Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Dedication to Edward Hopper

I talk about Edward Hopper's work a lot. Partly because I think he's a very exciting painter. Partly because I believe he wasn't the most skillful of painters but found ingenious ways to work around his short comings. And also because he was able to endure twenty years of relative obscurity as a painter while supporting himself as an illustrator (his career is the opposite of a "boy-wonder"). But the primary reason is how his hand changed my life direction so completely.

Early on I'd decided to become a painter when I was in my freshman year at Oberlin College. I spent two years going with the flow of what was being taught in the school's art department- a grab bag of conceptual art, performance, and lots if interest in building irregularly shaped canvases and painting with acrylic paint and masking tape (neatly separated areas of paint  were considered critical). It wasn't terrible and I did learn much about color mixing, proportion, and becoming sensitive to a painting's surface. But I wasn't happy. A lot of the classroom discussions seemed to be more about being clever than becoming insightful. Theory seemed to be the cart placed in front of the painting horse. Worst of all I sensed my paintings just weren't very good.

Enter Edward Hopper. 

Oberlin has a top notch art library and I found myself spending every evening there paging through various monographs on different artists rather than doing my assigned readings for my non-art courses. 
A few books on Edward Hopper's paintings kept calling me back for a second and then a third look. His world looked and felt so much more like the world I knew than anything happening in my studio art classes. As in the wonderful Hopper oil landscape reproduced above, he had a way of combining sharply raking light with the most wonderfully solid forms.

Look at the painting at the top. First of all a painting has to show you something your eye doesn't expect. Few landscapes do that, yet Hopper routinely batted them right out of the park. For example, he made the rock masses at the right super high contrast, very heavy, and unexpectedly cool in color in the middle of a glowingly yellow painting. You might expect more of the same as you move your eyes to the background, but here he pulls the rug out from under your eyes and turns the volume on the rock masses way down.  Not knowing ahead of time what he was going to do made you want to look. His ability to orchestrate a richly complex world just seemed to resonate with something deep in my bones. I was hooked.

It's now 44 years later than those evenings alone with those early Hopper tomes. I've just opened my largest exhibition to date of 50 paintings at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, Virginia
(through Oct. 2. 2011). I'm proud of what I've been able to accomplish with this work. But I have to say, without Edward Hopper's sturdy example, I wouldn't be the painter I am today. So, though I suspect he's scoff at the notion, I'd like to formally dedicate my exhibit to Hopper. In a way the work he had to do on this earth ended when he died in 1967. But the work his paintings have to do (they live on with a life of their own) continues as they influence me and probably countless other painters today. Let's raise a glass to Edward!

What follows is a host of photos from the current show and it's opening reception. Pretty much without comment. Above two visitors examine Asecension, 40 x 32", '08.

Here is from the left, Luci Cochran, Director of PFAC, me, Fran Ward a former Board Member of PFAC and the writer who is doing a review of the show for Veer monthly that comes out August 15. And Michael Preble, Curator of PFAC.

A view of  PFAC's facility.

Here I am talking with Mike McGrann, Marketing Director for PFAC.

And here's a better photo of the oil seen in the photo above. It's White Light II, 12 x 24", 2010.

Since the show is so large it allowed us to hang far more of my vine charcoals than has been done before. Here's Narrow Cove, Ogunquit on the right and Dawn, Monhegan on the left.

Otter Cove, oil, 44 x 55" at right and North Passage, oil, 45 x 60" at left with a close up image of it below. 

This is the newest of the oils,  Banner, 40 x 30", 2011.

Eva J. Allen, PhD, the art historian who conceived of the idea for the Unbroken Thread exhibition and wrote the scholarly essay in the show's 92 page catalogue, with her husband Nick Allen.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Unbroken Thread Show at Peninsula Fine Arts Center #2

Here's the opening reception last Friday in Newport News, Virginia at Peninsula Fine Arts Center's Unbroken Thread: The Art of Philip Koch exhibition. The whirling blur in the photo above is Michael Preble, Curator of PFAC, introducing the exhibit to the guests. Perhaps it's appropriate that Michael is seen in motion- he'd just completed overseeing the hanging of both my show and the excellent companion show of works on paper by Virginia landscape artists. That's 100 some works, wall labels, text panels, storing of the shipping materials, etc, 

I urge any of my readers to volunteer at a local art museum or art center to help with the preparation and hanging of a show. It's amazing how much goes into it to give a professional seamless presentation of the art to the public. I think people who work in art museum must have long ago taken the slogan "no guts, no glory" to heart and jumped into doing the work of three normal people. Happily Michael Preble and his crew did a wonderful job with these paired exhibitions. The bearded man in the white shirt at the far left is PFAC's Mike McGrann who has helped so much to get the word out on these shows.

