Thursday, July 26, 2007

Museum Adventures

My first opportunity on the trip was to stop at the Wild Bill Cody Museum to see a mural by John Clymer. Never did find the Clymer but enjoyed the collection of western art. I was especially glad to find Remington's plein air work, studies done on location in the west, far better than the studio work he did. The Plein air work of an artist is an opportunity to see the artist at work. How he interpreted the moment. The skill with which he applied the knowledge of technique he has, bereft of message ,yet containing the essence of the artist's character.

Stopping in Waterton, SD, to see my grandkids, I discovered the local art hero, Terry Redlin. WOW! Gotta be impressed with the level of commercial success an artist can have. A temple to Redlin's art, there is the Redlin Art Center, a 30,000 sq' marble mansion housing Redlin's paintings and prints, as well everything imaginable you can print his work on, from shower curtains to coffe mugs. It is easy for me to dislike the work of Terry Redlin. It suffers from what I call the 'log cabin syndrome', where an artist finds success at a particular thing, then never moves beyond that success. I do appreciate what he does say, in-as-much-as he opened my eyes to the horizontal light of the prairie. His drawings are exceptional, again, raw, spontaneous studies of the world around him in which his eye, technique and personality shine through.

Part of what has been so fun about this trip is discovering the art that lies hidden in the bowels of america. I had no idea what was to be found in Minneapolis, MN. Google found the Minneapolis Art Institute for me and an exhibit of Nordic work from 1700 to 1900. What else would you expect from the land of the Lutherens? Sponsor? Sons of Norway! Go figure! An exceptional show taking me from the classic style of Romantics in the vein of Bierstadt, heavy glazes and detailed brushwork to that of Edvard Muench, a.k.a. 'The Scream'. Here is a sample of an exceptional masterwork, probably 5'x8', by Carl Larson, may be the most reknown of the Scandanavian artists. Evidently this big painting was done outside on location. As you can see, you have to be one dedicated S.O.B. to paint in the land of the North. If you look closely he is wearing a pair of shaggy boots that would make a pair of Sorrel's look lightweight. This painting was shown at the Paris Salon. I'll bet is was the only snow scene in the show.
One of the things I have come to understand is my attachment to Realism. I have come to learn that Realism is a very relative term. Artists are shackled to the muse and that muse is nature, from which we derive our knowledge, whether that knowledge leads us down the path of abstraction or a literal interpretation of what we see. What is important is to be engaged and devoted to the process. To be the filter by which nature flows through the brush to the canvas, work that becomes frozen in time to be discovered by future aspirants. It reminds me quite a bit of the fossil footprints I saw in the desert of the Badlands or Borlund's Mt. Rushmore. That effort sure should be around for a while!