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 Blietz, Craig

Blietz, Craig My pulse quickens when I imagine the Barbizon School painters of the 19th century trekking southeast from Paris to make paintings of the Forest of Fontainebleau. I picture the forest with an articulated perimeter. Like the ocean – another imposing natural wonder – you exist either within it, or outside of it. My point of view in the “Close to the Forest” paintings is from the outside.

Approaching a forest triggers moments of intense anxiety, much like the unease created by a storm on the horizon or the stressful suspense of a pending athletic contest. Anxiety and anticipation are at their peak just prior to experiencing the actual event. That is not to say that stepping foot into a forest does or should relieve the apprehension. Poet Todd Davis, Professor of Environmental Studies at Penn State University’s Altoona College, remarked to me during a recent hike that, “Nature doesn’t care if you live or die.” I believe we recognize this, albeit subconsciously. Nature is a place for thoughtful, cautious and careful reverie. I continue to place farm animals in my work, as they are convincing emblems representing the place I live, work and dream. I find them to be remarkable non-verbal storytellers.

The formal elements of painting provide another vehicle to convey emotion, narrative and mood. Shape – both graphic and fully rendered – and color both help me express the mystery and anticipation of standing before an enormous forest. As I am passionately attendant to art history, I have made direct reference to paintings of the past, such as Jean-Francois Millet’s “The Gleaners” (1857) and Barnett Newman’s “Zip” paintings of the mid-20th century.

I see parallels in the reverence and concern the Barbizon painters had for the Forest of Fontainebleau, as well as our contemporary society’s interest in, and efforts to save, our own natural wonders. In the “Close to the Forest” paintings, I convey through sign, symbol and metaphor the awe I feel when I imagine standing outside the mighty Forest of Fontainebleau.

As I was producing the “Close to the Forest” paintings, I realized I must study the idea of confronting a forest from a distance. While I had hiked and sketched numerous times in nearby state parks to become more intimately acquainted with the forest interior, I felt this study needed to be different in intent. I ultimately chose to make paintings of small stands of trees near my studio. I did not want to simply make plein air transcriptions of what I saw. Rather, I strove to make tangible the character, feeling and mood inherent in a forest’s dense perimeter. What resulted was this intimate subset of my process – eight small paintings titled, “Copse Series.”

Craig Blietz - January 2017

Craig Blietz (b. 1956) lives and works in Sister Bay, Wisconsin. He is influenced directly by the rural geography of this area which helps him create the agrarian imagery for which he is best known.

Blietz has exhibited his work in numerous museum exhibitions that include the Muskegon Art Museum, Charles Allis Art Museum, Elmhurst Art Museum, Wright Museum, West Bend Art Museum, Rahr-West Museum, Miller Art Museum, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, and The Fairfield Center for Contemporary Art. In 2002 at St. Norbert College and in 2013 at the Miller Art Museum Blietz had Ten and Twenty Year Surveys of his work respectively. A 192 page hardcover coffee table book titled “Craig Blietz: Eight Years of Pastoral Dreaming” was published to compliment the 2013 Survey at the Miller Art Museum. In 2001 The Miller Art Museum purchased a painting by Blietz that now exists in their permanent collection.

Blietz's work has been included in the Charles Allis Art Museum's biennial exhibition "Forward: A Survey of Wisconsin Art Now" in 2010, 2012, and 2014. In 2010 his painting 'Pastoral Dreaming' was awarded the "Director's Choice Award". Additionally in 2010 and 2012, Blietz's paintings were juried into the Fort Wayne Museum of Art’s "Contemporary Realism Biennial" exhibition. Blietz has had 17 One Person Exhibitions and has appeared in numerous Group Exhibitions.

Starting in 2012 and concluding in 2014, Blietz had a One-Person Exhibition titled "Yard: The Art of Craig Blietz" travel to four venues in the State of Wisconsin as well as to Penn State Altoona College in Altoona, Pennsylvania. A 78 page catalog with a corresponding title was published in conjunction with this exhibition.

Blietz received a BS from The University of Denver. He continued his art and design studies at The Harrington College of Design and finished his formal studies with four years of academic training at The School of Representational Art in Chicago. Blietz studied privately with master draftsman and recognized Chicago figurative artist Fred Berger. Along with Mr. Berger, Blietz studied with recognized Chicago portrait artist Richard Halstead, and also with painter, printmaker, and illustrator John Rush. Several extended trips to the art centers of both Europe and the United States, with the sole purpose being the study of the great masters, has added to Blietz's extensive background and education.

Blietz has been represented by Edgewood Orchard Galleries since 1998.