Art  Zoller  Wagner
Realist Painting: Artist's Statement


 
 

Landscape Paintings

My figure and my landscape work may look very different, but I am concerned with many of the same issues in both. My landscape paintings convey the nearly ecstatic experience I often have when I open my eyes and my whole being to the wonder that exists around us.

I had lived in Iowa in the early 1980s when I was just learning to paint. Many of the paintings I did then were landscapes. For the following fifteen years, most of my paintings were of the figure. When I moved back to Iowa in the 1990s, I never imagined that I'd return to painting landscapes. It was the textures and colors of the vegetation, along with the strong patterns formed by different plants and land forms, that drew me back to plein air painting.

Duck Pond II, oil on canvas






   Duck Pond II
   oil on canvas








Most of the landscapes I represent have been manipulated by humans. I am not looking for pristine or idealized nature. The power that we can tap into in nature is accessible in corn fields, constructed duck ponds, restored prairie, virgin forests, and even suburban backyards. There isn't much truly wild nature left anymore. Our task is to find the unchanging in the mutilated, the sacred in the ordinary.

I paint most of my landscapes in late afternoon light, a moment when the sun rays skim nearly parallel to the ground. At this liminal passing from day to night, light streams through leaves, through blades of grass, through dry grain stalks, revealing searing yellows and acid greens, unveiling an intrinsic intensity which is only unlocked when rays of light flow through these living forms before reaching our eyes. In observing and painting the brightness and saturation of these colors, along with the crimson of the setting sun and the deep blues and violets of the heightening shadows, I am celebrating a magical world.

The methods I use in the landscapes are different from those of the figure paintings. I often begin by blocking in several sections of the canvas with a layer or two of color. Sometimes these colors are the complement of the color of what I see in a particular area. When I am content with the basic composition and color scheme, I go over this wash with specific shapes and strokes. When I paint en plein air, I'm intensely aware of the changing light, the passing of time as day becomes night. Perhaps my painting these landscapes is an attempt to hold onto a fleeting ecstatic moment.

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Awe, Ecstasy, and the Sacred

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