Below is PFAC's huge Ferguson Gallery taken before the guests arrived. The Curator had placed three large free-standing walls in the center of the gallery to break up the space and allow a few more pieces to be hung. I always loved it when large exhibit spaces get broken up in this way. It makes for an more intriguing space that beckons the visitor to come in and discover. I always imagine how one of my family's cats would have to walk all around any new large object that's introduced to the house- sniffing it and checking out what's behind it. We humans aren't so different.

At the very far end of the gallery you can see the oil The Voyage of Memory that I discussed in the previous blog. My larger work is done with a freely flowing brush and looks its best when one can
see the piece from many feet away, as you can here. I consider this an ideal installation for a painting like Voyage...

Here below is my oil Otter Cove. This one was done back in my studio based on a vine charcoal drawing that's also included in the show. I drew the charcoal out on location in Acadia National Park in Maine. Otter Cove is an inlet there on Mount Desert Island where the famous Hudson River School painter Frederic Church did a wonderful oil of the same title. I stood nearly on the same exact spot as Church had, but while he faced the mountains, I had turned 180 degrees the other way to look out to sea. My charcoal was made in June, but back in the studio my imagination took over and produced a vision of how the scene might appear in the depths of winter.

A funny thing happened while I was doing the charcoal (Mount Desert Island) that led to this big oil. My wife Alice and I were standing talking as I worked at my easel on a narrow bridge that crossed Otter Creek that leads out to the Cove. We saw movement in the bushes and a large fox jumped out onto the roadway and started out onto the bridge. Seeing us there half way over the bridge he slowed for a moment, but wanting to get to the other side, he picked up his pace again. Glaring at us imperiously as if to say "I was here first" he passed within a few feet of us, reached the far shore and scampered effortlessly up a steep embankment to disappear again into the forest. It wasn't until then that Alice and I started breathing again. Finally I said to my wife "The Muse appears to us in many guises."

Here are some of the text panels Michael Preble prepared that gave viewers some background on the work they were seeing. He also enlarged a photo Alice took of me last September painting outside Edward Hopper's studio on Cape Cod during our 13th residency there.

Below is the other large space PFAC devoted to showing my work, the Halsey Gallery. At the right is Equinox, oil on panel, 30 x 45" and at the left is West from Monhegan, oil, 28 x 42". Both paintings were accompanied in the show by works on paper I used to flesh out the vision for them enough to turn them into paintings. 

Equinox, the more imaginary of the two, is a mental collage of memories I have of my boyhood home on the shore of Lake Ontario in upstate New York and watching the enchanting flight of countless seagulls and Canadian Geese. The background for this painting was inspired by a view of the snow covered San Francisco Peaks outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. I like stitching together seemingly unrelated parts of my experience and seeing what kind of conversation they strike up. 

The reddish painting in the photo above was done from a vine charcoal I did standing next to the lighthouse on the highest hill on Monhegan Island, some 12 miles off the coast of Maine. From the summit one could just make out the distant mountains on the mainland. I loved the view and wanted to an "island to the shore" painting. To make it work though I had to move the mainland much closer to Monhegan Island so the peaks would have the scale necessary to afford the painting some drama.

Below is the other end of the same gallery with Down to the Bay, oil, 36 x 72", a view from Wellfleet on Cape Cod. I confess I only discovered this particular view when on a scouting trip looking for places to paint I came upon a road sign identifying "King Phillip Road." Now how can you pass that up? Fortunately it led to a great hidden tidal cove, perfect for the sort of painting I wanted to do.

