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Two Paintings Many Meanings

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I was moving paintings around my studio last week and temporarily leaned one of my landscapes against another. Something about how the two oils looked together struck me so I let them remain that way for awhile. Accidentally the two canvases had fallen into a conversation. The very different spaces in these paintings seemed to suggest very different states of mind. One used the panoramic view to talk of a wide open expansiveness. The other of a purposely narrowed-down focus on feelings more intimate and personal.
Edward Hopper famously said "If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint." As elastic as our spoken languages are, I'm convinced much or even most of our experience lies just beyond the grasp of words. The two large oils of mine in the photo above juxtapose two very different  parts of our inner experience. 


Philip Koch, Chestnut Ridge Panorama, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches, 2018
Sometimes our thoughts and feelings seem to race out away from us…

Talking about Hopper & Burchfield- Delaware Art Museum

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Edward Hopper (1882-1967), New York, New Haven, and Hartford,  oil on canvas, 1931, Indianapolis Museum of Art
The other week I flew out to Indianapolis on my way to Terre Haute to judge the Swope Art Museum's annual 5 state regional juried exhibition. I paid a visit to the impressive Indianapolis Museum of Art. Wanted to single out one painting in their collection, Edward Hopper's oil New York, New Haven, and Hartford. 



In person the subtlety of Hopper's color mixing is exquisite. My photographs don't come near doing the painting justice. But in these detail shots just above and below Hopper's grasp of how to instill personality into a painting is clear. He depicts a broad-shouldered hillside. Yet against that he conjures up these wildly shaped spindly trees. Their irregular rhythms contrast tellingly against the solemn massiveness of the hillside.  




Hopper's trees live perhaps a more syncopated life than the stately ground from which they spring.
Looking at Hopp…

Swope Art Museum Part II

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Zoltan Sepeshy, Wild Flowers, tempera, c. 1940. I love the way Sepeshy splashed bright yellow light on the  woman's  shoulders to contrast the enormous black hat she works on. His model is so substantial, almost like a sculpture.
Most artists, including me, need a great deal of distraction-free time so they can sort of fall into their own imagination to see where it will carry them. To be any good at all an artist has to embrace solitude as a friend.
We all need to feel we're part of something bigger. My circle includes artists from the past. Particularly helpful to me are American realist painters from the 1930's and '40's, an area where the Swope Museum of Art more than excels.
Jack Levine, A Joy Forever, oil, 1953. Levine combined sharp  social criticism with a unique style of a flickering broken  brushwork. Seen in person, the painting's surface becomes the star of the show. I'm sad my photo only begins to capture the feeling of Levine's paint handlin…

Jurying the Swope Art Museum's 5 State Regional Exhibition, Part I

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Last week I was out in Terre Haute, Indiana to judge the entries for the Swope Art Museum's 47th Annual Exhibition of artworks from the 5 state region. It was a sweet trip for me as I've long had a special place in my heart for the Swope.




Edward Hopper, Route 6, Eastham, oil, 1941,  collection Swope Art Museum


Philip Koch, Morning at the Route 6, Eastham House, oil, 30 x 60 inches, 2016, collection of Swope Art Museum

Some of that stems from the 30 painting strong exhibition of my work the Museum held in 2017. The Swope hung my big oil painting Morning at the Route 6, Eastham House next to the painting Edward Hopper made in 1941 of the same house and buildings. As Hopper was the biggest single influence on my direction as a painter, this was a huge honor for me. (How can I not love this museum after that). 

To the Swope's credit, it has maintained a juried regional exhibition for many decades, affording artists from the Midwest an opportunity to have their work accepted and hu…

My Burchfield Residency- What I Learned

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Charles Burchfield, Easter Morning in the Woods  (left side), watercolor, 39 1/2 x 29 1/2 inches, 1947-60 Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY

Charles Burchfield, Easter Morning in the Woods  (right side), watercolor, 39 1/2 x 29 3/8 inches, 1947-60 Burchfield Penney Art Center
My paintings have all returned from the wonderful exhibition at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, NY. The show at the museum was of work I'd done from 2015-18 as the Burchfield Penney's Artist in Residence. 
I used to worry about the way I liked to return to earlier paintings and make improvements. I've loved to pull out work from earlier years. If I see a way to strengthen the painting I'll jump right in. Even though this was successful about 95% of the time I didn't know any other artist who did this anywhere near as much.  As I studied Burchfield's work I felt so reassured to find he did the same.
Burchfield's two panels above are uncompleted works-in-progress. Stymied…

Visiting Utica's Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute

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The first panel titled Childhood from MWPAI's series The  Voyage of Life by Thomas Cole from 1839-40. I just love this painting!

While I was in Western New York two weeks ago to give a talk on my exhibition at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo,  I drove east to Utica to visit one of my favorite museums. It has a powerhouse of a permanent collection. And I secretly just love saying its tongue-twisting name, the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute (MWPAI). 

Way back in 1967, just after I'd made a serious decision to become an artist I made a visit to see its collection. That visit planted an important seed in my mind about becoming a landscape painter.. 

It was there I saw my first paintings by Thomas Cole, the great grandfather of American landscape painting. MWPAI has the magnificent series The Voyage of Life by Cole, a four canvas series depicting the stages of a person's life symbolized by a figure in a diminutive golden boat. (The Museum has the original versi…

Intriguing Josephine Tota Exhibition at Memorial Art Gallery

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Josephine Tota, untitled, egg tempera, on view at Memorial  Art Gallery, Rochester, NY
In the 4th grade I was bussed along with my class to my local art museum, the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) in Rochester, NY. I loved it. One painting from that long ago trip stands out in my mind, the Museum's Winslow Homer oil of his studio wrapped in a morning fog. Homer's painting immediately connected with me because it looked so much like the fog I often saw on the rocky shore of Lake Ontario where we lived. I credit that trip to the Museum as an important first nudge toward my becoming an artist.



Wall panel introducing The Surreal Visions of Josephine Tota exhibition at Memorial Art Gallery.

MAG also played a big hand in the life of the artist Josephine Tota, an all but unknown Italian immigrant who lived in Rochester and took art classes at MAG's Creative Workshop. Several years ago Jessica Marten, the Museum's Curator in Charge, ran across two of Tota's paintings while doing…