Artist of Note | Chuck Middlekauff

Cheerful nostalgia

Chuck Middlekauff, Got Milk, acrylic, 24 x 30.

Chuck Middlekauff, Got Milk, acrylic, 24 x 30.

This story was featured in the May 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  May 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

In the medley of timeworn and weather-beaten Americana he portrays, painter Chuck Middlekauff doesn’t mind the rust, cracks, chips, and tears. As a matter of fact, he embraces them. Vintage leather baseball mitts, work tools, billboards, Coke bottles, gas pumps, cowboy boots—you name it—all bear witness to his love for a bygone era. “It’s a fading America, the one I grew up in,” says Middlekauff, who formed a particular soft spot for westerns, Roy Rogers, pop art, and rock-and-roll while growing up in the 1950s and ’60s. “I’m trying to capture it in a fun way.”

Middlekauff worked as a commercial artist in Denver and Los Angeles for several years before he started painting full time in 1992. He initially focused on traditional western imagery but, craving variety, eventually branched out into cowboy pop art and American pop-culture themes. Today he works from his studio in Austin, TX, using acrylics and watercolors in a bold palette of primary colors. His free-spirited approach to painting leads to playful, one-of-a-kind compositions that viewers of all generations can appreciate. GOT MILK portrays one of America’s favorite cookies accompanied by a glass of milk starring one of its most beloved icons, Mickey Mouse.

To achieve added texture and shadows, Middlekauff sometimes pastes tangible memorabilia such as candy wrappers and coins onto his surfaces. “Sometimes the real thing makes more of an impact,” says the artist, who once laminated a vinyl 45 on a Beatles-themed painting. “I just keep working until the painting says something.” —Kim Agricola

Middlekauff is represented by Betsy Swartz Fine Art, Bozeman, MT; Grand Teton Gallery, Jackson, WY; Park City Fine Art, Park City, UT; and Chuck Middlekauff Studio, Austin, TX.

This story was featured in the May 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  May 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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