“Scapes”…paintings and etchings by Phil Epp and Justin Epp, also sculpture works by Vern Friesen will open at the Coutts Museum of Art, 110 North Main, El Dorado on Nov. 7. The artists will be present for an open public reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9. Vern Friesen will give an artist talk at 7 p.m.
Phil Epp lives in Newton, having retired from teaching art in the Newton public school system in 2003. His paintings have become widely known through representation in galleries in New Mexico, Arizona, Chicago and Kansas City. His work can also be seen in municipal settings in large-scale, sculptural, collaborative public art projects. In El Dorado one of his collaborative projects with Wichita artist Terry Corbett can be seen in the alley between 110 and 112 North Main.
Phil has spent most of his art career painting the prairie and southwest skyscapes and landscapes. In his recent paintings he has shifted to painting landscapes that incorporate plains icons such as clouds, signs tents, horses, bulls, buildings, adobes, wind turbines, etcetera. With these icons he strives to make a symbol that will allow for multiple interpretations by the viewer. His paintings are a composite of ideas, landscapes and symbols that create a new place which is both familiar and distant.
Rhoda Hodges, co-director of the museum, is a fan of Phil’s art.
“You can tell his style,” she said. “You don’t even have to see the signature on the painting.”
Two of Phil’s paintings are a part of the gallery’s permanent exhibit. They’ll be taken down from their permanent locations for inclusion in the current exhibit.
Additionally, another of his paintings, owned by Dave Sundgren, has been lent to the museum for the exhibit. It depicts a towering trio of wind turbines looming ominously over a prairie scene with tiny horses running in the foreground.
“This illustrates what a monstrosity these wind farms are,” Hodges said. “You look at it and you wouldn’t think he was opposed to them (at first).”
A recent inclusion in his paintings are the mustangs in the flint hills, partly because of their majestic presence in the hills, and also because Phil has had a lifelong interest in horses. He feels it is time to make his work reflect what not only glorifies a place, an emotion or object, but also challenges the viewer. His recent involvement with “Artists Against Wind Farms” has allowed him to use his art as a vehicle for expression. It seems appropriate to make work that is not necessarily accepted by everyone.
Phil said, “I strive to paint images that go beyond simple scenery or nostalgia. I try to remember that a painting is not only an expression of my experiences, but an image must also incorporate the viewer as a respected participant.”
Justin lives in Park City and has been working as an artist for the last 15 years. He began with drawing, but more recently has worked more with paintings. In his paintings he first worked with acrylic, but has recently switched to oil to attain a more rich color and texture.
Justin’s painting style is a combination of realism and surrealism. He enjoys the challenge of painting everyday people and objects with stylized beauty.
Justin feels that beauty and imagery can be found in most forms of everyday and modern life. For that reason, he hasn’t limited himself to one subject, theme or style.
He explains, “Great subject matter is found in the present world that most of us pass by everyday. Large buildings and bustling cities provide a great source for design and color.” Another subject that Justin is passionate about is sports. He enjoys capturing its drama and passion.
Vern Friesen grew up on a farm near Henderson, Neb. He studied art and has spent the last 35 years as a farmer, cattleman, horseman and rodeo competitor, all while developing his career as a painter and sculptor. Friesen has found much inspiration for his art in western Nebraska. Not only does he do artwork of the rural scenes that surround him, he also actively participates in those scenes as a farmer. He paints the scenes he knows. To Friesen, “Art is not something you become – it is something you are.”
Friesen allows the viewer to hold onto the small farm background or representation of that way of life. He feels that usually things that move people in art are not necessarily what is going on today, but nostalgia. For example, the modern cowboy now spends most of his time in a pickup, but people would rather see a cowboy on a horse.
Recently Friesen has sculpted a life-sized Civil War soldier to finish a monument in Sutton, Neb. This was a rewarding project because the whole community was involved. He has also finished a three-figure life-sized sculpture honoring the pioneers of irrigation for his hometown of Henderson. Currently he is working on a life-sized sculpture for the Kilgore Library in York, Neb.
For those unable to attend the reception, the exhibit will be at the museum during regular hours. The exhibit will be on display through Dec. 19. For more information call 316-321-1212.
By Jon Pic and Amanda Bringham
7 November 2007
Artists Against Wind Farms: www.artistsagainstwindfarms.com
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