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Kathy Hofmann: Landscape Painting / Larry Jameson: Wood Vessels

June 23 - July 25, 2004

 

Both artists in this new exhibition reveal their connection to and love of, nature. Kathy Hofmann is keenly aware of, and deeply attracted to the land that surrounds her, and seeks to capture its evolution and appearance for contemporary enjoyment and future memory. Larry Jameson takes a part of nature and transforms the seemingly mundane into a thing of exquisite beauty that will endure. (right: Kathy Hofmann, Noonday Pasture, acrylic on board, 2004)

Hofmann, who lives in Mukwonago, loves the idyllic Wisconsin rural landscape: this is apparent from a first glance at her paintings. Many of her diminutive and intimate Kettle Moraine scenes capture the fleeting atmosphere that magically illuminates the landscapes at sunset and sunrise. Still other landscapes are shrouded in fog or glisten in morning mist and dew.

While her paintings are of contemporary places, Kathy achieves a luminous quality in her landscapes by utilizing a paint glazing technique used by artists since the Renaissance. She also finds inspiration from the Hudson River [1] and Barbizon Schools [2] of painting which occurred in the 19th century. Kathy paints using methods from history and, in a way; this love of the past extends to her images. While they feature scenes that very much exist, she is keenly aware of the encroachment of development on farmland and the disappearance of family farms. "I create this work thinking, will these scenes be around for future generations to enjoy? Wisconsin is America's Dairyland. As the land is being transformed we are losing this heritage."

As her work demonstrates, Kathy does take the ideals and aims of the Barbizon and Hudson River Schools and mixes them together under the guise of her native Wisconsin. While on the surface her work seems to glorify and eulogize the Wisconsin landscape, (Hudson River School influence) simultaneously and subtly she makes comment on the threats that such a seemingly idyllic landscape is under from development and pollution. (Acres of WI farmland are being gobbled up for housing, business development and family farms are increasingly under threat. The air quality in S.E. Wisconsin counties is also notoriously poor and recent sewerage dumping in Lake Michigan has attracted widespread attention). This realism and political/activist commentary gives her a kinship with Millet. Indeed, Kathy can be seen as a subtly environmentalist painter; pretty pictures to be sure, but that prettiness is something that we can all too often take for granted and is being slowly eroded.

Very much a contemporary painter, Kathy does follow in the footsteps of many landscape artists who, in painting what they saw and lived amidst, were not only painting of their moment, but for posterity, whether they were aware of it or not. Her paintings also point to a real dichotomy: the desire to preserve, the yearning for nostalgia, of the "old" rural Wisconsin of family-run dairy farms and quiet back roads, and the encroachment of development and the desire for "progress". Are the two compatible Kathy's pictures seem to ask. Can preservation and progress coexist? Just looking at Wisconsin's tourism advertising, the cities are clearly touted, but pride of place goes to the vast unspoiled countryside and the activities it affords. This again raises another dichotomy, one keenly felt in-state in places like the Wisconsin Dells and further afield in the nation's many National Parks; unspoiled beauty is attractive, this leads to tourism, which leads to high numbers of people seeking the rural experience with nature. Eventually, the numbers reach a level that virtually precludes such an intimate experience. What price, Kathy Hofmann asks, are we willing to pay to keep our natural resources natural?

A recent MFA graduate from UW-Milwaukee, Kathy is represented by the Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee.

The saying that you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear is refuted, in a different medium, by Union Grove artist Larry Jameson. Taking rather unremarkable pieces of wood, Larry's turned, indigenous wood vessels are a graceful study in form and nature. The artist finds great comfort in trees and has developed a symbiotic relationship with them that, to an extent, mirrors the human experience. Growing, flourishing and eventually dying, trees have a life cycle akin to humans. The vessels he creates from the wood of these trees also possess a human element in that some are perfect, some are flawed, some are broken. As Larry says, "It's the character like our lives, that they reflect.''

After analyzing the nature of each block of wood selected for turning on the lathe, Larry settles on the most appropriate design and begins his laborious process that includes delicate exotic wood inlay. His work has been included in major Midwest art fairs as well as numerous Wisconsin art centers and galleries. (right: Larry Jameson, 38-2002, box elder burl)

On Friday, June 25th at 10:30 a.m., the increasingly popular Sneak Peek Friday gathering will feature Larry Jameson discussing his marvelous wood creations and Assistant Director Graeme Reid giving an insight into Kathy Hofmann's magical landscape paintings. Specifically designed to educate, inform, and entertain, Sneak Peek Friday is an easy, casual way to visit the museum and learn about current and upcoming programs. As always, the Sneak Peek gatherings are free and open to the public. Join the crowd!

A reception for Kathy Hofmann and Larry Jameson will be held on Sunday, June 27th from 1:30 - 4:00 p.m. Kathy will be in attendance to discuss her work, which is becoming increasingly popular with galleries and collectors.

 

Also of interest

"One from Wisconsin" is an exhibition program initiated by the museum to showcase and reaffirm its support for contemporary in-state artists.

July, 2004: Joe Stanke

Now living in New Berlin, Joe Stanke was a lithographer for thirty-four years. He was interested in art from childhood and took art classes, joined art clubs, and showed his work whenever possible. Stylistically he pursued a medium different from lithography: photo realism with a hint of surrealism. His trompe l'oeil (literally "fool the eye") paintings are meticulous and filled with wit and humor. Being selected for One from Wisconsin is a welcome return to the West Bend Art Museum for Joe who last exhibited his work at the Museum in the 1983 show "Intriguing and Unusual Imagery."

 

Notes:

1. The Hudson River School was an American group of artists and was prevalent from around 1825 until around 1870. The pictures are often highly romantic and emphasize the wonders of nature. Chief protagonists were Asher B. Durand and Thomas Cole. The latter worked in his studio, whereas the former did work outside and shared the same Dutch influences as the Barbizon artists.

2. The Barbizon School was based around the French village of Barbizon in the Forest of Fontainebleau in the mid 19th century. Located thirty miles from Paris, the village attracted artists such as Jean-Francois Millet, Theodore Rousseau, and Narcisse Diaz. Essentially precursors to Impressionism, their aim was to paint peasant life and rural scenery just as it existed and painted on the spot, not ion the studio. While they influenced the Impressionists, the Barbizon painters were influenced by English artists Constable and Bonnington and Dutch painters Hobbema and Ruisdael. Millet was the only one to inject a specific political point of view into his work, championing the peasantry and their labors. Generally, their works are small to medium in size and notable for a relatively somber palette.

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