Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Don Shields: Surreal Color Field Hijinx

Let's hear it for the visionary color-field paintings of Hooter Dog -- my pal, the great Don Shields. His surreal paintings were just too off-the-wall for the SMU professors to critique academically -- I always loved that. Every time Donsy would feel down about his Grad school beatings, he would splurge on beautiful new hog bristle brushes at Rush Company art supply. Also, on super-expensive, dangerous-sounding, and bizarre colors like Winsor Newton Series 14 "Arsenic Purple." I loved to hear him riff on explosively about all the crummy commercial art products in Rush -- the Presstype rub-on lettering -- and all these other non-fine art supply "gee-gaws" that were destroying Western art as we knew it. Spittle globs would be flying everywhere as he barked out his outragous diatribe. That guy was one-of-a-kind...


Don Shields



Don Shields


Don Shields


Don Shields


Don Shields


Don Shields


Don Shields


Don Shields

Don Shields: my painting

The artist makes work that is the result of one's life experiences and the influnence of other artists, past and present. I grew up in Texas. As a young art student, I spent a good deal of time in Italy studying the masters, especially the Venetian painters like Titian and Carapaccio whose wonderful use of color and abstract form are still with me today. I drove tractor trailers coast to coast for several years, and financed a six-month stay in Venice by hauling oil field equipment from Houston to Canada and Alaska on the old AlCan gravel highway. Those landscapes of the open road have greatly impacted my painting.  The light in Northern California is very close to the quality of light I experienced living in Italy. 

Following graduate school, I was fortunate to receive a Rome Prize in painting. It allowed a year-long stay in Rome at the American Academy. Then a Guggenheim Fellowship in painting, awarded by jurors Dore Ashton, Richard Diebenkorn, Robert Hughes, and Robert Motherwell, enabled me to work in New York for several years. I painted large, imaginary landscapes inhabited with figures, creatures, and exotic vegetation, saturated with strong color, like "Pig Turtle Swamp Stomp" and "Fat Boy in Lederhosen."

When I begin a painting, I never have a clear idea of what I'm going to paint. There is always a bit of a surprise of the resulting forms in the paintings. There is an interaction of the parts of a painting and the color as the work develops over time. The issue of an unexpected composition and light within the painting is something I seek as I'm working. A sense of abstract means at work in the painting is quite important. An area could be a pig or a dog, but it is also  made up of pieces of paint.

"....[Shields'] paintings, despite their American bigness, have a slightly European flavor. They suggest the early, near-abstract landscapes of Kandinski, or --more appropriately-- the almost surreal topography seen in the background of certain Renaissance work, but painted with rich, saturated Fauvist colors.  Shields sometimes places strange creatures in these fantasy landscapes, alligator-like monsters or a toothy Mickey Mouse, and sometimes there is the suggestion of an exotic plant.  But he never insits, and part of the European subtlety of his paintings is that they vibrate right on the line between abstraction and representation." -- Ken Barrow, Texas Artists 1980




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