Artists Have to Be Good Liars: My Show at Ogunquit Museum of American Art- Part III

Philip Koch, White Cove, oil on panel, 7 x 10 1/2 inches, 2021

Artists have to be good liars. Sometimes little lies tell a bigger truth.

Reality is incredibly vivid- sometimes delightful, other times anything but. On occasion we may need to tune out the world, but that's not a place we're meant to stay. Art wakes us up.  It reminds us why it's worth it to be open and aware. Artists make the case for this by presenting a heightened version of reality.

Here are four of the paintings in Ogunquit Museum of American Art's current exhibition of my work. The source for each was rooted in a  particular location. In each to get the story I need to tell I had to depart from the literal facts of the place. 

White Cove above was begun at high tide along an inlet where dense foliage crowded over every inch of the shoreline.  In truth the trees were a solid mass of unchanging green that didn't convey their explosive lushness. I injected yellows and oranges into the scene to evoke this vigorous growth of these determined trees. 

Philip Koch, Winter, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches, 2021

My painting Winter above is as close to a hymn to January as I'll ever paint. Would you believe I started it as a vision of early summer pastures? It began as a panorama from a high ridge miles from the shore. But surprisingly insistent childhood memories emerged of playing with my friends on the winter ice on the shore of one of the Great Lakes.  One by one the many fields began dropping out of the picture. The seasons marched forward as well into Fall and finally becoming a chilly celebration of the frozen shoreline. 

Philip Koch, The Voyage of Memory, oil on canvas, 38 x 38 inches, 2008

The Voyage of Memory is probably my most autobiographical painting. I grew up on the shore of Lake Ontario and was privileged to have access to our family's small sailboat. My dad died just as I turned 13. That day I felt overwhelmed by storms of emotion. Not knowing what else to do I took the little boat sailing even though the water and wind were way too rough to go out sailing safely. Luckily I was OK.

I always wanted to make a painting about how I felt that day, but the image of a little boat surrounded by a wide open sea didn't suggest the expressive shapes I would need to tell the story. So I moved the sailing to an imagined bay crowded with islands, passages really too narrow to navigate safely. 

 Philip Koch, Ascension, oil on canvas, 40 x 32 inches, 2008

One day my wife Alice caught glimpse in a mirror of a 7 ft. painting of sand dunes. The unusual angle in the mirror made the painting appear more tall than wide, completely changing the feeling of its composition. It got me intrigued with painting long and low forms like sand dunes in a painting where the sense of movement suggested looking upward into the sky. I enlisted the aid of some arrow-like vertical trees in the foreground to get things moving in that direction.

The exhibition at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art continues through July 19, 2022.

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