With masterful use of line, palette and texture Lynn Boggess carries the viewer into his richly verdant and luscious landscapes, where these works were conceived.
Lynn Boggess’ subjects reflect the diverse nature of West Virginia and its flora. Boggess draws the viewer into the deeply receding spaces of his images. The pictures, devoid of human or animal habitation, focus on Nature, free of the influence of human activity. Boggess compels the viewer to contemplate each scene in turn, and finally the cycle of scenes: the lapse of hours; the alternating character of the rocks, of the trees and of the land; the turn of season. The paintings themselves become the spaces they portray.
In many large and small ways, Boggess' paintings reflect the entire tradition of landscape painting. When asked what major influences or past movements might have left their imprint, Boggess says that whatever images he might be studying at the time provide the nexus for his own work. Indeed, the viewers will find suggestions of the Romantics,...
...the Luminists, the Impressionists, and the Expressionists. Yet, the artist does not set out to make his works conform to a preconceived style; rather, he melds the tradition and his own experience into a way of seeing and a style in landscape painting which is uniquely his own.
Stylistically reflective of European and American landscape painting, Boggess' work transcends the pitfall of betraying his predecessors and forges, in its place, an art of resolution and contemplation. Nature has been acknowledged in his work and accepted for what it has to offer in the way of healing and beauty. That last concept - beauty - is a loaded word in an age of art which often gives us truth with all its flaws and warts, or with the sophistication of irony, which is all-too-often uncomfortable with the idea that beauty is definable, desirable, or even necessary. Boggess' work cuts through such specious queries to a plainer truth: that beauty simply is ~ an unavoidable irrefutable fact of the natural world. In their unhedging presentation of this fact, Boggess' paintings offer solace and respite, even to the most casual of viewers, just as do the original locations in Nature which were his impetus.
In the best plein-aire tradition, Boggess constructs portable shelters for his outdoor painting. He has, for some time, eschewed the use of the brush in favour of the trowel. The cement trowel, even more than the first use of the artist's palette knife, which gave the Post-Impressionists of the late nineteenth-century a vehicle for piling on the pigment, presents a challenge to the painter because, with an undisciplined flick of the wrist, the artist could cut into or rip the surface of his canvas, destroying several days work.
Boggess has said that the technique presented a very tricky problem, until he was able to master the exact angle of wrist-to-trowel-to-canvas necessary to create a single leaf, a tree branch, or a patch of water. He uses primary colours, mixing them on his palette as he paints. This is Boggess' way of controlling the colour, rather than using premixed tubes of pigment, as some artists do. In numerous respects, Boggess' colouristic technique is a reflection of the master painters of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as his plein-aire work is a reflection of the Impressionists' direct approach to Nature and, like the Impressionists, he paints what he sees. Taking to the open in, quite literally, all kinds of weather, Boggess paints his subject as he stands in its midst. If the snow seems to fly across the picture plane, it is because Boggess stood there, working against time and the elements. When viewers say to him, "I feel as if I am really in the picture," it is surely because Boggess was there when he painted it.
His large-scale paintings may help to explain, in part, the sense the viewer has of entering the scene. The pictures seem, in ways other painters have not been able to achieve, to give the viewer a real door onto Nature. In Boggess' work, his focus is upon the elements of nature, concentrated within the small section he has chosen to show. Although there is the certain understanding that the actual landscape is much more extensive than we see in a single picture, there is no heroic expanse, no inhabited scene to tell us what occupation is carried out within it, nor is there a sense of sentimentality or nostalgia in the picture's presentation. In fact, Boggess has carefully omitted all evidence of human presence. Unlike Romantic landscapes, which show the magnificence of Nature pitted against the smallness of human endeavor, or the ravages of humanity upon the natural world, Boggess' works focus our attention exclusively upon the trees, the light filtering through them, or the reflections of the sky and its light upon the water. These are pictures for refreshment: of our eyes, of our psyche. They are small stopping places along the way.
There are no animals; there are no fences; there are no deposits of waste in the streams. Boggess gives us Nature, seemingly pure and undefiled. For him, and for his viewers, Nature in its pure state has the capacity to heal, and that is where Boggess brings his attention and, with it, ours. The artist often chooses not to paint precisely what he sees. Rather, he eliminates all of the human detritus. He leaves out the barbed wire and the old tires washed onto the streams' banks. Boggess gives us meditative bits of landscape without assuming any tone of preaching to his viewing public, and without heightening or saddening it, either. For him, Nature is an embodiment of beauty, of what we now have and must protect. For viewers who have any acquaintance with the natural world, these pictures resonate with memory, with experience, and create for them a respite from frenetic routine.
Boggess’ winter scenes, bring the viewer into direct experience with Nature. Snow is a difficult thing to paint because, while we "see" it as white, and the scene as monochromatic, white in fact encompasses all the colours of the spectrum, thus giving the painter a knotty task: painting one colour from all colour, without making a garish scene. Boggess succeeds. We feel the quality of the cold air; we understand, by his restrained suggestion of the colours in the snow, almost but not quite breaking through the surface of the ice crust, the brilliance of the light.
In Boggess' stylistically heavy application of the paint, in his roughly-textured surfaces, he is closest to the German painter Anselm Kiefer, a post-World War II Expressionist, whose use of landscape reverberates with the devastation of the Nazis. His landscapes are wounded, bleeding, unquiet, all seemingly opposite qualities to the work of Lynn Boggess, yet the two share many attributes, especially their aggressive, unflinching approach to subject.
The landscapes of Lynn Boggess give us a year-round walk in the woods. They provide us with a series of meditations on beauty; they give us an opportunity to consider the importance of Nature to our own experience. They also contain, in small subtle ways, much of the history of landscape painting. Because Boggess has chosen to paint Nature directly, and because he sees it as beautiful and endangered, he draws us into his fierce political vision. Because that vision is so disciplined that the artist presents it for us, without commentary, we may choose for ourselves which memory to recall; which path to take.
Excerpts from: Marian J. Hollinger, Curator, Fairmont State College, Fairmont, WV
Born in 1955 in Washington, West Virginia, Lynn Boggess grew up on a farm near Parkersburg, West Virginia, and continues to live and work in his home state. He was Professor of Art at Fairmont State College and Coordinator of the Art Department for several years before devoting himself exclusively to painting.
SELECTED AWARDS AND HONORS
Lifetime Achievement Award, WV Governor’s Awards, 2010
Best of Show, Tamarack’s Best of West Virginia Art Competition, 2009
West Virginia Visual Artist of the Year, 2009
D. Gene Jordan Award, The West Virginia Juried Exhibition, 2009
West Virginia Governor’s Award for Excellence in Painting, 2009
SELECTED MUSEUMS AND COLLECTIONS
SAS Institute, Cary, NC
West Virginia Governor’s Mansion, Charleston, WV
Eisai, Inc., Tokyo, Japan
Cranbrook Academy of Arts, Bloomfield Hills, MI: MFA
Fairmont State University, Fairmont, WV: BA