Sunday, October 16, 2011

Art as Change

I believe that all art has something to say, that it brings about a change in the viewer and hopefully a change in the world.  All art is political, even art that is not striving to be political.  Art that does not make a political statement just supports the status quo.  As an artist I strive to be an agent of change.  My work is conceptual; the idea comes first before aesthetic considerations.  At first glance my paintings appear to be conventional landscapes, but there is more to them.  With traditional appeal I invite a broad audience.  But first I start with the theme of the work and the desire to bring about change in ideas. 

What is this theme for me?  Everything I do has an environmentalist message.  Before I began my recent series of paintings I thought a lot about how we have polluted the ground, air and water.  I thought about how we have altered fragile ecosystems and put plant and animal species at risk.  We have created an uncertain future for coming generations.  Yet most of us go about our daily lives without taking notice of any of this. 

My work is about our ability, or not, to find a balance with the environment.  The paintings have a multidimensionality quality that expresses different levels of awareness and ability concerning that equilibrium with nature.  A viewer of my art can look and see only a painted landscape without taking notice of any message.  They can discern my use of repurposed materials and consider the sustainable theme.  They can see the juxtaposition of a nature scene with the rusty surface, cast-off from our industrialized world.  These coexisting views reflect my aim to unveil layers of our reality, and to acknowledge how things are more than they appear.  I try to draw the viewer in regardless of their experience with art.  Message, material and method come together in a painting to change a person’s perspective and potentially change their thinking.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Art and Music

The visual art world is intimidating to many people.  Traditionally, a piece of art was purchased by a reputable gallery, where experienced staff would help you determine quality art and direct you toward what you should buy.  Unfortunately, only a small segment of our society has been willing or able to approach galleries in this way.  There is a distance between consumers and the artist who wants to sell their artwork.  The result is that most people feel they don’t know where to begin to find out about art, and they think that it is too much work or to costly to consider purchasing original artwork. 

I like to make a comparison between art with music when I approach this problem.  Music is everywhere in our culture and people don’t have any difficulty deciding what they like and what they don’t like.  When someone listens to the radio and a song comes on they immediately turn it up or turn it off.  They know right away how they feel about it.  When someone finds a song, or a musical artist they like they pass it on to their friends with a stamp of approval.  Hearing short excerpts of songs on line or in a store give people enough to make a decision to buy a CD or buy a song.  There is no distance between the music and the consumer.  They interact freely and directly.

This is not happening for visual art.  The gallery system is struggling; there is only a smattering of picture framing shops in Grand Rapids that also operate as galleries.  Most serious artists trying to sell their work are scrabbling to fill the void and find a way to make themselves available to the marketplace.  You go to a museum or to a corporate building and you see art.  You go downtown and you see public works.  Art is around to be seen but where is the outlet to buy it, at a reasonable price, from local artists? It is not an easy journey for someone seeking to acquaint themselves with living artists or to buy their work.  The impetuous is on the consumer interested in art to go out and find an artist they like at an art fair, artists market, open studio event, or on-line.  I have been lucky to find a couple of art consultants  who place my work in corporate and public buildings, and work with designers who are looking for wall décor.

Change needs to occur for visual art to flourish like music.  And there is some transformation going on with the growth of on-line trade and social media.  The visual art world is slowly adjusting and hopefully there will be more and more avenues readily available for art enthusiasts to explore the world of living artists and buy their work.

Friday, September 23, 2011

$200 poster above a $2000 couch

It is common today for someone to decorate their home with a nicely framed poster, like one from a museum exhibition.   In such a case, the framing probably costs more than the poster.  Most people put some effort into decorating their living space and as a result they spend thousands of dollars.  Even for people on a strict budget, the main living room is given much attention.  Despite this, wall décor is usually relegated to posters.  For less that the cost of a couch anyone can acquire a piece of art from a local artist who would be thrilled to have one of their pieces prominently displayed in a home.  Even for $500 you can find a serious work of art done by a professional artist that would light up your living room wall.

I think the problem is that most people don’t know there are local artists who make great work that they would like, or they don’t know where to look to get in contact with these artists.  Here in Grand Rapids there are many art fairs, artists markets, open studio events, and galleries.  Beyond that, you can find what ever you might be looking for to accent that couch on-line, and the artist probably lives right down the street from you.  Anyone can become an art enthusiast by only considering two things:  that original art is reasonable and readily available to buy, and that they only need to try to find work that they like.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Iron Pastorals

I do landscape paintings on weathered and repurposed materials.  In my work I explore our connection to the environment and the divergence of the modern world with nature.  Employing salvaged sheet metal, I create work that evokes the memory of the Midwest’s farmland roots on remnants of today's industrialized world.  I build up surfaces on these formally constructed found metal “canvases” to reflect the struggle of savage and urbane forces and to illustrate the influence humankind has over the land.
The title of my current series of paintings is “Iron Pastorals”, which simply means, paintings of rural and natural scenes on discarded objects of industry and culture.  The title is inspired by a book of poetry by almost the same name, “The Iron Pastoral” published in 1947 by Chicago poet John Frederick Nims.  Like other writers of the time, Nims observed how Chicago had grown out of the meeting of prairie and lakeshore into a discordant field of buildings and commerce
I believe that we have a responsibility to find a balance between our development and the environment.  We have sought progress at the expense of the surrounding ecosystems.  I am fascinated by how nature also continues to progress, and constantly reclaims what we have built.  The land reflects our past, and is our conscience.  While my work shows an underlying concern for our environment, I seek to reveal something beautiful, and reveal how in this wondrous land and sky is where we will find our future.