The American Prairie is an exhibition of my new surreal figurative series of paintings that have at their center a relation to the landscape of the Chicagoland suburbs. The new work encompasses a gestural and tactile response to my years as an artist an educator in the Midwest suburban landscape. The paintings are realized in the traditional medium of oil painting using a range of techniques ranging from layers with under painting to thicker more gestural application of paint.
The American prairie geographically encompasses the Midwest suburbs and exurbs that I call home. I was raised outside Chicago and the American suburban landscape continues to be an important influence on my work. In a larger sense the American Prairie also encompasses the conversation that categorizes artistic expression into urban vs. rural labels that divide artistic output in the United States. These boundaries and categories can artificially limit creative discourse. These divisions are also reflective of a larger political and cultural divide that faces the United States today.
My painting blends occasions of costuming and artifice with the flora of a manicured suburban nature. Creative play is revealed through personal symbols providing entrance into the theater of the canvas.
Color and shape respond to the natural world reflecting a long held interest with the figure as a means of expression. Ultimately all line, color, shape and form relate back to the figure in a tactile and kinesthetic manner. Through the use of marks painting enables individuals to explore the meanings of their relationships with larger societal groups. It is through an expanded awareness and use of personal creativity that collectives can heal and renew themselves.
Commercial images and icons can be refashioned to evoke more personal and emphatic commentaries. These glimpses that paintings generate allow entry into a place of discovery and wonder. Painting allows this in a unique and tactile way, which accesses gestural responses in an age of increasingly electronic visual experience.
Influences range from Celtic figurative art through postmodern figurative painting. Pop art has transformed the nature of painting in this new millennium. This situation has been hastened by the realities of visual communication in the age of the internet. Chicago Imagist figurative painting has had a cartoony and at times irreverant side which I feel a strong affinity to. Painting which questions the nature of boundaries and allows artists to explore how societies organize and express themselves. I am indebted to the mentorship and support of my teacher Professor Ed Paschke whose examples as an both an artist and teacher I strive to emulate in my life. I am also forever grateful for the opportunity that Moraine Valley Community College gave me with my first teaching position in 1994 as an instructor for Drawing and Design.