Lynn Boggess | On Location

Lynn Boggess channels the beauty of nature

by Elizabeth L. Delaney

Lynn Boggess, 21 April 2014, oil, 15 x 30.

Lynn Boggess, 21 April 2014, oil, 15 x 30.

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

The landscape paintings of Lynn Boggess go deep. Beyond beautiful nature portraits, beyond expressive mark-making, his striking compositions move past the place where we see and delve into the place where we feel. “We define spirituality through the physical world,” says Boggess, whose visceral images of nature call viewers to transcend the canvas surface and connect with subject and artist on a more profound level. Boggess’ work conjures the idea of painter and painting becoming one, of a finished work directly channeling the artist’s experience and vision.

Boggess is widely regarded as a visual narrator of beauty wrapped in innovation and intrigue, and his works appeal to a broad spectrum of viewers. Kathrine Erickson of Evoke Contemporary in Santa Fe, NM, remarks, “The compelling and distinctive qualities of Lynn Boggess’ heavily impastoed paintings attract a wide scope of collectors who appreciate nonobjective abstraction, as well as those who favor realism. His exceptional prowess with the palette knife and deep connection to nature result in vivid scenes that carry the viewer to the artist’s remote wooded landscapes of West Virginia.”

Boggess (pronounced BAHG-ess) grew up in rural West Virginia surrounded by abundant, unspoiled nature. He always felt deeply connected to the universe as he explored the land, and early on, he began to translate his experiences through art. He started drawing at a very young age, and by the time he reached junior high, he had taken up painting. Boggess attended West Virginia’s Fairmont State University, where he majored in art education (the school didn’t offer a fine-arts major at the time) and studied under color-field painter John C. Clovis and abstract expressionist James D. Brooks. Subsequently, he earned a Master of Fine Arts from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. It was at Cranbrook that he expanded both his technique and philosophy, studying under noted painter George Ortman.

Eventually, Boggess returned to his undergraduate alma mater to teach and soon became a tenured professor. However, after having an epiphany of sorts one day in 2000, he felt so strongly called to explore his own work on a more exhaustive level that he resigned his position and began working full time as a fine artist. The realization happened while he was on a plein-air excursion and decided to set aside his brushes and use a cement trowel to apply paint. Almost immediately, he was hooked. “It changed everything,” he says. “It was like an inventive type of language.” Today, it has become the hallmark of his process and style. More than 15 years after he set aside brushes for good, Boggess spends his time largely in the outdoors—on location—with trowel in hand, cultivating his relationship with the universe and communicating his transformative experiences in paint.

Boggess paints undiluted, pristine nature. His compositions show no evidence of human habitation or its effects on the land but, conversely, convey the effects of the natural world on the artist. Like the landscape, Boggess’ creative process is unadulterated. He works only with primary colors and mixes his own hues as he paints. He then deposits the opulent pigments directly onto the surface with his trowels, working without sketches in a wet-on-wet application process. After he captures what he feels is the true essence of his subject matter, he takes the piece back to his studio to “make sense of the chaos.” He explains, “I solve artistic problems in the studio. I solve the feeling I have, what this thing is generating in me in the field.”

In the grand plein-air tradition, Boggess sets up camp outside, trekking to whatever site he has selected with homemade easels, shelters, and other accouterments. He refers to this effort as a “campaign,” citing the detailed preparation as key to making a successful painting. “Once the preparation is done, the paintings make themselves,” he says.

In addition to ardent preparation, Boggess finds the time limitations of working on location to be challenging and inspirational, as he must interpret changing light, weather, and scenery in real time. “I try to capture things very quickly,” says the artist, “to feel the energy and spontaneity.” A kind of artistic adrenaline comes into play as he works, and in fact, Boggess remarks that he is “addicted” to working within the environment he paints, for the physical immersion as well as its unyielding stimulation.

