Joseph McGurl, “Powerlines,” oil, 18 x 24 inches (In search of a setting to address the theme Industrial America, I drove to Immokalee, FL, and spent time considering different options. It struck me that without power, none of the industries I was seeing would be functional. Where did that power come from, and how did it get here? I found the powerlines coming from somewhere beyond the horizon and chose to portray this aspect of industrialization—the conduit between the generation and consumption of energy. I found it interesting that powerlines appear motionless and seemingly inactive, but on a subatomic level, there is a frenzy of activity occurring inside those lines. The cows placidly eating grass below made an ironic contrast, at one time farming was mankind’s primary industry, and animal power was once the main source of energy.)

Works by 30 of the most accomplished artists from the Plein Air Painters of America have been curated into a breathtaking exhibition that focuses on urban sprawl and industrial blight.  Any fan of fine art or plein air brilliant can’t miss this!

Whether shuttered and decaying or functioning and aging, nearly 30 highly accomplished plein air painters have turned their creative lenses towards urban sprawl and industrial blight during “Industrial Landscape” at the Tweed Museum of Art in Duluth, Minnesota.  Presented by the Plein Air Painters of America, represented artists include Kenn Backhaus, Christopher Blossom, Carl Bretzke, John Budicin, Jill Carver, Lorenzo Chavez, John Cosby, Don Demers, Kathleen Dunphy, Andy Evansen, Gay Faulkenberry, West Fraser, Gerald Fritzler, Jeffrey Larson, Jean Legassick, Joseph McGurl, Dean Mitchell, Ned Mueller, Billyo O’Donnell, Joseph Paquet, Ron Rencher, Randy Sexton, Matt Smith, Kate Starling, Brian Stewart, Don Stinson, Skip Whitcomb, and Dan Young.

Kenn Backhaus, “Along the Canal at the Union Mills Paper Co.,” oil, 24 x 24 inches (The towpaths were very important and used extensively in the area on both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania sides of the Delaware River. Canals were dug out on both sides of the waterway and used to move commerce up and down the river. Horses and mules were led along towpaths that paralleled the canals pulling barges that held various products. The canals no longer are used for this original purpose today, but now serve as a recreational trail for kayakers and bicyclists.)
Carl Bretzke, “Mayflower,” oil, 16 x 20 inches (I want my work to show the viewer the beauty in something familiar and yet often overlooked, something they are surprised to connect with but often do. Cars and trucks are so common in our everyday lives and can serve as interesting shapes against a stunning sunset or light violet distant skyline. I often search for the mundane superimposed against something more beautiful. Industrial scenes often present this scenario. My painting “May ower” is an example. It was painted plein air from the Lowry bridge overlooking the scrapyards of North Minneapolis. I’ve already had several people comment, “I drive by that scene all the time and I never thought it could look that good.” A few cars actually stopped on the bridge to get a closer look and ask for more information…the beauty of oil paint.)

Via the museum’s press release, “the idea of painting industrial America took root at the turn of the 20th century, most notably the Ashcan artists, who took to the streets painting gritty, heavily expressionistic rendering of the day-to-day people and workings of the city.  Guided by Henri’s motto “art for life’s sake,” this group of eight looked to the burgeoning working-class culture for inspiration.”

Jill Carver, “Downtown Boom,” oil, 30 x 32 inches (The scene in my painting, Downtown Boom, is from the Colorado River in Austin, Texas. The
city is changing fast and my painting refers to the boom in the construction of vast numbers of downtown condos, hotels and conference centers. Construction is probably the largest industry in Austin right now with at one point 150 people per day moving there. So I thought when the opportunity of this show came along, it would be a perfect way to stretch myself beyond my usual motifs with a scene that has been marinating in my mind for a while.)
Andy Evansen, “Bridge Builders,” watercolor, 14 x 20 inches (The controlled chaos of building a bridge across the Mississippi, while the old bridge still stands watch, was a subject too tempting to pass up. The sheer scale of a project like this is astound- ing, reinforced by viewing it all from ground level. I also liked the colorful aspect of the new bridge while the old one has turned gray and dingy.)
Jean Legassick, “Stopped in Its Tracks,” oil, 18 x 24 inches (Although I mainly concentrate on the natural landscape, this collection of old buildings and railroad cars in Vale, OR, caught my eye—what an interesting conglomeration of shapes and colors! The engine clearly was not in use, its tracks buried in weeds, and the buildings were dilapidated, but the train signal along the road looked new, shiny, and ready to use.)

“Industrial Landscape” opens on September 19 with a reception on Friday, September 22.  It will hang through November 12.  To learn more, visit the Tweed Museum.

This article was featured in PleinAir Today, a weekly e-newsletter from PleinAir magazine. To start receiving PleinAir Today for free, click here.


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