Here's more of the crowd at the reception. Behind their heads is my oil Deer Isle, 36 x 72".

And here's the front entrance to PFAC.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Peninsula Fine Arts Center Unbroken Thread Exhibition

Just back from the show at Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Above is Michael Preble (2nd from left), the Curator of PFAC, introducing the exhibit to the crowd who came to the opening. I had talked about watching Michael experimenting with the arrangement of the show in the previous blog. Somehow he got all 50 of my oils, pastels and vine charcoal drawings to hang together in a wonderfully cohesive and elegant display before the doors opened late Friday afternoon. Also he put together what is undoubtedly the most thoughtful and best looking text panels to accompany and give background to the art work. I was very impressed with the job he and his staff did.

Here's The Song of All Days, a six foot wide oil that was done strictly from my imagination and memory. It's sort of a memorializing painting that sums up the gratitude I have for all the years I have been able to watch countless sunsets on countless shores. No one painting can encompass all that experience, but none the less I feel this one comes as close as anyone could. It is a personal favorite of mine.

The two photos above are from PFAC's largest exhibit space, the grand Ferguson Gallery with beautiful hardwood floors and a soaring ceiling. At the other end of the facility is another large space, the Halsey Gallery,  that while still large has more intimate feel to it with a soft couch and carpeting. I loved the change in tenor of the show as one moved from one space to another. Here is an oil painting that's never been exhibited before, Under the Moon., 23 x 36". It's an imagined night time view of a house that used to stand in my neighborhood. I had painted a daylight version of the house with bright sunlight on the snow while standing on top of a frozen snow drift with my portable French easel. It turned out well but sold almost immediately to a collector. I found myself missing the painting.

While I had been standing out in the snow painting the earlier version my eye had been caught by a movement in the topmost window of the house. There spying down on me was a large orange cat. He came each of the afternoons I returned to work on the painting to keep an eye on me, The whole time I never saw anyone enter or leave the house, so I assumed an elderly person perhaps lived there alone.

A few months later the house burned to the ground one night. While I hope whoever lived there was OK, I confess my concern really was for the cat. Wondering about its fate kind of stuck in my mind. Eventually an image of the way the house would have looked under a full moon formed in my head. I set to work painting it and Under the Moon resulted. It's a very solemn image I know, but given my anxiety about the cat's fate, that only seemed appropriate. 

And here below is one of the visitors standing next to my oil The Voyage of Memory. This too is a highly autobiographical painting. When I was about 8 my father bought a tiny single-sailed cat boat and taught me to sail. I had always felt especially close to my father and when he died just after I turned 13 it was a severe blow.

The morning he died the wind was blowing unusually hard off Lake Ontario where we lived. Feeling somewhat numb I abruptly took that little sailboat out on the water despite the unsafe conditions. I just didn't care what happened that morning. 

Over the years that reckless voyage has come into my mind often. I began to wonder if I might make a better peace with the turmoil it represented if I re-imagined that morning differently. So I changed the location of that perilous voyage. Instead of the rough seas I imagined a too narrow channel between steep cliffs. It's possible to sail down this passage but safety isn't guaranteed. That seemed a better symbol for the the excitements, drama, and perils of living. This is also one of my person favorites in this exhibit.

I'll show more photos from the show in some subsequent posts. PFAC's exhibit runs through Oct. 2.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Art of Hanging a Show

When I was a kid I was fascinated by the Cinderella story- especially the magical transformation of her humble mice and pumpkin into a regal carriage with entourage, and at the stroke of midnight all tumble back down again to their lowly state. Painters must be grown up kids who were seized by this notion. They spend their lives transforming the colored mud that we know as oil paint into exalted visions. Done right it's a heck of a good trick.

I was watching the staff at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA unpack my 50 paintings for their Friday opening of their Unbroken Thread: The Art of Philip Koch exhibition. In the photo above the man in the blue shirt with the upraised arm is Michael Preble, PFAC's Curator. I figure with that gesture he's either exclaiming in delight, scratching his head, or pulling his hair out in exasperation as he takes in another unwrapped painting. This is in one end of PFAC's cavernous Ferguson Gallery.

