The paintings of West Virginia artist Lynn Boggess represent nature in its purest form. Green tree groves, snowy riverbanks and dense forest floors are devoid of human or animal presence as the artist omits tracks, fence lines or any remnants of existence other the land itself. “Wilderness is an increasingly rare thing,” says Boggess. “It is why I am based in a state that is sparsely populated, and where trees far outnumber human beings.”
Untouched land can feel both peaceful and wild, and we sense both in the rural isolation of Boggess’ work. The artist rapidly paints the “essential elements” en plein air and then carefully completes the piece in his studio. It is this first-hand interaction with the elements that draws us into a direct experience with nature when viewing Boggess’ work. His impasto painting style also contributes to the liveliness of a scene as sculptural layers of paint extend toward the viewer, increasing the painting’s physical presence. Thick strokes of pure pigment are mixed directly on the canvas with a wide trowel; a tool the artist uses skillfully in order to quickly sketch the contour of a tree or shape a single leaf.
The artist’s experience and connection with the landscape is a key part of his process, as it is this resonance that is eventually translated to the viewer. “What I try to do is understand what the season and weather conditions are doing to my state of mind,” he explains. “It requires a searching of not only the physical world, but also my emotional response. Tuning into both simultaneously takes practice, and it is so worth it. Being present, in touch, and tuned into oneself and one’s place in the world for even a few hours is a blissful escape from the flood of displaced projections so prevalent in our contemporary culture.”
Boggess’ exhibition of new work opens this Friday during the Railyard Art Walk. Below are artist explanations and reflections on several paintings that are currently available in the show. Click here to inquire about a piece.
18 April 2018, 28 x 52”, oil on canvas
“A May exhibition has quite a transformation in form. From the white of winter to the burst of color that is Spring, it is the widest range of palette and feeling there is among the seasons.
Spring means blossoms, and that means a narrowing in on the forms. Deep, recessional space gives way to a much more shallow depth that is close up and intimate. This is where impasto painting asserts its dominance the most. Quick swipes can bring the reality of leaves and blossoms convincingly to life. It’s a thrill to approximate their presence so closely. Even more interesting is animating their being jostled about by spring wind gusts.
Crabapple trees are my favorite. They have a distinctively large bud that goes from a red kernel, to a pink point, to exploded white peddles.”
28 March 2018, 24″ x 48”, oil on canvas
“The drama is dialed back on this one. The challenge here was to see if the horizontal format could be activated by a dynamic energy with just a few subtle elements – in this case, the cast shadows on the snow bank. From experience I knew the entire scene would have to be a hushed stillness in order for a few shadows to work as a subject. I positioned my easel so I could sit, which I very rarely do, so I could slow the pace down to a careful crawl. After four hours, the stage was set for a brief few seconds of rapid, gestural swipes of French Ultramarine Blue on the white snow – and presto!! There it is. Contrast. A quiet, hushed stillness with a vigorous movement of light.”
6 March 2018, 34″ x 30”, oil on canvas
“Bare trees this time of year permit a penetrating look beyond the middle ground that is so important to this painting.
Contrast. It establishes significance and meaning in all things. In this landscape, the movement of the water in the open area becomes progressively quieter as it shelters in amongst the trees. And the smoothness of the water emphasizes the physical presence of the foreground. What does this all add up to? It’s a meditation on the nature of existence we deal with daily. Most are too busy with making life work to reflect on these things. Artists are some of the individuals who find it important enough to do.”
26 March 2018, 46″ x 40”, oil on canvas
“It is winter late. The pack begins to turn from solid to liquid, from permanent to transient. It’s this kind of contrast that makes winter so fascinating to paint.
Munch is quoted as saying, “paint what you saw, not what you see.” Painting melting snow is that concept in action. Most of the white is this scene was long gone by the time I packed up my equipment in the late afternoon.
This stream is an old friend whom I have painted many times. It borders a trac of wilderness that I have in the West Virginia highlands. Connections like this are important. It opens up emotions that unfamiliar scenes do not.”
22 February 2018, 24″ x 48″, oil on canvas
“I have done a number of horizontal canvases recently as a break from the vertical ones I routinely do. Why? Well, horizontal suggests rest, and that is not my view of nature, of course. Flooding waters override this conceptual mindset. And horizontal compositions have some interesting elements to resolve. In an aggressive subject such as this, a narrative of what is beginning and how it ends is suggested.
The objective here is to translate the true energy of what is happening into the paint. That requires a focused intensity in an impasto painting – very different from the careful dabbing of a photorealist.”
20 February 2018, 40″ x 35”, oil on canvas
20 February 2018 (detail)
“This scene was exhilarating to undertake. An unusual warm front moved into the area, quickly melting off the snow pack. The river swelled and peaked the day before I ventured out on location. Energy like this is something I’m drawn to in nature. I found a rocky sand bar in the middle of the shallow, receding water to set up. The cloud cover opened to a beautiful blue in the afternoon, so that area was repainted so that the reflections could be incorporated into the foreground waters. As is common to most plein air painters, being able to adjust changing weather conditions on the canvas is something one becomes comfortable with.”
12 May 2018, 34″ x 30″ oil on canvas
“Early morning fog is a fascinating subject to paint. It offers a mystical dimension that gets me thinking philosophically. There is the added silence of daybreak that makes it so worth getting up and out the door for.
Stillness is very rare thing. Experiencing it weekly gives me a greater sense of being and soundness of mind. Varying the time of day keeps a plein air painter more aware and sensitive to the quality of light and space.
High water wreckage and debris is a subject that I do often because it adds another level of the authentic and real into the portfolio. As my work is a hybrid of objective realism and interpretive expressionism, broken and gnarled trees pressed against healthy, living ones permits these two to fuse together. In the still hours of morning, the interlocking of the vibrant and alive, with the bleached bones of debris, generates an unavoidable contemplation.”