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Lloyd Brown
Highway Altarpiece
2019
acrylic on shaped ragboard and paper construction
CBROL-22832


image sizeprice
8 7/8 x 23 13/16 x 3 1/2 inches$6,500.00

Full Title:

Highway Altarpiece: "The Child Is Father of the Man"; from Kingston, Ontario, Canada to Holden, Utah; U.S. Highway 50


"It is hard to know what kinds of things I would have painted as a child. However, I believe that the primacy of sight ultimately determined the path I would follow. Although the journey was anything but straight, I came to believe that at any given moment the world is already composed. In thinking of life, a line from William Wordsworthís poem, ďThe Rainbow,Ē comes to mind, ďThe Child is father of the Man.Ē

Because I am primarily a visual person, memory takes me back to a time that could precede speech. I remember the neon sputter of a sign in the night when I was two. To the surprise of my mother, I could describe our apartment over the drugstore years later. I remember my baby sister Kim coming home from the hospital when I was not quite three. I remember snowflakes that I caught in a pot, and the pleasure of digging in the dirt come summertime. A highway drive, gloomy skies, and an A & W Root Beer sign occupy early childhood memories. There was the body of a great lake long before I knew the name Ontario. I remember grandparents, the scent of tobacco, and the sound of small boats on the bay. Even now, the faint sound of a lawnmower recalls a Canadian infancy.

Painting became a conscious thought when I was five. I was with my father. We stopped to look at a yard sale of landscape paintings. Thatís when I realized that seeing was something that could physically be described. But because what I saw was a small sampling of what a landscape could be, without knowing it, my vision ended up being restricted. The possibility of painting routine scenes from Division Street, receded with seeing paintings devoted to the depiction of pristine nature. That is the problem with art. It is difficult to conceptualize painting without first seeing a canvas covered in paint. But once you know what painting is presumed to be, that information has a habit of shutting down the thought process. Knowledge can mean freedom, but it can also be a trap. Once a narrative is set, it can be extremely difficult to see beyond the plot.

I outgrew my Green Card long ago. If Iíd had the skills of a portrait painter, I would have made a large painting based on its tattered history. However, because my knowhow was driven by the lift of earth and sky, my desire to embrace the challenge of a self-portrait remained just a fantasy. Something began to shift for me, when my brother Steve, shot an image of me, standing by a highway sign outside of Holden, Utah. The photograph became part of a beautiful catalog, designed and compiled by Cheryl Vogel, entitled Lloyd Brown: Framing America.

The bookend nature of the painting appealed to me. The two views, with a gaze back to an age when Iíd already decided to become an artist, through to a time when Iíd lived much of that life, made the depiction less about me individually, and more about what it means to grow up seeing. Even though painting people was completely out of my domain, the double self-portrait was something I wanted to confront. In my mindís eye, I immediately saw the shape and structure. Although, it didnít include the rendition of a faded paper cup, a vision of a highly polished column, roughly the same shape, stood in its place. It is only natural that an abandoned paper cup should fill that position, a division in time separating man and child. While it might be a great framing device, the separation created by the discarded cup could also be continuum. When it comes to the joy of seeing, the things that please me now, are the same things that thrilled me as a child. However, I didnít draw or paint most of those things, because as I explained earlier, they didnít fall within the canon of what was worthy of art. Landscaping painting was a specific kind of seeing. It didnít include most of what the outside had to offer. I had to enjoy the rocks, the weeds, and the weathered remains of tossed off packaging by myself. But the secret thrill of seeing beauty in the insignificant bits of travel, made walking to school an extremely fun thing to do.

While itís not difficult to abhor litter, and admit that the planet would be better off without it, I canít help but see a kind of history behind each piece of degraded paper, broken glass, or tossed off plastic. They are manifestations of life choices, triumphs and decay, scattered within the bunching of ever present weeds. Even under the pressure of a highly offensive wind, a rolling paper cup can become stuck, blocked by a thicket of tall grass, or become encrusted in yesterdayís muck, no longer bearing any resemblance to mud, weathering away into a mystery cup, where a fast food logo, completely undone by the sun, sustains a dying refrain, ďOF THE GREAT AMERICAN BURGER.Ē

As a two year old, life remained largely undefined. Without the framework of gender, race, church or state, there was no separation between me and being. Meaning was a thing unto itself. It didnít require God or belonging to see wonder and significance. Perhaps remembering those early impressions, led me to object to the compositional take, which eliminated so much of what I saw everyday on my way to college. However, the need for that procedure, didnít seem to bother anyone else.

It took me years to fully understand what the compositional problem was. The paintings we base our concepts on, didnít come from observations of the countryside. In the beginning, it was Biblical and mythical figures that took the stage. Events from literature are happenings that we canít witness. Story sourced paintings, canít emerge without an arrangement of models and props, or without relying entirely on imagination. Either way, composition comes into play. Paint that way long enough, and the methods become rules, which begin to shape the way we see everything around us. They can even persuade us to rearrange items placed on a table, so that a salt shaker or glass, can have the prominence that a Greek goddess would hold. The layout of everyday living, stops being a thing we want to see. The notion of having a dominant object applied to observations of a countryside, seems like a very curious thought. Why should the act of positioning, a consideration equivalent to the placement of king or prophet, be a thing needed to capture the abundance of pasture? The need for focal points, seems to defeat the freedom that the open spaces are supposed to offer.

Although Iíve painted landscapes without the aid of staging for more than three decades, Iím not entirely at odds with those that choose to use composition. Because the domain of observation always exceeds me, I donít apply the needs of hierarchy to a horizon that will continue on long after Iím gone. However, since not everything I paint, is a situation or place that can be observed, I must also sometimes rely on composition. This piece, is a good example of that. It is impossible for me to see, separate events in my life side by side. The visualization of that, requires some kind of staging. While ďThe Child is father of the Man,Ē the adult rendering of me comes first in this painting, because we cannot see the future. We can dream, which I did as a child; but we can only evaluate the impact of our imaginings, by looking back in time. The landscape paintings I grew into, come from who I was as a child. What I could not have known, when I saw those paintings at the age of five, was how long it would take to get to a place, where landscape painting could embrace the wonder I beheld in the very beginning. When Iím on the highway, the connections can be so strong, that the outlines of humanity simply begin to slip away. When you begin to feel a part of everything you see, what could be more sacred than the refrain of an open a highway?" - Lloyd Brown

"The Rainbow"

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

William Wordsworth, 1807


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