Here below is the other end of the big Ferguson Gallery, with PFAC's Janet Rash who runs their Education Program, looking on.

It struck me watching this seasoned crew setting up the show how much the operation resembled a painter in his or her studio composing a painting. Michael Preble began with an idea of grouping the paintings together based on the locale where they were painted. But then he decided to try out other arrangements for the show- grouping together pieces based on totally other kinds of relationships. It was a lot of moving things around, trying this way and that to see what felt best. Probably most museum visitors have never given this much thought, perhaps assuming the paintings are just hung up in a row in the order they've been hauled out of the delivery truck.

Preble's kind of trial and error method made me smile as it is so much like what I do as I work out the arrangement of the forms in one of my compostions.  I think to pull together anything as complex as an exhibition or even just a single oil painting you absolutely have to proceed along this indirect pathway. It's a lot like how a sailboat can sail against the direction of the wind by taking a zig-zag course tacking first one way and then the other to get where it needs to go. An exhibit, like a painting, has to be successful at juggling literally thousands of little visual clues into something that feels cohesive. It involves a lot of looking and requires being in touch with one's best intuitions.  Having seen some of PFAC's earlier exhibitions, I am confident I'm in good hands. 

Here below is the "youngest" painting that will be in the show, Banner, 40 x 30" finished just last weekend (thank the art gods for the new fast-drying alkyd painting medium). And to it's right is Red Whisper. oil on panel, 30 x 40". They're tentatively placed in the other large space at PFAC, the Halsey Gallery. 

And here below is another photo of the Halsey Gallery with the doorway (isn't that bluish natural light gorgeous!) leading down a long hallway gallery back to the main Ferguson Gallery. That's West from Monhegan at the left and Equinox at the right.

And at the far right of the photo below you can see that long connecting hallway. It is PFAC's Ascending Gallery- long and wide so it serves well as exhibition space. Concurrent with my Unbroken Thread  it will hold a companion show, Virginia Landscape- Works on Paper by eleven artists from the state. I know some of the artists who will be in the show including Frank Hobbs, with whom I've shown for years at Nichols Gallery in Virginia. Frank is an excellent painter who does an art blog I read regularly.

Here's the entrance to PFAC. 

Here below is the sign in the front entrance window announcing the museum is closed during the installation of the new exhibits. On it is reproduced on of my six foot wide oils Deer Isle.


While I was in town PFAC had arranged for me to be interviewed by Frances Ward, a writer for the Tidewater area monthly Veer about Unbroken Thread  and about my life as a painter. We talked for about 45 minutes and explored what it is about art, music, and dance that makes it a universal in every human society. She was a very thoughtful person and we enjoyed a lively back and forth. Her article is scheduled to appears in Veer's August 15 issue.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Edward Hopper Painting Permanence and the Fleeting Moment

Tomorrow the truck comes to take 49 paintings of mine down to Newport News,Virginia for my show at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center. (The show has an opening Friday evening July 22 from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. If you're in the area please come by and say hello. It will run through October 2). I still have a few more paintings to wrap up so I'll just make comments on one painting in this post (maybe, just maybe, that will make me short winded). Above is one of my favorite paintings that lives just up the road from me at the wonderful Delaware Art Museum. It's Edward Hopper's oil Summertime.

All painters have to work with is playing off opposite qualities against each other. If you want to express darkness you can only do it by contrasting it against some surface that's very light. That's how our brains work.

The same is true of expressing movement. In this Hopper a young woman basks in the bright sun while standing on some grey limestone steps. The steps and the building are composed entirely of straight lines and almost all of them run either vertically or nearly horizontally. There's a big, simple and solid feeling to these classical forms. It looks like this was a no nonsense structure that was built years ago and that it will survive all of us. 

Hopper was a genius at telling his story with light and shadow. Squint your eyes at the painting. Observe  how the dark vertical rectangles of the left window frame, the front doorway and the shadow of the column at the right side of the painting pop out to establish a dominating geometry. Hopper has learned that every painting has to have an overall mood or feeling to its forms. Here he's saying clearly he wants stability and weightiness to be the main story. But it's not the only story.

