Luminous Surprise

August 18th, 2010

Retrospectives are so informative.
To have the opportunity to immerse oneself in someone else’s lifetime of artistic exploration can be energizing and inspiring.

I stopped by the Whitney on my way to the airport a few weeks ago.

A friend had told me that I should see the Charles Burchfield show that was there. I was skeptical. I had never found Burchfield’s work to be compelling but my friend had raved about the show so we gave it a try.

What a fabulous exhibit of visionary work.

The show is down now, but it was a great and inspiring pleasure to wander through the gallery rooms and see one artist’s vision, accumulated over many years of dedicated painting. He kept detailed journals: more than 10,000 handwritten pages, not only of his artistic processes and introspective soul searching, but recording what was happening outside of the studio window.

Note the interaction between the two birds, one white breasted nuthatch in flight and the other  drumming on the tree trunk in Autumnal Fantasy, (below)  a huge watercolor, vibrating with energy. His sense of connection with the natural world was deeply spiritual.

Unlike many artists he was fortunate enough to enjoy huge success in his lifetime. As a person he was  described as mundane and sensible, a true, hard-working mid-westerner of the old school, a family man raising five children after moving from Ohio to settle in West Seneca New York.  In December 1936 Life magazine declared him one of America’s ten greatest painters.

I’m certainly a convert. Burchfield is a new hero. Steadfastly true to his own vision he created a body of work that inspires and invigorates.

Better head to the studio and get some work done.

One Response to “Luminous Surprise”

  1. Lynn Bridge says:

    Your story about Burchfield was inspiring. Thanks for the pictures, too.

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