Boggess paints all year long in a variety of locations, the result of which is a body of work with substantially varied subject matter. Many of his pieces are based on local scenes near his West Virginia home, where his sprawling 120-acre domain is rife with trees, water, and rock formations. Such geography affords him a captivating landscape in all four seasons, and even at all hours of the day (he can often see the Milky Way). Boggess travels in search of subject matter as well, running the gamut of landscapes, from coastal scenes in Florida and North Carolina to desert vistas in New Mexico.

As he explores, Boggess decides what to paint based on his mood, the season, or even the day. True to form, he strives to connect with his surroundings, to find the place where his feelings and the subject matter coalesce. “The real criteria is to match what’s inside with what’s outside,” he says.

Boggess’ canvases are replete with thick, rich swaths of color. Their surfaces recede into remarkable depths, creating an alluring sense of dimension within each mark and throughout the picture plane. The kinetic, progressively painted textures reach out into viewer space, becoming more than something simply to look at, but something to feel.

Embedded in his canvases are elements of his own experiences, coupled with the history of art making. Influences of impressionism, abstract expressionism, and luminism, along with
photo-realism and conventional naturalism, appear—not as a basis for derivation but as fundamental principles that have combined to create a unique voice. His work is a synthesis of all these
tenets, often a fusion of polar opposites. He likens his style to a thunderstorm, wherein cold and warm air collide to produce lightning. Ultimately, Boggess tries to convey such “explosions” with his paintings.

“Texture is the name of the game,” remarks Boggess, who believes the tangibility he produces with paint gives the eyes and the soul something to grasp. “The message is the medium,” he continues. “In oil paint, the medium is about thickness. Oil communicates how something looks and feels—its physicality and emotions.”

Throughout his career, Boggess has endeavored to elevate landscape painting to a higher level—one that fuses nature’s beauty with individual experiences and artistic vision. Consequently, his primary focus remains on an instinctive interpretation of his subjects, not simply a visual record. As such, amplified natural light, heady color contrasts, and animated textures impart a hyper-real quality within the landscapes, catapulting the scenes into a realm of expression all their own.

Boggess seeks to make art that is, at its core, experiential—from his own explorations outdoors, to the application of paint to canvas, to the viewer absorbing the finished piece. He firmly believes that direct interaction with nature is crucial to his drive to paint, and he draws the life force of his paintings from working outside. At this point in his career, he wouldn’t do it any other way. “Nature is a constant source of meditation and contemplation,” he remarks. “The outdoors adds a whole new energy.”

At present, Boggess continues to hone his vibrant landscapes as “obsessively” as ever, while simultaneously exploring new directions in his work. One of his most recent projects involves large, modular canvases designed for public spaces. These multidimensional pieces offer a range of perspectives and points of interaction, as they are physically accessible to viewers from all sides. And, in a broader departure from his signature style, he has begun to experiment with adding human figures into his compositions. Not one for straight representations, however, the artist paints these figures as elements subsumed by fire and dissolving into nature’s forces. He refers to these works as posing “metaphysical” questions, and certainly such imagery sparks a conversation about the deeper, unseen facets of our existence as beings who are both in and of nature.

As Boggess broadens his reach creatively and professionally, he has embraced new technology to enhance his painting. He keeps an active Instagram account, which he utilizes as much for self-critique as for the social aspect of connecting with viewers. He explains that the ability to see his work in a smaller format allows him to better refine each piece.

Ultimately, Boggess’ landscapes contain not only an abundance of pigment, but also an abundance of content. Such multifaceted tactility becomes accessible on visual, intellectual, and emotional levels, and creates an active dialogue among subject, artist, and viewer.

Evoke Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM; The Haen Gallery, Asheville, NC; Tyndall Galleries, Chapel Hill, NC; Principle Gallery, Alexandria, VA, and Charleston, SC; Astoria Fine Art, Jackson, WY; William Havu Gallery, Denver, CO; Washington Street Gallery, Lewisburg, WV.

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

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