American painter Andrew Wyeth died on Friday at the age of 91. The traditional visual arts like painting, sculpture, and pottery don’t seem to have much cultural significance any more, which is understandable given the advantages television, contemporary music and movies have as far as mass consumability, but it’s still a shame that the passing of such a great American artist barely registers a blip on internet and television news radars. (The inauguration of the first African American president and a plane crash in the Hudson didn’t help much) So, I’d like to use a little virtual real estate to pay respects to my favorite American painter.
Because Wyeth’s landscape and portrait paintings are “rustic” and “realistic,” they are often mislabeled as sentimental or nostalgic. But, anything more than a passing glance at his work reveals subject matter that is weathered, isolated and often times brutally desolate. His paintings are self-reliant, without the crutches of sentimentality, nostalgia, pop culture, happy accidents, shock, gimmicks, politics, or humor. He whittles everything away but the very essence of the painter’s struggle: to freeze in time visually the beauty, power and grace of a single moment. His mastery of light is on par with Rembrandt and the potency of his blank spaces are unrivaled. Andrew Wyeth can paint a snow-covered Maine hillside and reveal as much to you about Truth and the human condition as a Bob Dylan song or a William Faulkner novel.