Painter • Quaker Gap, NC
By Bonnie Gangelhoff
What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the art world during your career? Probably the biggest change is the resurgence of aesthetically beautiful painting. When I first left art school, the options were far more limited. I was told that to paint something “too beautiful” or uplifting was to mark myself with a scarlet letter of shallow irrelevance. No one took such art seriously in the contemporary art world. It had to be edgy, depressing, shocking, ugly, or simply abstract if you ever wanted to see your work in a major museum or newspaper review. While I don’t think all artwork must be positive, or even beautiful, I feel that beauty has an important and equally profound place in the history of contemporary art. Very slowly, I see the doorway cracking open to admit, and grudgingly welcome back, what is most profound about the great paintings of history.
Where do you find inspiration for your work? Life itself is the only term broad enough to encompass my inspiration. Some days, it is as simple as the texture of the paint or a color harmony I’ve seen while hiking. Other days, it is a person I’ve met and the insights of their story that compels a painting as a meditation on the lesson they’ve taught me. And then there are moments when I am so internally focused on a book I’ve read, or on some profound philosophical debate, that the subject of the painting becomes a surrogate of the emotion I’m struggling with. When I’m depressed, the sadness leaks through into the paint. When I’m happy, I often find the mountains smiling back at me on the canvas.
Some observers describe your style as expressive realism with a global perspective. Would you agree? I am a realist because I am interested in the real world in all its magnificent complexity, subtlety, and beauty. The expressive part comes from my own interpretative view of that world. Both are important to me. Each trip changes me, broadens my perspective, and gives me great insight into humanity. I try to capture a little of what I’ve learned in each painting.
If your studio was on fire, what one thing would you save? A sculpture by George Carlson.
How would you like to be remembered? As someone who never stopped searching for the truth and who wasn’t afraid to share that truth, even if no one wanted to hear it at the time, or even if it turns out that I was wrong.
Featured in May 2012.