Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One of these 3 images is not by Philip Koch. Can you tell which?










OK, you're sharper than I'd suspected. Yes that's Warhol at the top- a silk-screened Brillo box from 1964. Two years later I became an art major at Oberlin College in Ohio. Warhol was big with some of my art professors. Personally I never found his deadpan response to the world all that interesting. He was extolled as holding the mirror up to America's culture of mass media and advertising imagery. The idea was that by presenting us images like a box of Brillo soad pads as art he would force us to see ourselves in a new light.

The thing was what with TV and Newsweek magazine, we were already up to our gills with such imagery. Bringing it into the art museum too didn't seem to me to change that fact. I've always thought an artist not only showed us what they were painting, but also revealed how they felt about it. With Warhol, you never knew. It always seemed he was playing coy with us.

Fortunately the tree of art has many branches. Warhol sits out on one big limb entertaining us with his Elvis's, soup cans, and leering bright colors. I'm way over on the other side of the tree. And I want to celebrate something very different.

Painting has had a mission through the centuries of reflecting that living itself is a completely wild endeavor. Sometimes exciting, other times overwhelming, it's one vivid experience. The best artists invented ways to combine shapes and colors into miraculous compositions brimming with energy and excitement. Their work pulsed against your eye with a living forcefulness. But in addition to ravishing our eyes, paintings also prod us to face big questions- "Who are we?" And especially important to landscape painters, "Where do we come from?"

Each generation has a slightly different way of envisioning the natural world. My landscapes don't look like the work of a Winslow Homer or of a Grant Wood. I'm from a different time. It's up to painters like myself to come up with the images we need in 2010 to understand our place in the world. Brillo and Campbell's Soup have very little to say in this department.

My two oils shown above are The Red Whisper, oil on canvas, 30 x 40", 2005 and Deep Forest Pool, oil on panel, 16 x 20", 2010. Both will be in my upcoming solo show at Edgewater Gallery in Middlebury, Vermont from Dec. 1-31, 2010. Both oils are done entirely out of my imagination. Red Whisper is a panorama of a dream-like world. It is a image of a celestial light shining down on the sea like the force of life itself. It's a little bit of a personal vision by which I'm trying to summarize some of the mystery of creation, and the delight of being alive here with you all on this earth.

The Deep Forest Pool oil is much quieter in its evocation of a slightly spooky dark woods. I grew up in just such a place in northern New York State. As a child I found the woods sometimes a little frightening, and I don't think that's a feeling that ever leaves us. But along with that can come a sense of magic. Ponds in forests are usually very calm and perfectly reflective of the trees that crowd near them reaching for the sunlight caused by the water's opening to the sky. The rhythms you see of trees reflecting into that very black water are amazing. There's a natural inventiveness in nature (it invented us for example). Places like this remind us of that.













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