* All Images of Artwork Copyright and Courtesy of Artists
In the process of making a work of art, I invent systems that enable a state of flux in which random events will occur. I determine the technique, then let my chosen system generate the imagery. For instance, in one of my systems, gravity plays a major role in the creation of the piece, how it falls together. Tapping into an underlying structure of nature, the effects of gravity are implied, as I intentionally bypass literal representation. Utilizing various materials, the simplest of techniques can generate a fascinating range of results. I am moved by music (as is everyone) the character of the sound, the layering of sound, the pulse, the intensity, the articulation, the emotional and intellectual component. . . my visual work is silent, but holds within it a translation.
- Jon Lodge
Title: Spaceman e-email
I grew up in Arizona in the west of cowboys and Indians, but the desert was also inhabited by astronauts, pachucos, and scientists doing nuclear testing. Every Saturday, the air raids sirens would go off all over Tucson. People across the street from where we lived were building a fall out shelter. Twilight Zone was the tv show that seemed to best capture the mood. I wandered the Sonoran outback with rock and roll radio as my soundtrack. The landscape of Southern Arizona is still my favorite in the world. It’s fragile beauties heightened by all the modern technologies that are engulfing it. Growing up I always had the sensation that I was living in a space colony on another planet. Biosphere 2, built outside of Tucson is the most poignant expression of this. My constant artistic challenge is how to depict this “New Frontier” in both its glory and weirdness? How to paint what it feels like to be in this world?
In my newest art work, I have returned to using oil paint. I spent the last fifteen years experimenting with egg tempera and Japanese mineral pigments to try to achieve a spectral type of light and color. “Dark Sanctuary” and “The Atomic Age” are good examples of this technique. Egg tempera is intermingled with gesso, pastels, and pigments mixed with glue. The different layers of materials have different refractions of light. This still interests me, but I want to achieve a more sculptural, denser paint that is only possible with oils. It will probably take me a few years to build up the oils in the way I want, but already I sense how paint can embody the presences of the physical world.
- Robert Royhl
Early on, I was not particularly drawn to traditional western art, but my lifelong enthusiasm for western movies was stoked by the revisionist and off-beat westerns of the late 1960s and early 1970s—Once Upon a Time in the West, The Wild Bunch, Little Big Man, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, El Topo—and, living in Texas, I began to see the works of artists who were also revisiting and revising western subjects, interpreting cowboys and Indians and western places in fresh ways—Fritz Scholder, Luis Jimenez, Terry Allen, Robert Wade, Vernon Fisher and Ed Blackburn, among others.
I first saw John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939) at the University of Colorado in the mid-70s. The print was battered, the images de-resolved, flickering and stuttering. Details of the coach, horses and characters dissolved in abstract shadows as the searing glare of the Arizona desert spilled into the auditorium. Still, the compelling story and performances, dynamic action set-pieces and powerful cinematic compositions came through. In its ruined state the old film seemed like a relic of an actual frontier.
I moved to Billings, Montana, in 1982, becoming assistant director of the Yellowstone Art Center. Living in a place where the legacies of Charlie Russell and Will James and their followers were still prominent and popular, and working as a contemporary art curator committed to supporting modernist and experimental contemporary art, my own "western" paintings were freighted with a post-modernist, satirical edge—fitting to the times—and loose paint-handling akin to the styles of my Montana friends Ted Waddell and Chris Warner.
Having become a fairly serious student of the western film genre, I can't imagine more vibrant inspiration for pictorial art. Though there is a vast, industrial-scale inventory of "B-Pictures," serials and TV shows, I have concentrated on more historically important and aesthetically distinguished Western films. Filmmakers like John Ford, Sergio Leone or Sam Peckinpah were visual storytellers, masters not only of cinematic art but also knowledgeable about the history of painting. Ford drew specifically from the imagery of Frederic Remington; Leone, the surrealist Georgio de Chirico; and Peckinpah painted cinematic Jackson Pollocks with slow-motion explosions of simulated blood.
Andy Warhol and many other painters have employed publicity stills in their works. I go into the film itself and extract one frame from the tens of thousands that make up a time-based narrative. Among the things I am looking for is imagery that implies something about the essence of life or the human condition, our existential dilemma, and endurance, courage and boldness of action. I particularly love the relationship of horse and rider, the hybrid animal—graceful, powerful, beautiful and dynamic. Where once my painting style was action-oriented—with expressionistic paint-handling—now, I more carefully define the ephemeral, relativistic forms and hollows of galloping horses, the placement of the feet, the blur of legs crossing multiple points in space, muscle and bone, air and dust.
It is impossible to accurately paint a galloping horse without a photographic reference. The stop-motion sequences of late 19th century photographer Eadweard Muybridge first supplied realist painters like Thomas Eakins and Frederic Remington the accurate data they needed to perfect their depictions of animals and humans in motion. The fractionated stills of motion pictures supply me with what I need to explore and delineate the graphic drama of dynamic forms in space. In the painting process, the projected still is a score for a myriad of improvised intersections. I employ multiple brushes and other tools, working paint of varying consistency, tone and value into the weave of the canvas and accretions of pentimenti and impasto. Thousands upon thousands of marks conjure animate presences, appearing suspended in a membrane of concentrated attentions.
The Olympia Series features competitive divers from the 1936 Berlin Olympics. As composed by Leni Riefenstahl for the documentary Olympia, these figures appear to be flying under their own power more than submitting to gravity.
The beginnings of a new series set in the West of my era are represented by two paintings of a cowboy and horse crossing a busy, modern highway derived from Lonely Are The Brave, 1962. —Gordon McConnell
We find ourselves at a unique moment in the American West. While the mythos of a rugged and lawless, yet beautiful and serene landscape still lives on in pop culture and in Traditional Western Art, the actual living systems of the West have never been more fragile. The West has been ripped apart, sub-divided, paved, mined, stripped of oil, etc.. I have always been fascinated by how Art of the American West can remain prominent with paintings of dessert sunsets, cowboys and indians, Bison in Yellowstone, etc. while the actual Region suffers. What I try to accomplish with my Abstract Landscape paintings is to be true to the land I live in, and express not only the natural beauty of the American West, but the undeniable affects of Industrial civilization on the American West. Holding these contrasting truths in my mind, I work intuitively from memory and imagination to combine materials of industry (joint compound, wood stain, wood glue, cement, tar, etc.) with pigment, paint, and other materials to arrive at a finished piece that speaks to a fragile, changing landscape. I want to leave enough conceptual space within a painting for my audience to form their own interpretation of a moment in the landscape, while grounding each piece in conflict, the conflict that I feel while living in the American West. My hope is that my audience will be able to derive content from the materials I use while maintaining an emotive connection with the scenes or moments that those materials express. - Clay Pape