Patrick Kikut: Works on Paper- Field Notes from the Road
For the last 30 years I have been exploring and producing studio work that is inspired by my travels through out the West. I consider the whole of the West as my “artistic neighborhood.” Geographically speaking, I define this as an area that reaches from Great Falls, MT in the North, to Reno, NV in the West, down South to Marfa, TX, and out to Dodge City, KS to the East. As I explore this vast landscape I have engaged in the interaction of our ever-encroaching culture upon the edges of wilderness. This “tidal zone” between culture and nature is far from the awe-inspiring screenshot perfection found in our National Parks, Monuments, and Forests. Here, behind the truck stops, and wind-damaged billboards I discover discarded big gulps, busted tool boxes, and wrecked derby cars scattered over the parking lot and onto the dry and frozen land. Often these landscapes read like empty stage sets where props are strewn about as the actors have finished their narrative and exited the scene. In this body of work I hope that a viewer can enter into these spaces and get a sense of the rugged and enduring beauty of the West as well as our persistent attempts to exploit and survive on a landscape that is mostly inhospitable and unsustainable for the huge demands of our contemporary culture.
This is a collection of refined field drawings. They represent three bodies of work. The earliest is from 2003 titled Loneliest Road Show-US Highway 50. For this, I drove, and produced these drawings, on an extensive trip from Dodge City, KS, through Colorado, Utah and on to Carson City, NV. The Nevada stretch of US 50 has been called the loneliest road in America and has always been a favorite of mine. The oval shaped format of the drawings is borrowed from early George Catlin paintings and, for me, echoes the shape of an eye, or a rearview mirror. The second body of work is titled Wind Damage (2007-08). This work was inspired by a June tornado that touched down in Laramie and tracked within a half mile of my studio. The destructive results of that tornado were interesting to me as I recognized how powerful forces of nature can rearrange structures and can sometimes create visual poetry. When I produced this work, oil prices were high, the housing market, and the financial world were in a tailspin due to our over extended credit. Also, at this time, human caused climate change became a subject of concern for many of us. Wind Damage speaks to that time and inspired me to travel the West in search of poetic, wind damaged structures. The final images are the most recent and are oil on paper. These were mostly produced in Wyoming during the summer of 2017. For this work, I explored using oils in the field and working on archival paper specially produced to handle oil paint. The oils allowed me to produce more colorful images that reflect my travels, campsites and day hikes from that summer. I have discovered that working on paper in the field is vitally important to my studio practice. Like my favorite field drawings from art history, I intend to create economic yet specific images of the West. I like to think that these drawings hold up as unique pieces and hold some land DNA from each of the locations I was exploring.