“I focus on the falseness of our Wyoming terrain – the gentle looking river that tore a canyon into the ground, the soft looking horizon of sage, a snarly and abrasive plant, the calming appearance of the winter landscape that is freezing cold. I love the duality of the way we romanticize nature and what nature really is….I focus on the process of searching.” ~ Todd Kosharek
Blue canyons, blue rooms. Walk into Jackson artist’s Todd Kosharek’s house (shared with his wife, dancer Kate Kosharek) and you’ll find yourself surrounded in blues. Kosharek is not singing the blues, he’s painting them. Kosharek, an effusive, upbeat artist with a passion for art history, spends many a day out in Jackson Hole’s landscapes, painting them. Most plein air artists don’t create whole works devoted to shades of blue, but Kosharek does, and it sets his work apart from traditional Western landscape painters. Kosharek ventures out in bright, harsh mid-day light. His goal is not to paint perfectly, but to feel the landscape’s underlying secrets and get paint on his canvas. His approach to what we describe as beautiful is newly, uniquely his own.
Kosharek says this about his large scale, acrylic works: “What I love in painting, both as an artist and as a viewer, is the feeling I get from seeing something that was meticulously created by pigment and brush. I want to see time – time taken by the painter to think, feel and create – but also the element of time, as if the painting is not frozen as an image but will grow and change with me as a person as I grow and change.”
Kosharek’s knowledge of art history is astounding. The day I visited, he was as excited to talk history as he was about his own art. His library is substantial, and we spent a lot of time looking at books. Kosharek is influenced by the Scandinavian landscape painters working at the end of the 19th Century, and by that country’s “Blue Hour,” when light and colors merge, and everything in nature looks blue. Paintings from that period so enthralled Kosharek that he wrote his thesis on the era, and he savors the Blue Hour’s symbolic qualities.
“Landscapes,” says Kosharek, “became very different for me. I am drawn to Scandinavian painters’ approach. With their terrain being so harsh and the seasons so dramatic, they tend to have a harsher approach to painting, a representation of the landscape as well as a reaction. I agitate my paint application, and simplify form.”
Alongside these landscapes are Kosharek’s meticulous Crane Series paintings that combine Symbolism and Magic Realism. Magic Realism, says Kosharek, focuses on the mood and atmospheric quality of a setting, with less emphasis on depicting it perfectly. Kosharek changes virtual settings to fit the symbolic quality his cranes represent.
“I love all sorts of paintings, but my favorites have A LOT to chew on; elements that are 50% finished when the artist completes a work, the other 50% is finished when audiences react. That is the Crane Series,” says the artist.
These paintings take their inspiration from origami, a form of prayer.
“The repetition of folding cranes reminds me of humans’ constant quest to find peace. Life is a big question of ‘why’ – and we deplore repetition in order to better soothe ourselves within whatever belief system we have – prayer, yoga, chanting, dancing, folding origami cranes. But the philosophy is that once you fold a thousand you get a wish, usually associated with health, prosperity or longevity. I am playing with the idea of a thousand cranes within the context of a house – symbolic of us as complete beings – a complete house.”
Complete, but these empty rooms invite you to wonder if, or when, someone might return. Or, if somebody is standing in the shadows, watching you take in the room’s contents.
Think of folding 1,000 origami cranes. Kosharek’s crane paintings are long-term projects. His first took over two years to complete; the second, just under four years. On his easel now is a painting Kosharek began in April, 2010.
Taking time to create something memorable is the way to go; our lives are rushed, blurs.
“I throw all ideas into the pot that would fit the original context I am looking for, then eliminate them until the idea is at its core,” says Kosharek. “Often I start with an idea without having found my setting yet – when I do, it’s a lightbulb moment. I have the full crane series context mapped out, with drawings started for all but one – that, I am still figuring out. The landscapes, though, are a responsive process. Find the landscape – respond on sight. I put the landscape away for a few weeks – then take it out and paint what I remember, instead of the details.” www.toddkosharek.com