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Contemplation: a collection of new plein-air works of Southeastern Utah by Tyler Willmore June 8-15, 2015 at the Ruth Vine Tyler Library in Midvale, Utah
This exhibition is the final presentation of a year-long research project at the University of Utah Rio Mesa Research Center, just outside of Moab, UT. As an artist I am inspired by the interaction of landscape and ecology and how often witnessing that interaction can create a spiritually profound experience. These experiences have helped me develop enlightened perspectives, given me an idea of my position in relation to time and place, and help me find personal redemption as I battle my personal demons. My work is an attempt to translate these ideas through images where landscape becomes symbolic of life’s journey and nature becomes representational of greater spiritual influence. It is an attempt to explore the balance of outward and internal contextual perspectives as they pertain to landscape.
This piece is about having an eternal perspective and how that plays into our day to day lives. We often strive for heaven but find ourselves burdened by the challenges we face every day. I am one who believes that we get what we will deserve and the hills represent that endgame. The rocks and ravines along with the flowers and vegetation are symbolic of the various emotions and trials we experience when we get there. Being religious, when I have accomplished my goals, I hope to look back over my life and see the beauty for what it is. This landscape reflects both the past, present, and future.
When I head out into nature I often think about what I would need to do in a survival situation. For many survivalists that means to strategically make decisions about when to conserve and when to spend calories. For an individual who would have to traverse a desert or flat area that covers several hundred miles with none or limited water, this decision is absolutely critical. Climbing a hill or mountain in the middle of nowhere would be a risky venture for any survivalist to undertake as it requires a hefty expenditure of calories and energy and increased chance for injury or death. Climbing a hill or mountain though has significant benefits. Once elevated from the ground, the survivalist can see more of the landscape and possibly discover those things that will save his or her life. It may provide shelter, food, or water that was inaccessible at the ground. Once ascended confidence and hope can be renewed. For me this piece is about seeking employment and very significant to recent events in my own life. I worked for the same company for 12 years just moving along always believing that at some point I would be rewarded for my efforts. Unfortunately those opportunities were denied to me and I was forced to unhappily trudge on and feeling like I was wasting away in a desert sun. This hill represents my decision to start looking for a new job. Once the anxiety of leaving our comfort zone and accepting change is over, our new found perspective helps us go forth with confidence as we implement a life changing decision and descend that hill onto a new path below. The openness and expanse of the sky are symbolic of the infinite opportunities that await us. It is a space to for us to tell the universe what is it we want, and then let the universe bestow that blessing upon us. That is what Lone Hill means to me.
This piece is one of only three pieces in this exhibition where I have alluded to man-made elements. The old rusting farm equipment stuck in the sand are the main elements of this piece. They are not elements that were naturally created like the hills in the distance, but rather indicate human interference or introduction into the landscape. Following my use of symbols, these pieces of equipment serve as specific choices, events, or memories that we experience are so significant they impact and become part of the landscape of our lives. In retrospect these decisions are either good and beautiful or can be bad and ugly depending on our perspective. Whatever they may be they demand attention and refuse to be ignored. These pieces of farm equipment serve as reminders of very personal moments that have helped shaped my own identity and aid in my search for spiritual redemption by helping me to continually keep things in perspective...pun intended.
Reflection,2015, 10"x10" oil on reclaimed particle board, custom frame SOLD to the collection of Rosalba Vega Prints are currently unavailable but coming soon!
In one of my readings I read that nighttime is a reflection of the day time. Normally in the daylight our eyesight is at its peak performance because normally, there exists no ambiguity about the objects we are perceiving. When we see a bush in daylight, there is no misinterpretation as to what that bush could be. When you take that same bush and view it at night it takes on another form and the perception can be left to our imagination. Nighttime is also a time to rest, think, and reflect on the events that transpired during the dayday. As I was painting, I couldn’t really see what I was doing. I was mixing paint in the dark trying to match value on my pallet to the values I saw in the landscape. So instead of painting rocks and trees which have form and dimension, it became flat shapes and strokes of color. This painting serves as a caution and reminds me to not always trust what I have been taught including my own developed perceptions, but rather to continually question the world around me and find that balance between the intellectual self and the spiritual self. At what cost does one pay to fully give into one or the other? Meaning, do I become such a rational critical thinker that I lose my ability to feel empathy, embrace consequence, or accept accountability or do I become so lost in the spiritual that I lose my ability to function in reality, act of my own free will, or embrace diversity. It is important for me to have the ability to find that balance between each.