Against all that, Hopper poses a young woman on the steps gazing, chin up, in the direction of the sun. In contrast to the staid necessity of the stairs and building, her silhouette is all curves and angles. Her flesh is colored with peach-like hues and her dress's translucent fabric allows the pinks of her thighs to peek through the folds at you. 

And she's not alone. The shadow she casts on the stairs is, like her figure, an abstraction of rounded shapes. Keeping the woman and her shadow good company, the white curtain in the open window catches a breeze and billows upwards for a moment, causing its bottom edge to curve into little scallop-like shapes. (Compare that to the detail of the white curtain in the far left window who dutifully hangs down with straight vertical folds).

That blowing curtain, the softness of the young woman's curves and the rounded shadows she casts on the steps configure together to play off against the regular unmoving geometry of the building. Perhaps Hopper is commenting on stability and permanence and comparing it to the more quickly moving living forms of the woman. His painting is a dialogue between these two very different qualities. That he gets them to so gracefully fall into conversation with each other is a hallmark of his mastery as a painter. 

Hopper lived a long time and he no doubt reflected often on the passage of time in a person's life. I've always felt this painting circles itself around these themes. That he can do so in a painting that otherwise so beautifully celebrates the brilliance of sunlight itself as it shines down on our world is to me a very great accomplishment.

One last thing, a pet peeve of mine. So often, too often in my book, Hopper is inevitably described as the "painter of loneliness." Well, maybe so, but he was much more than that. If you get to Delaware and can go to the Museum and see this painting in the flesh, I think you'll be charmed and even entranced my the amazing number of subtle little colors Hopper sneaks into his forms. Particularly the woman and her outfit are just sumptuous. Yes, Hopper tended to paint solitary figures. But so often if you look really closely they're painted with an amazing richness of elegantly selected restrained colors. Probably Hopper was clinically depressed and had by many accounts an irritable personality. But he also came up to the plate with a regally sensuous side. And he painted with a generous spirit that put a heck of lot of surprising color into his paintings. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Getting Ready for a Big Exhibition

     Philip Koch Banner,  oil on panel, 40 x 30", 2011

Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, Virginia will open the latest showing of my eight museum traveling exhibition Unbroken Thead next Friday evening, July 22. This will be the largest show I've ever had as we can expand the number of pieces to fill the generous spaces of PFAC's Ferguson Gallery (see below) and an additional gallery too. So I've added some brand new oils like the one above and some additional works on paper. I love especially the contrast of the grey vine charcoal drawings playinf off my colorful oil paintings.

There will be an opening reception Friday from with a reception 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. I'll be giving a short (very) talk during the ceremonies and I'll be touching on what I believe is the meaning of art. It's an elusive but fascinating question. I talk about why I make art and why I know those efforts matter in the artist's statement the museum asked me to write about the work I'll be showing.  It's very succinct.

Here it is:

Think of a time when just for a moment you felt exhilarated, fully alive, yet completely centered and calm. That elusive feeling is what my paintings aim to recapture.

I grew up in upstate New York in a deep and sparsely settled forest along the shore of Lake Ontario. There were few other children to play with so I spent hours on my own exploring the dark and mysterious woods. As a kid I sensed right away that Nature was something of immense power. Year round we'd have strong North winds raking the birch and beech forest. Winter snows were frequent and deep. It was jaw dropping in its beauty. All my vivid memories are of being immersed in that near-wilderness.

This exhibition is titled Unbroken Thread because it stitches together my beginnings as a young painter of vividly colored abstractions with my later discovery of the expressiveness of realist imagery. The landscape can tell us the most meaningful of stories. Each generation sees its world a little differently. My job is to show 21st century viewers how strongly the beat of Nature is sounding within in all of us.

Philip Koch,
July 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Artists and Collectors (Maybe the Best Talk I Ever Gave)

Philip Koch, North Passage, oil on panel, 18 x 24', 2011

Here are the brief comments I made at a dinner held in my honor by the University of Maryland University College after the opening reception for my exhibition A Vision of Nature: The Landscapes of Philip Koch on Nov. 7, 2004 in College Park, Maryland.

Artists  and art collectors have something in common- it is that search for that special painting. While there are far easier ways to decorate, art collectors sense on a gut level that there is a special quality they want more of in their lives.

