hove Museum and Art Gallery. As well as an artist, Julian is a successful art writer and historian. He has written two books about historic artists, Bonnard (1994) and Vincent van Gogh (2015), and two more general art texts, What is Painting? Representation and Modern Art (1999) and Mirror of the World: A New History of Art (2007). He also regularly contributes essays on art and allied subjects to the London Review of Books and the New York Review of Books.Julian Bell currently lives and works in Lewes, East Sussex.

F. Scott Hess

F. Scott Hess is an American painter and conceptual artist. He has described himself as a “reluctant realist” whose work is nevertheless grounded in Old Master craft and the representation of observed detail.  Art critic Donald Kuspit suggests, “Hess uses profane realism to represent the sacred moments of life, for he knows we live in a profane world with little or no sense of the sacred, let alone of the sacredness of art”. Born in Baltimore in 1955, Hess received a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and studied five years at the Vienna Academy of Fine Art.

In 1979 Hess had his first solo exhibition in Vienna, quickly followed by exhibitions in Austria, Germany and France. In 1981 he received one of Austria’s most prestigious awards for artists, the Theodor Koerner Award. In 1984 Hess moved to his current home of Los Angeles and in 1985 had his first American solo exhibition, followed by over one hundred group and solo exhibitions, including venues in Europe, Taiwan, and Iran.His work is included in the public collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Orange County Museum of Art, Oakland Museum, San Jose Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Institute, among others. In 1990 he received a Western States Art Federation award, and in 1991 a J. Paul Getty Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship. 



F. Scott Hess, The Death of William Adolphe Bouguereau, 2011, oil on aluminum panel, 24″ x 36″

John Seed



John Seed is a California-based arts writer, painter, curator, and retired professor that grew up in Westside, Los Angeles. His specialities include Contemporary Representational art, Bay Area Figurative art, and 19th and 20th century Southeast Asian and Hawaiian art. He began making art while attending Stanford University, where he earned a BA in Studio Art and an MA in Fine and Studio Art at UC Berkeley. He began writing about art for his local newspaper, which led to a position writing for The Huffington Post. Since then Seed has written for Harvard Magazine, Hyperallergic, and Christie’s Hong Kong to name a few. He has published several books and he is a frequent speaker and panelist. In our conversation, we discuss his formative experiences, how he started to write, his time teaching and his advice for artists.