Artist Bud Gibbons captures 'Four Seasons' on canvas
By Rex Rutkoski
Published: Saturday, June 29, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Seasons long have been rich sources and powerful motivation for Bud Gibbons.
“I want to experience this life and this world, and my response is always to paint,” says the veteran visual-arts professor and art-gallery director at Penn State, New Kensington, who has traveled the globe doing just that.
When he finally puts down his brush for the last time, the Lower Burrell resident says his body of work will be one person's record of a visual consciousness and growing awareness of life's seasons by someone who has consistently painted from that perspective.
“To live and paint; that's my goal,” says Gibbons, 66, whose latest exhibit, the aptly titled “Four Seasons,” on display at the campus through July 28, gets to the artistic heart of the matter.
The focal point is a collection of four 8-feet-by-10-feet acrylic-on-canvas paintings, representing “Spring,” “Summer,” “Fall” and “Winter” in Westmoreland County, on loan from the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, which commissioned his work in the early 1990s.
The showcase is augmented by about 20 landscapes and still-lifes, which Gibbons says “fit the theme of seasons.”
“The seasons are apparent in most of my work. Figures are often outside and still-life paintings often have seasonal subjects,” he says.
“Spring,” from the museum, was painted between the Chestnut and Laurel ridges as clouds were forming near Ligonier.
“Summer,” on a farm bordering the northern edge of Northmoreland Park, Allegheny Township, offers great cumulus clouds over rolling hills, majestic and silent. “Getting that feeling required years of study and became a matter of proportion and perspective,” he says.
He says “Fall” and “Winter,” both scenes from Roaring Run, Kiski Township, were best experienced as woods interiors; “Fall,” with chunks of color like stained-glass windows, and ”Winter,” with trees laden with snow.
Spring is the artist's favorite season to capture. “I love that the earth is warming and renewing, that plants are showing new life and the days are getting longer. I like that new color and gentler temperatures arrive,” he says. “But I have to say each season has its own qualities and each one is enhanced by the others.”
Barbara Jones, chief curator of the Westmoreland Museum, says visitors love his “Four Seasons” and often comment on how familiar the scenes are to them. “The size of the canvases and the scale of the landscape represented make them feel a part of each scene,” she says.
“He shares his love of nature through his work and is passionate about it, which he transfers through his teaching to his students,” Jones adds.
When Gibbons was asked to paint the “Four Seasons” for the museum, he considered it an honor and privilege, says Charles Booth Jr., art collector and New Kensington resident who sponsored the “Winter” commission.
“Most of the museum visitors I have contact with like the way that Bud combines the lines, curves and the colors in his paintings,” Booth says. “He is a fantastic artist. In his heart, he must paint each day, and if he can't, he is very unhappy. To me, that is a sign of a true artist. I truly believe that one day he will be recognized as a great artist.”
Gibbons says when he looks at his “Four Seasons,” he realizes how much he appreciates “being in the world.” These works, as much as anything else, are dedicated to experiencing the simple, yet powerful, effect the environment has on our lives, he says. “We live in a part of the world that offers so much variety from season to season,” he says.
The artist believes that painting the seasons is a good exercise for an artist.
“The language of art is metaphor, and the seasons are an excellent metaphor for many aspects of not only life, but aspects of culture and religion,” he says. “Painting the landscape through the seasons brings an awareness not available by other means.”
Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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