The Art of R. Geoffrey Blackburn

"Space Paintings" (1996-97)

"Anyone who has ever been to Moab, Utah, knows that this town could easily be located on Mars or some planet with twin suns in a distant galaxy.  That was my first impression when I rolled into Moab in 1970.  I thought: "put a futuristic dome over the town add some space ships, I could be in an alien mining camp in the distant future. " Eventually, my business partner Al Dart and I came to live in a tiny trailer on top of the rim at the head of Castle Valley.  Talk about your alien vistas...Hanging off the drill tower on the edge of a hugh cliff overlooking Round Mountain, (a volcanic cone), and watching storms roll up the valley, I had little else to think about but what paintings I would do ewhen I returned to Salt Lake City, our home base. Even as we were exploring for uranium (a futuristic power source) my artistic soul was crying out: "space paintings, SPACE PAINTINGS!"  Especially at night, with no light pollution, I'd stand outside our trailer and look at the sky and think: "where's the mother ship?"   We'd be out drilling or staking claims or some such and idea after idea for dramatic landscape paintings as well as alien space paintings assailed my over-stimulated brain. 

We would sometimes drive up the Colorado River at night on the way back to our camp and our headlights would hit the red rock formations and all kinds of amazing alien things would pop out.  A local river tour company has successfully exploited this lights-on-the-red-rock phenomenon by having a giant truck-mounted spotlight drive up the river road while the tour group powered up and then floated down the river itself with a dramatic audio presentation playing along the way. 

I would be surprised if anyone, even the dullest and most unimaginative amongst up would fail to make the "alien world" connection.  The massive red walls, the vastness of the panorama fairly beg to be rendered as paintings.  When I do my paintings, I really get into the geology and the detail this latter bit is kind of counter-intuitive.  Most artists paint these areas loosely with a paucity of detail focusing on the gross structures instead.  I can well understand that approach.  There is a mind numbing amount of detail to be seen in any given view.  However, (this is the counter-intuitive part), I have discovered that by doing my oil paintings in excruciating detail what happens is that the illusion of space is created!  With all this detail, it is possible to go into the paintings and explore the space of any given area.  With the looser styles one is stopped at the surface of the painting-no real sense of space.  When you create space via detail like this it also creates a sense of magic.  This works in my more traditional landscapes as well as with my "Space Paintings" wherein I let it all hang out and have geologic structures floating asteroid-like, in space.   In all my Space Paintings you can find a plume of what most think is smoke but is actually the dust from our drill-rig.  I had some fun with this putting the rig in some very unlikely places.

Let's face it, artists are strange—alien strange.  I should know."

R. Geoffrey Blackburn


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