Experience, living, is more unexpected than we adults let on. Sometimes it is even strange. The message of painting, and of my paintings, is that this is ok, and beyond that, that allowing ourselves to embrace this awkward side of our experience makes us stronger, gives us bigger lives, makes us more potent, and best of all, happier. 

When someone brings a painting home and puts it up on their wall ultimately they are doing it for only one reason- they somehow sense it will make them an artist of their own lives.
A painter knows a secret recipe. I put down on a big canvas several thousand colors, shapes, layers, brushstrokes. Each of them resonate from a part of our experience- a memory of  a place, or a person, or a delight, or a fear.

We put in way  more than we need, for it is like a giant casting call. Everyone, each brushstroke, is allowed and even encouraged to be themselves. I accept and I value every color, every drip, every smear from the most beautiful to the most inelegant.

It starts going in a dozen different directions, and this is good for in its early stages you want a painting to be at cross purposes, to be a little insane.

My studio is really a kitchen where on any given painting I stir these ingredients at a low simmer for sometimes several months on end, sometimes longer.

I am finding out who can learn to dance with whom, who must be painted out of the painting, and who needs to be given a starring role.

Finally the painting is done and taken out of the kettle to cool. And only if you listen closely, the painting whispers its secret message to you: “Yes, life can be ridiculous, sometimes crazy, yet it is often so beautiful. I was born with some of that chaos and confusion, but I made some sense of it. Spend time with me, look at me whenever you can. I am your tool to make you an artist of your own life.”

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What Two Early Edward Hopper Etchings Say to Us Today

Edward Hopper lived a long time and kept painting right up until the end. As a result, his earlier work strikes some contemporary viewers as more dated than what he produced later on. For that reason it's not reproduced as often. Yet the seeds of Hopper's art sprouted and bloomed early. We can learn a lot about drawing and about seeing creatively from his early efforts. 

Here are two of his etchings. Above, two passengers sit on the elevated train in New York City. The man is lost in his reading. The young woman gazes out the window the way Hopper himself would likely have been doing. While the two figures apparently ignore each other, they still feel linked together because of choices Hopper made. First, they're both dark silhouettes that stand out as they sit on what's mostly a light bench. If you imagine the axis of either figure you realize both lean back on the same 45 degree diagonal trajectory. This is a conscious positioning of their forms by Hopper, as if he was saying they only seem unrelated.

One other delightful artifice in the etching is the way Hopper stays creative with his detail work on the car's windows. While the window frames are all left pretty light, the one window that surrounds the woman's shoulder and head mysteriously darkens. I think Hopper decided to contrast the organic shapes of the woman against the hard and straight geometry of the window frame. This is an example of the wonderful selectivity one finds in really great art. Hopper shows us his world is as much concerned with how he depicts things rather than just what he is describing. Therein lies much of the emotional power of his art.

And below is one of my favorite Hoppers, The Cat Boat. Hopper grew up a block from the Hudson River in Nyack, New York. (Incidentally, the Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack that  preserves Hopper's boyhood home has an important show of early Hopper work on display right now- Edward Hopper: Prelude. The Nyack Years through July 17). As a boy he built his own sailboat and was obviously a keen observer of the details of nautical design. This etching puts that knowledge to good use.

One of the great themes of landscape art is to pull together forms that seem at first unconnected. Here Hopper creates a beautiful harmony between the rolling hillside on the shore, the sailboat and its occupants. Look at the darkened edge of the far hillside on the right. If you cast your eye along its path as it moves toward the center, it connects on the left side of the boat's mast with a well placed highlight among the darkened foliage. Then trace the angle of the boat's transom (back end). It travels across the print's surface at just the same angle. This lends the piece a sense that this boat is sailing in front of exactly the right hilly shoreline. 

Not content to stop there, Hopper then turns his attention to linking his sailors to their vessel. Look at the angle of the darkly accented boom (the pole at the bottom of the sail) and follow its diagonal. Compare that with the angle formed by highlights on the shoulders and elbows of the two main figures. They too move across the surface of the print on a diagonal that runs exactly parallel with the ship's boom. Hopper is telling us these sailors and their boat are in this together. It feels just right.

