Saturday, February 28, 2009

Charles Burchfield

I often use the term, "Burtonesque" when discussing imagery that has a dark, distorted, almost surreal feel to it, mostly due to the fact that in our modern culture, you would be hard pressed to find someone not familiar with the likes of A Nightmare Before Christmas, Batman or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I have no doubt that Burton was influenced by a number of things, including art that preceded his time. Charles Burchfield would seem could have been one of those individuals. I was actually unfamiliar with this artist except for a 2 inch picture in a first year art text book of mine. But in doing some research, I have found that Charles Burchfield was an American painter that lived at the onset of the 20th century, was friends with my first blog artist, Edward Hopper, and in fact painted in slightly different styles based on different times of his life. I chose this painting "The Night Wind" as it was the first piece of his work that caught my attention. However, he will not be one that continues to go unnoticed by this constant art student. There is definitively a pattern in my aesthetics when it comes to art. I like earth tones. Check. I like dark, moody imagery. Check. I like pieces of art that ultimately are greater than the sum of its parts. It becomes obvious why this piece was chosen. Again, like Crospey with its strong abstract underlying composition and Inness with his more openly abstract composition, Burchfield goes one step farther on his trek to abstraction, yet, still maintains a connection to reality through his use of subject matter, a house, the type each one of us has seen, visited or grew up in. The circular focal points, windows in this case, lead the viewer to look inside the house. There is more going on inside than we know and we are invited in due to warmer tones used in those areas than in any other area of the painting. Even with its darker mood, I still feel a warmth from it, partly because of my preceding statement on the windows, but also because, and I may be dating myself here, the fact that it evokes in me images of my childhood watching old Disney cartoons on the Disney Channel. One particular cartoon comes to mind of a night scene in a graveyard where skeletons are dancing on gravestones. Frightening imagery in and of itself, yet it was presented in a childlike way, a way that was more comforting than disturbing. Burchfield has captured this as well. Mr. Burton should be thankful.

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