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21-year-old artist to display work at Sewickley nonprofit

| Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, 3:14 p.m.

A 21-year-old Sewickley resident whose work is influenced by Pablo Picasso and Mexican art will have his first solo exhibition at No Crayon Left Behind's gallery.

The opening for Max Nungesser's show will be from 5 to 10 p.m. Sept. 23 in conjunction with the Sewickley Gallery & Art Walk. The office of No Crayon Left Behind, a Sewickley-based nonprofit organization that collects leftover crayons from restaurants to redistribute them to underprivileged children, is at 509 Hegner Way.

The gallery at No Crayon Left Behind also will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 24, and Nungesser's work will remain on display for a few months, said Emily Skopov, the organization's founder and executive director.

Skopov said she wants Nungesser's art, which features bold colors and shapes, to have more exposure.

“He's been doing all this on his own and selling it here and there,” she said. “He's really talented.”

Nungesser, a 2014 Quaker Valley High School graduate, is a sophomore at Penn State University in State College, where he is taking art and business classes but has not yet decided on a major.

He said he works with acrylics and house paint on canvas.

Nungesser said he became seriously interested in painting during his senior year of high school, when he took an Advanced Placement course in studio art at Quaker Valley.

“I really enjoyed doing it,” he said.

Other people apparently recognized his talent because he began getting commissions his senior year of high school.

Nungesser said a lot of his commissions are for paintings of animals.

“A lot of paintings I do on my own are Picasso-ish. I'm just really fascinated with his art and his style,” Nungesser said. “I also draw a lot of inspiration from Mexican art.”

He said his mother likes Mexican Day of the Dead skeletons and that he grew up with them in his home.

The cartoonish skulls he paints are inspired by those skeletons, he said.

Nungesser said his paintings are large, at least 4 feet by 3 feet.

“I'm really big into painting large scale,” he said.

The exhibition will feature a variety of pieces.

“There's a good mix of each style I do,” he said.

Nungesser said he works on his commissioned pieces during summers and school vacations.

He is the son of Brooke and Robert Nungesser of Sewickley and has a sister, Riley, 18.

Skopov said that after seeing some of Nungesser's work at his mother's boutique, Soho of Sewickley, she wanted to tell everybody about the talented young artist “who binge painted in his free time.”

“I just love how it just comes out of him like that,” she said.

Skopov said Nungesser's mother has pictures of him drawing with crayons before he was old enough to talk.

“Many kids express themselves through crayons before they can speak,” Skopov said.

No Crayon Left Behind exists to give children the same opportunities to be creative that Nungesser had when he was younger, Skopov said.

“Everybody should have the joy that kids get, that all people get, from being creative,” she said.

Skopov said the organization has distributed more than a million crayons to children in Pittsburgh, other states and other countries. Among the places the organization's crayons have gone are Uganda, Morocco and Mexico.

The goal, she said, is to “give kids the tools to just express what they want to express,” regardless of whether they grow up to become artists.

“It's really impossible to articulated the value of what that is,” said Skopov, of Marshall.

She said having a gallery at the organization's headquarters fits with its efforts to promote the importance of art.

Artists need exposure “if they want to make a living at it,” Skopov said.

Nungesser said he appreciates the organization's support.

“I'm just really excited that they invited me to be in their gallery,” he said. “It's my first solo exhibition, so I'm just thrilled that they're publicizing me so much.”

Madelyn Dinnerstein is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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