Often when an artist paints a piece he or she never fully understand what was created but rather the meaning comes later as his or her subconscious directed the decisions and moves of the piece. Well that is exactly what happened with this piece. I had significant challenges to overcome in painting this painting. First off it took more than five hours to paint, which when doing a plein-air landscape is way too long. The light changed significantly during those five hours so there was a lot of removing and changing color of the paint. I had no shade and sunburned the right side of my face so badly the next day it felt like leather. This little spot was so quite and beautiful that painting it was worth the struggle. The day before I arrived there was a heavy rain storm and a small flash flood swept through the canyon and exited through this wash. The flood had literally changed the valley floor, sweeping away sand and exposing the rock beneath. This piece is symbolic of my religious culture and alludes to the idea of spiritual atonement and redemption. For me, finding that redemption lies in the mission, teachings, and life of Jesus Christ. Junipers themselves are used as a symbol of resurrection because of the berries they grow and shed every year. The result of the flood relates directly to the christian allegory of building a foundation on the rock of Christ as opposed to building on a sandy foundation. That lingering feeling of peace in this landscape equates to those feelings of peace one gets when they find redemption.
Homestead,2015, 10"x10" oil on reclaimed particle board, custom frame SOLD Prints are not available of this piece
I recently read the newest biography about the Italian Baroque artist Michelangelo Caravaggio titled Caravaggio A Life Sacred and Profane. Caravaggio at various times in his life used to run around with street gangs and participate in all kinds of debauchery. Often these gangs would assault and deface the houses of various individuals. The condition or look of one’s home identifies with the personality of an individual and also can symbolize the various levels of of that individual's psyche. In other words, a house identifies directly with the person in which lives within. The act of defacing a house was symbolic of attacking the individual himself. As I looked at these old homes on the property erode away, I began to think about how time can attack or deface any individual. All individuals seek some kind of place to call home and houses are manifestation of that idea. As time passes what was constructed may not have lived up to the nostalgia or romanticism of finding a true home and thus we move on to other places. Like the story of the three little pigs the combination of choices that we make and the outside forces that converge on our lives may require us to move on. In that way the house serves as a temporary solution to a never ending quest of finding that eternal home. I find it also highly ironic that those that stay at home desire to move away and get new experiences or adventures while those who have been away from home desire to return. The division of landscape elements are used in away to express these ideas.
This next piece embodies my main objective and goals in doing this exhibition-- Contemplation. I gifted this piece to the Research Center as a token of gratitude for giving me the fellowship award . All three elements of landscape are displayed here. One unique thing about this canyon is that while I painted this scene I felt real energy here at the mouth of this canyon. The biocrust had developed into thick carpets, everywhere were giant mounds of established ant colonies, and lots of evidence of various animals passing through. In fact the very next day after having painted this piece, Hau mentioned he had spotted a black bear in the area I had been painting. For me the bear has served as a personal totem. I incorporated the fence at the risk of closing off the space which was evidence of human history and habitation at one time. I also painted in the jet trail that was left by the modern aircraft as it streaked across the sky. These two elements seemed to help balance and harmonize time connecting both the past and present. The lush vegetation on the canyon floor contrasted against the steep and slick rock as if the walls seemed to protect that balance. The lesson I learned in painting this piece is quite simple. It is a piece about redemption, progression, and achievement. Everything about this location alluded to perfect harmony, peace, and all that is good in the world.
Temple,2015, 10"x10" oil on reclaimed particle board, custom frame SOLD Prints are not available of this piece
The vertical element of this landscape is the most important aspect of this painting. The horizontal element and sky are alluded to, but in this instance don’t serve the message of the piece. In this piece the rock formation is central and key. Mountains have served as symbols. They can represent aspirations or even trials. In the literary scriptures of my religious culture, mountains have served as places where men have communed with God. In other cultures the tops of mountains are where Gods reside or the answers to the meaning of life can be found. It’s unique features and the giant developing arch appealed to me. It reminded me of the unique architecture of the buildings in where I worship and the various temples of various religions around the world. This mountain symbolizes constant consistency, eternity, firmness, and command reverence all of which are tenants of my own faith. As I as a member of the LDS faith, temples play a significant part in worshiping God and finding real peace in life.
The piece is about achieving our personal temporal and eternal goals where each division of landscape elements represent a step in that process. The horizontal element is the grassy plain of dead and dying desert grasses. This is a space open for infinite movement and access and what we do within that space will determine if we accomplish our goals. It is a barrier we must cross to reach a promised land. Once we begin the journey of accomplishing our goals we often feel as if we are exposed to scrutiny or criticism which can make us feel isolated and alone. These feelings are symbolized by the intense sun that we don’t see but is burning the grass away and causing harsh shadows on the rock formations. The vertical elements of the rock mesas and formations represent the obstacles in our path. These obstacles are challenges that need to be overcome in order to accomplish what we set out to do. The ultimate goal is symbolized by the mountain in the distance. The mountain has a hint of snow and is the only evidence of water which is symbolic of the final reward of happiness or joy. Above is an active sky with swirling cloud formations with life of all its own. I realized that after I had painted the clouds, they form what looks like an eye, alluding to a divine protector always looking down and watching us. As clouds move in front of the sun or give a little rain, we get a little relief from the heat and life gets a little easier.