BMoCA at Macky

Terry Campbell: No Longer in My Hand

When I first found out about the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Arts (BMoCA) at Macky gallery I got excited. It is always a plus as a poor studio art major having the opportunity to see art for free. So I headed out to Macky in the morning to go see this artist’s works. Once there I noticed I had no idea exactly where the foray was and began to wander about in hopes to find it. Finally I asked someone who happened to have the key to the doors and there I was(she had forgotten to unlock and open the gallery that morning). When first entering the room I didn’t know what exactly to expect from the artist. The display board there explained the artist and the artist movement but it still didn’t quite answer the questions I had. The one part that stood out was the line that stated: “…the characters are set to navigate austere interior and barren landscapes of an undefined yet specific time and place tinged with nostalgia.” Simply – it just made everything that much more confusing to me. Although I would have to say that in the end the art became alive after just spending time studying with each painting.
Due to the fact it was an extension of BMoCA there were just five paintings of the artist Terry Campbell a local Colorado artist.  The five paintings were: Filling In, Waiting for life to take over, Path, Rosicrucian, and In the end I hope there’s more. It is quite evident that he focused on the character of the painting. Also he had the unique way of making a signature was his fingerprints on the lower right corner.
When I researched Terry Campbell on the internet to get more information on the artist I came across his profile page. He spent time explaining his art and how he looks at his own art and how he does his own art. One part of this explanation caught my attention:

It is my belief that people look within their own life and experience to give the painting they are looking at meaning. I try to create landscapes that seem familiar to most but where no one can name the exact place. It is my hope that the viewer places them self inside the painting to relate to the people that exist inside.

-Terry Campbell (RedLine)

It is exactly what I was doing when I was sitting there. I was looking at the characters in the paintings and trying to piece together what the stories of each of these figures might be. Without a defined background someone can invent the location and be more open to any story line. It is up to the characters to define the art. Campbell’s detail of the faces and hands are amazing. As I looked at the faces and the hands they appeared as if they are photographs. The use of blending and highlights are incredible. However, the rest of the body seems lacking of the same definition. At first this distracted me and caused me to not look at the art the same way. I was lost in the thought that the art was not as good as I thought it would be but after a while the amazing use of details on the hands and faces just drew me in. The characters all appear to be in a stage of melancholy. They were shown as people no longer in control of what is happening to them. The painting is showing the moment after some sort event and the characters could not change it. All are lost in some unknown and it is up the viewer to try to piece together each of the small clues given. All of them are in a state of uncertainty.
Out of the all the paintings two of them really kept me intrigued on the story line and made me want to observe it for a little longer. Waiting for Life to Take over was the first one that actually made me stop and stare. The extreme detail of the woman on right just kept me spellbound. Her face had so much care and detail; in a way both women had great human expressions. It worked perfectly with the plain earthy grey background. It was almost like a sad holiday card. The legs were almost an afterthought in how they were painted. Blocky and outlined like it came out of some comic strip. But somehow it worked with the amazing attention to detail the closer you got to the hands and head. As a viewer you spend time looking back and forth at these two figures standing and sitting opposite of each other. One has a darker shadowy feel to it; this pushes her towards the back of the painting. While the long hair brunette sites closer to the edge of the canvas. Her eyes almost look like she is about to cry, she is on the verge of a breaking down yet she is now stuck in time in the stage of extreme emotion. Terry Campbell uses vibrant colored earth tones and whites to create the detailed highlights. His style is smooth. As you look at the surface you see the smooth feel of glazes. It is almost as if it was printed onto the canvas instead of painted.
After a long moment of studying just the style of the artist I began to wonder what the reason was behind the paintings. I wanted to know what the characters were thinking. I wanted to know what was going on with them and I began to wish that they would communicate. Turning away from Waiting for Life to Take over, I turned to see the painting across the room from it. A painting the same size and medium but this one was much darker. This one had something about it that just sucked you into it. A lone man in what appeared to be an angered state of emotion leaned with a closed fist against the wall of what appeared to be a very small studio. The only light we can see is a lamp post right behind him but the actual light source seems to actually be coming from another location as his face and chest are in the light. The man appears to be some sort of painter, gloved with latex gloves, a messy shirt and pants with a painting brush in hand. Knowing later that Terry Campbell used his own experiences as a way to lead a painting I begin to wonder if this one is one that strongly pictured something he went through. But before I knew about how Terry Campbell made his art I only had my own experiences to go off of. So I sat there looking up at this painting from the floor. Allowing such a painting to loom over me things began to stand out. For one there seemed to be some sort of shapely doll mass behind him, also a grease like glaze added to the painting’s dirty feel, along with paints spilled on the ground. These stood out from the obvious boxes stacked up high, an ill painted fan that seemed flat and the one single lamp without a lampshade.
Terry Campbell’s art tells a story. It is up to the viewer to take the time and sit with the paintings to get these stories. The time it takes though is completely worth it. That moment where everything thing seems to click is quite pleasing. Each painting can relate to everyone in some way. Everyone has had these moments of not knowing what the future has to hold for us and it can be scary. But seeing these paintings bring you back to reality. Everyone has those days, nothing is perfect, so take the time and smell the roses because sometimes the answer of the questions you have about the painting is actually right there in front of you. It is just up to you to have that silent conversation with the characters. Terry Campbell makes wonderful large canvas painting that focus on the figure of the paintings it is that what makes them amazing. The characters are original. The models are actually his friends that he dresses up to play the roles he need for each story.

One Response

  1. I also often find myself trying to find the story behind a figure in a painting. I wonder if, as humans, we know that everyone has a story that we cannot outwardly see, and when a human is painted as a work of art for us to see, we want to know their story. I wonder how I would interpret different those works if I didn’t have the need to assign a story to the people.

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