Posts

Showing posts from 2017

23 Years Later: Allen Memorial Art Museum

Image
The front of Allen Memorial Art Museum. The inscription reads: "The Cause of Art is the Cause of the People." I always loved that.
Sometimes an art museum changes the course of one's life.
For the first time in 23 years I flew back to my alma mater, Oberlin College in Ohio to visit my first home as an artist, the Allen Memorial Art Museum. I arrived on campus as an awkward 18 year old freshman  intending to major in Sociology. Yet I found myself returning to the Art Museum with increasing frequency as the semester progressed. The lure of the Museum's exhibits became too strong to resist. By November of my first semester I switched to majoring in Studio Art.

Philip Koch with the Dutch painter Hendrick ter Brugghen's  oil St. Sebastian Tended by Irene, 1625

Andria Derstine, Allen's Director, generously gave me a good part of her day, touring the Museum with me and filling me in on changes since my time on campus. I asked her to take my picture with what has to me…

Visiting Edward Hopper House Art Center

Image
I took the picture above in Nyack, NY last Friday of the last rays of the sun hitting the home the painter Edward Hopper (1882-1967) grew up in. I've been fortunate to visit many many times over the years and even to set up my easel and paint its interior.
As luck would have it I was there on a cloudless and brilliantly sunny late afternoon- what I often call "Hopper light." So often it is the theme of loneliness or alienation people find in his paintings.  Yet to me Hopper's greatest achievement is his celebrating intense and vividly alive sunlight. To me nobody did it better.
 Hopper's bedroom- the room where he was born. Two of its windows overlook the Hudson River, one block away.
The home where Hopper lived on and off until he was 30 is now the Edward Hopper House Art Center. If you're a Hopper lover, you need to go. So much of what Hopper was to become stems from his years in the house and its immediate neighborhood. 

Hopper said and wrote very little abo…

Charles Burchfield Exhibition at Montclair Art Museum

Image
An artist's job is to notice the important things that others have overlooked. To call them back to see what they've missed. 
Busy with the tasks of daily living, we forget all about the drama unfolding in the skies. The painter Charles Burchfield insisted that in the changing weather and the passing of the seasons we find clues to our essential selves.
The current exhibition at the Montclair Art Museum (MAM) in New Jersey is Charles E. Burchfield: Weather Event (through January 7, 2018). The show originates from the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, NY. but takes on special meaning in MAM's galleries. The Museum has one of the best collections of George Inness, the visionary late 19th century American landscape artist (Inness lived in Montclair the last 9 years of his life). 
George Inness, Winter Moonlight (Christmas Eve), oil Montclair Art Museum
Inness was renown for his uniquely moody and introspective landscapes. In some ways Burchfield was cut from the same sort…

A Candid Shot In My Studio Even Before My Morning Coffee

Image
My wife Alice took this photo early this morning. I had stepped into my painting studio while waiting for the kettle to heat for my morning coffee. 
My studio is a place where I spend a lot of time. A kind of sanctuary from distractions and interruptions. A place to concentrate on the dreaming and imagining that go into making one's painting happen. This Saturday morning after an unusually stimulating couple of days the quiet of the studio felt especially inviting. 
I had just had a lively conversation with Heather Gring, the Archivist at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, NY. Heather is helping curate the museum's upcoming show next Spring of the work I've done over the last two and a half years as their Artist in Residence. We started making choices about which of my paintings will form the core of that museum's exhibition. Heather and I will be selecting drawings by one of my favorite artists, Charles Burchfield, from the museum's Archives to include in …

Charles Burchfield at the Portland Museum of Art

Image
Charles Burchfield, The Big Tree, watercolor, circa 1920, Portland Museum of Art (Maine). 
A few days ago I was looking at the Portland Museum of Art's website and came across this painting from early in Charles Burchfield's career. Erin Damon, the Museum's Assistant Registrar, told me the Museum purchased the piece in 1998. Well, they got a really nice one!

The giant tree seems not only alive, it commands the surrounding  field.  It adeptly solves the challenges that come when an artist paints the colors of summer foliage. As commonplace as greens and yellow-greens are in that season, I know from my long experience as a landscape painter they're devilishly hard to make work in a painting. The way Burchfield tackles this teaches us a lot about the language of painting.

Burchfield doesn't worry about color in the beginning. Color probably is the most delightful aspect in painting, but by itself it tends to be formless. It needs a structure of shapes to hold it like a …

New Hopper Studio Paintings to Somerville Manning Gallery

Image
Edward Hopper's Truro, MA studio, Sept. 2016
This week I brought some new paintings done from my most recent residency in Edward Hopper's Truro, MA studio into Somerville Manning Gallery in Greenville, DE.
Two of the paintings are a actually a tribute to the very first Hopper painting I ever saw- his wonderfully strange oil of the corner of his painting room in the Truro studio (see below). It made a huge impression on me as a teenager and prodded me to begin thinking about becoming an artist myself.


Philip Koch, Truro Afternoon, oil on panel, 14 x21 inches, 2017 (this one oil will be available at the Gallery Oct. 12).



Philip Koch, Rooms by the Sea: September II, oil on canvas,  28 x 42 inches, 2017

Edward Hopper, Rooms by the Sea, oil on canvas, 1951, Yale University Art Gallery
I've learned unexpected things over the years I've stayed and worked in Hopper's studio. One is that an artist has to conduct a wide-ranging search for the subjects that open the internal do…