Thursday, June 12, 2014

My painting Banner at Thomas Deans Fine Art in Atlanta



My painting Banner, oil on panel, 24 x 18", 2014 is in the new group exhibition Summer Pleasures at Thomas Deans Fine Art in Atlanta. There is an opening reception Friday, June 13 from 6-8 p.m. The show runs through Aug. 2, 2014. It is a painting based entirely on memory. And it comes with some history. As I often do I worked out this image over the course of years.

Below is the initial version, an oil on panel from 2008 measuring 10 x 7 1/2". And it too stemmed from events farther back. About ten years ago my wife Alice and I went on a painting excursion to northern Vermont. One morning I got rained out from working with my portable easel in the field but found a wonderful alternative view from the breakfast room of our B&B in Burlington. Situated on a hill, it looked out on a towering pine that framed a distant view of Lake Champlain and the even more distant Adirondack Mountains of New York. 




The pine just spoke to me. It had a broken rhythm of shapes and empty intervals that suggested its surviving decades of northern winters. I make drawings of things like this- so often they surpass in richness even the most inventive thing we create in our minds. We'd be foolish not to take them in, study and enjoy them. So I set up in the breakfast room and made a vine charcoal drawing that served as a basis for this small oil. 

The far distance came from another of my memories. Way back in 1975 I visited Cape Cod for the first time. Previously I had known its distinctive topography only through the paintings Edward Hopper had made there. I had always found them slightly odd. But seeing it in person I realized Hopper was more than anything truthful to the spirit of the place. I was transfixed by the landscape of the Cape's enormous sand dunes. In particular the monumental silhouette of Lieutenant Island in Wellfleet, just offshore from the cabin I had rented with friends, delighted my eye and found a permanent home in my imagination. It seemed the perfect backdrop for my evolving Banner painting. 

I'm sometimes asked what a painting like Banner is about or what it means. A lot of things, of course, but I'd be kidding if I didn't admit to much speculating on just that over the months I worked on these pieces.

The juxtaposition of the upward thrusting tree against the dense earthbound distant dune is really the heart of the piece. They speak of the curious dance we all do between the moving and changing parts of our lives and what stays unchanging and gives us a foundation for everything else. 

Is it clouding over and about to storm or is the overcast breaking open and just about to let the low sunlight blast down upon our foreground tree? I like to imagine it both ways. And the tree itself is far from densely verdant. Instead it seems to have weathered its share of years and storms. Maybe from that it derives a kind of hard won beauty.

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