Art Embraces Amateur's Eye

Thursday, October 9, 2003 , Rhythm
by Jacob Stockinger
Let us now praise amateur artists.
The Latin root of 'amateur,' you may recall, comes from the word 'to love.' A new exhibit shows just how much art can be created when love is turned toward nature as well as various media.
The show in question is called 'Plein Air' (French for 'open air') and uses the on-site, outdoor technique that was pioneered by the Impressionists, which set them apart from the studio-oriented academic painters of the 19th century.
In this case, it was a class of seven people that meant once a week. The leader was Doug Haynes of Sun Prairie, himself an accomplished artist. Participants paid a fee of $95 and then once a week in July and August the amateur artists would select a spot and agree to gather there.
The results are hanging in a the Biochemistry Building on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. The show is up through Oct. 31.
There is much to admire.
I am particularly fond of the Chinese brush-style painting using watercolors that JungJa Lee brings to her countryside scenes.
There is also some eye-catching black-and-white drawings by Carol Watkins and Palmer Haynes.
But most of the work is done in watercolor, acrylics and oils.
Much of it uses a small and intimate scale, which invites you into the image and, as good landscape does, puts you on the spot. It is appealing and affordable, and what more can you ask for? Capturing the Wisconsin countryside in summer of glorious greens and yellows is something to hang on the wall and warm you through the long Wisconsin winter. I know, because I went to the show on a gray, cloud-covered chilly fall day and came away feeling brighter and happier.
But the outstanding works for me come from Charles (Chuck) Bauer, co-owner of The Soap Opera on State Street. He went outdoors at night up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, along Lake Superior. There the stars shine bright and the Northern Lights glow.
Do they really glow, though, as intensely as they do in his paintings, which are rich in blues and purples with just the right Fauvist hints of yellow, red and orange?
"Indeed they do," Bauer says. "I'm glad they communicate my thrill at seeing them. I've never see the Northern Lights so strong."
Bauer is not the only one satisfied and impressed. So is Haynes, who led the group that included every competency level from absolute beginner to the very experienced. The artists critiqued each other's work.
"It was a nice intimate group and I was very happy with it," says Haynes, who plans to do another one next summer. "It is especially satisfying when you all gather at the same site and everyone comes away with their own perspective and point of view."
And that, after all, is what all art -- amateur or professional -- is about.
If you are interested in participating in next summer's group, call Haynes at