Haunting and humane

Need a study break? Try the free on-campus museum, the Haggerty. Right now, they’re hosting a collection of barren, quasi-abstract, but irresistable landscapes of the Pacific Northwest by the late Racine native Theodore Czebotar. From the review in the Marquette Journal:

The pieces are not what most would expect from nature-art. The landscapes are barren, the still lifes stiller than most; his favorite vegitation seems to have been driftwood. The brushstrokes are sometimes conspicuously thick, especially when black lines are used to distinguish items. Simplicity characterizes both objects and the spatial planes they are situated in. Images are reductive and stylized, sometimes muddying the line between mimetic and abstract. It is, in a way, an antithesis to the genre defined by the likes of Caspar David Friedrich or Ansel Adams, artisans of awesomeness and sublimity.  But it all works.

Czebotar is masterful at invoking what Santayana called the “tertiary qualities” of inanimate objects — the sympathetically fallacious emotions we project onto unfeeling things. We sympathize with things with no claim on our sympathy. He makes us feel loneliness and physical cold with a simply rendered knot of wood on a gray shore. A black rock across a bay casts unknowing aloofness.

Czebotar’s Nature was not that of the Romantics. It is messy — the handful of earth tones dirty each other, mingling on the brush, mixing spontaneously. It is indifferent, scattering detritus carelessly, or emitting or eroding patterns that are not patterns. The simplicity of the shapes can suggest one is seeing them through a haze of fog, or proverbial Northwestern rain, cold and sterile. Czebotar’s is an aesthetic is one of rich bleakness.

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