I often tell my students that a work of art is simpler, more clear, and easier to feel than the so often contradictory and fragmented thing we call reality. Like an engaging piece of music, it softly pulls our emotions off in a new direction. Art has the power to enlarge our experience. 

Thanks Edward!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Koch Show at Carbon County Cultural Project, Jim Thorpe, PA


Friday night we had an opening reception for my latest exhibt, Philip Koch: Contemporary Landscape Paintings at the Carbon County Cultural Project in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. The town is in the southern Pocono Mountains, an area I hadn't known well, and discovering more of its considerable charm was an unexpected benefit of my trip up there.

Here above is me and my wife Alice standing in one of the two gallery spaces CCCP devoted to the show. Behind us are to the left Memorial, oil on panel, 18 x 36", 2011 and From Day to Night, of the same size, medium and date. (You can see most of the images much enlarged by simply clicking on them).The latter painting is a reflection on the passage of time. It was inspired by a long week I spent in Camden, Maine overlooking the Penobscot Bay and wishing the persistent rains would abate. They finally did in the late afternoon of my final day there. The painting is as much about hope for a clearing sky as it is a report on what actually happened.

The show was handsomely installed by Anna Gosselin (below) who is managing the gallery this summer. Anna is studying in the architecture program at the Savannah College of Art and Design and has been with the gallery for a number of years.

Above are Anna, my wife Alice, and Joan Morykin who oversees all of the CCCP's programs including its classy restaurant Flow, musical performances, and running art workshops.

Here below on the left is Caves Road III,  oil on panel, 28 x 21, an important painting in my development from the early 1990's. It was painted from life on a forested road that reminded me so much of the long wooded driveway that led to the home where I grew up in upstate New York. I was working in the winter and for one of the first times was taking a more imaginative stance with my basic color choices- in this case the grey-violet shadows in the trees. I liked how this turned out and was encouraged by the success to pursue a more personal color sense in subsequent paintings.

In the middle is Banner,  oil on panel, 24 x 18", 2011. It's done entirely from my imagination and owes much to my many painting trips to Cape Cod as well as memories from when I was a boy on the Lake Ontario shore. Perhaps my most vivid memory of my youth was watching the trees stirred by the strong breeze off the water. They seemed to have mastered the art of combining elegance and strength. Who wouldn't want more of that in one's life?

And on the right is North Passage,  oil on panel, 18 x 24", 2011, another work entirely from my imagination. It draws from my many experiences in the Adirondaks, the Green Mountains, and the marvelous peaks of Acadia National Park where Alice and I honeymooned in 1982.

Below is me standing with perhaps the best received of all the paintings at the opening reception, Last Light, oil on panel, 20 x 30". This was one of my ealier entirely invented paintings.

Below is a series of works on paper that I use as a preparation for larger studio paintings and as artworks in the own right.

Here is Victor Stabin, the artist who converted the 19th century stone factory  building into the CCCP complex. He's showing his respect for the evening's events with his animated gesture. Victor is a wonderful painter who has an extensive collection of his paintings and prints on permanent display in the building. One of his works is reproduced at the end of this post.


And here below at the left is my friend Joseph Sweeney, a talented Philadelphia landscape painter who was instrumental in bringing my work to the attention of Victor Stabin and Joan Morykin so this exhibt could happen.

Above on the left,  Memorial is actually based on a plein air oil study done on the summit of Cadillac Mountian in Acadia National Park in Maine. I've been painting there regularly since '82 as it is one of my all time favorite motifs. The title comes from the sad departure of our daughter Louisa's old cat Clifford, a frequent visitor and boarder at my studio who we had to put down the same week as I was finishing the painting. I was surpised at how badly I missed him afterwards and chose in my mind to dedicate this painting to him. The decision helped me feel better, and I'm sure Clifford, up in cat heaven, appreciated the gesture.

I always intend to get great photos of the entire show (this is only one of rooms that held my work) but in the crush and excitement of talking to all the visitors we seem to always forget until the opening has wound down again. But it's good when openings are too busy.

Finally here's one of Victor Stabin's paintings,  Secret Life of Turtles.