For those not native to the great plains, grasslands, and rolling hills of the American Midwest, these landscapes might be categorized as “bland” or “uninteresting.” However, during a fantastic solo exhibition this month, painter John Cleaveland asks his audience to take a deeper look into this region’s incredible aesthetic potential.
 
Whether it’s the diverse range of grass species, wildflowers, expansive skies, or beautiful wildlife, the landscapes around the hills and prairies of Missouri offered accomplished artist John Cleaveland awesome aesthetic potential for an upcoming solo exhibition at the Missouri State Botanical Gardens.
 


John Cleaveland, “Not as Quiet as it Looks,” 2016, oil on panel, 31 x 23 1/2 in. (c) John Cleaveland 2016

 
“Missouri Prairies” will feature approximately 24 superb canvases from Cleaveland composed from several trips to the region and nearly 7,000 photographs. A native of the deep South, Cleaveland has stepped outside his comfort zone for the exhibition, pushing himself to discover in paint the subtle beauties of the American plains. The results? Outstanding.
 


John Cleaveland, “I can tell you how to get here, but it will take a while,” 2016, oil on panel, 30 x 24 in.
(c) John Cleaveland 2016


John Cleaveland, “A Little Farther,” 2016, oil on panel, 60 x 24 in. (c) John Cleaveland 2016

 
“Part of the challenge for me was finding new techniques and methods for capturing the incredible range of texture, color, detail, and light of this beautiful landscape,” Cleaveland says. “Although I wasn’t expecting it, these landscapes have taken me back to some of my abstract roots. When you look at this body of work, close inspection of the paintings reveals a high degree of expressive strokes and layering of paint; everything comes together with more distance. It’s such a uniquely beautiful landscape that I also had to teach myself how to see it from an artistic perspective. Luckily, I was introduced to it by locals who know so much about the diverse ecology.”
 


John Cleaveland, “Snow Flattened Tallgrass,” 2016, oil on panel, 52 x 24 in. (c) John Cleaveland 2016

“Missouri Prairies: Paintings by John Cleaveland” opens in the Ridgway Center at the Missouri State Botanical Gardens on September 7 and will be on view through November 11.
 
To learn more, visit the Missouri State Botanical Gardens.
 
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.
 

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Andrew Webster
Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.

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