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Monday, Feb. 28, 2011

Folliard Gallery Showcases Craig Blietz's 'Midwest'

Art Review

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Bovines in the Midwest once grazed in fertile pastures on seemingly endless family farmlands. But the sight of these animals in bucolic scenes is becoming increasingly rare in the 21st century, as more and more corporate farms confine these creatures to feeding and milking machines.

Artist Craig Blietz seems to remember the bovine's rural history while also foreshadowing an ominous future in his impressive, realistic paintings. On display in the East Gallery at Tory Folliard Gallery, "Craig Blietz: Midwest" presents seven new paintings in which the award-winning Blietz combines numerous old-master techniques, including glazing, underpainting and layering.

Several paintings, both oil on linen and oil on panel, read specifically as portraits, in which the animal and viewer connect eyes in a soul-searching conversation. Blietz imparts worth to animals that receive little recognition for their gift of hide, milk and meat. In his works, thick, almost granular textures suggest heavy mud beneath the cows. Is Blietz depicting a future in which the animals will sink into oblivion (and perhaps relating this to humanity as well, as formerly uninhabited areas disappear into encroaching cities)?

Two small paintings, oils on panels, appear to reflect these themes. They present beloved goats that the artist visits almost daily, and were given the titles G and N (for Ginger and Nellie, respectively). The heads, one positioned in an oval and the other in profile, recall the Renaissance esteem given to society's elite in order to enhance their position and stature. Through exacting detail and lifelike light and shadow, these goats appear to be part of a regal lineage.

Blietz's works, memorable whether animals are presented in herds or as solitary subjects, give us reason to admire this up-and-coming artist who was recently exhibited at the 2010 Contemporary Realism Biennial in Fort Wayne, Ind. His superb technique merges with dramatic personal and faintly surreal perspectives in rural landscapes that suggest the universal human condition.  ("Craig Blietz: Midwest"continues through March 16.)
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