Scenes from rural America
This story was featured in the September 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art September 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Utah landscape painter Jeffery R. Pugh likes to compare the effects of his palette-knife style to images created by old digital cameras with low resolution. If someone zoomed in on the digital image, it fell apart, he says. Working with the palette knife, Pugh discovered he, too, was able to let details fall apart and leave what he describes as “pixelated pattern” on the canvas. This effect, combined with a strong tactile quality, are key elements in a Pugh painting today. “I want to make the paint actually feel chunky and thick as a dirt field or smooth and airy as the sky,” Pugh says.
A 2004 graduate of the University of Utah with a bachelor of fine arts in painting and drawing, Pugh says that the artists who have influenced him include John Erickson, Wayne Thiebaud, Maynard Dixon, and his father-in-law, Gary Ernest Smith. As this story was going to press, Pugh was working on landscape paintings for a solo show opening in November at David Ericson Fine Art in Salt Lake City. Landscape painting appeals to him, the artist says, because it offers a daunting challenge—to compress and interpret onto canvas a scene that can be vast and monumental in scale. “When I see the majesty of a thunderhead rising in the sky or the shadows cast by a sunset, it seems futile to try and capture it, but I keep trying,” Pugh says.
A quintessential Pugh painting focuses on scenes from rural America featuring bright red barns and cows grazing in peaceful pastures. The minimalist, impasto portrayals can be graphic and boldly colorful. For Pugh, each landscape he depicts feels personal, almost like a self-portrait. “I hope that in the end, I am using symbols found in nature to express a bit of who I am,” he says. “Whether it is a painting of five trees to represent my family—I have [a wife and] three children—or haystacks that represent the fruit of our labors, there is always a little of what is happening in my life in each of my paintings.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Mountain Trails Gallery, Jackson, WY; Paul Scott Gallery, Bend, OR; Meyer Gallery, Park City, UT; Evergreen Framing Co. & Gallery, Salt Lake City, UT; David Ericson Fine Art, Salt Lake City, UT; FourSquare Art, Mesa, AZ; Authentique Gallery, St. George, UT.
Featured in the September 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art September 2014 print issue or digital download Or subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!
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