What does the term Midwestern mean to you? Is it tending to green pastures, hard work, grassroots, and simple pleasures? Perhaps it’s purely location, or a combination of the aforementioned. Methodical and intentional are the paintings of Craig Blietz, which embody the character and beauty only found in the American Midwest.
If you aren’t from the American Midwest and are seeking a painter who is gifted at capturing its spirit, look no further than Wisconsin artist Craig Blietz. As he hails from Sister Bay, it should come as no surprise that the artist’s frequent subjects are cows. After all, Wisconsin is the Dairy State. “I reside in Northeast Wisconsin, the Dairy State, so one might imagine that cattle are abundant — which they are,” Blietz says. “I also include other domesticated farm animals as subjects — sheep, hogs, and goats. From two to 45 minutes from my studio door, I have access to numerous farms with these subjects. In fact, in my hometown, each summer we host a goat parade, and one of the local restaurants keeps goats on their sod roof to keep the grass down. You can imagine that where I live provides much in the way of inspiration and access.”
Craig Blietz, “Shadow Line,” oil on panel, 40 x 54 in. (c) Craig Blietz 2016
Be that as it may, Blietz’s frequent portrayal of farm animals naturally goes much deeper than simply access and convenience. “I tend to work thematically,” he says. “For me this means that I arrive at an overarching theme and then apply imagery to address it. Sometimes it’s achieved prior to beginning any of the paintings, and other times I find that I arrive at a theme just through doing the work and noticing a consistent theme in several pieces from which I continue to build.”
Craig Blietz, “Solstice,” oil on panel, 18 x 21 in. (c) Craig Blietz 2016
Exploring concepts of awareness and observation, “Pastoral Dreaming” is a fascinating picture that presents the viewer with more than meets the eye. Indeed, the painting is a telling illustration of what the artist calls “the sensations of Midwestern-ness, from a sense of being as well as a sense of place.” Blietz continues, “The painting originated from the idea of perception and its resulting point of view. On the left is an enlarged detail of the animal which resides deepest into the pasture composition on the right. It began to take tangible form, as most all my work does, through a pencil thumbnail aimed at capturing and bringing to graphic life the essence of the idea.” For Blietz, it ultimately comes down to “communicating a state of familiarity to those who live in the Midwest and understanding from those that don’t,” and he achieves his artistic goals with stunning representational beauty.
Craig Blietz, “Incline,” oil on linen, 35 x 67 in. (c) Craig Blietz 2016
Seeking the same sincere commitment to his subjects and artistic vision as his favorite artists — such as Andrew Wyeth, Edgar Degas, and Tom Uttech — Blietz is taking his artistic journey slowly, surely, and methodically, allowing his evolution to take place gradually. He writes, “If you are truly open to creative possibility, then change exists ahead of you and there is little prediction that can be made to anticipate those changes. In the future my subject matter and/or the manner in which I convey it could change, but my personal history has shown that it will most likely be gradual.”
Craig Blietz, “Overcast,” acrylic on muslin on panel, 60 x 140 in. (c) Craig Blietz 2016
To learn more, visit Craig Blietz.
Craig Blietz: Calendar — Tory Folliard Gallery, June 3–July 2
2017 — Paine Art Center
2018 — Museum of Wisconsin Art
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