Artblog Celebrating 20 Years!   Support Us Today!

Pause for cows


The other night we got an email from Canadian painter Karl Skaret, whose website includes images of a large body of work focussed on the Alberta prairie land. Skaret’s bio says he raises cattle with his brother which keeps him closely tied to the land, sky and animals. The front page, alone, made we want to take the web tour. (image, top, is Skaret’s “The weight of the world is on your shoulders,” 1998)


Skaret’s paintings are about as friendly as they come. (image right is “Riding the Fence,” 1996) There’s whimsy, some spirituality (those skies) and a lot of animal — cows, hogs, horses — all imbued with a kind of lonesome cowboy blues. As you scroll through the years, the work gets more lyrical and the skies more filled with wonder. (image below is “I raised a lot of Cain when I was able,” 2003)


Which reminds me that I meant to tell about my own cow picture, (below) scavenged from the streets of my neighborhood last summer. My cow is obviously a Pennsylvania cow. She seems to live in a Hicks-ian Peaceable Kingdom…sort of. There is an ominous black bird circling in the — actually kind of ominous — cloudy sky. And what’s that grey-bearded farmer doing leaning on that tree?


Garrison Keilor might be able to make a nice story out of this painting. I couldn’t believe somebody would throw it away. It’s a real painting, not a print, and somebody loved it for many years — it has holes that have been fixed and it’s been re-framed several times.

(OK it is also in bad shape — lots of dings and a couple of tears, but it’s a work of art signed in curlicue letters in black paint by “AW.”) I love this discarded work of art. And even though I don’t really have room for it on my walls, I’m keeping it. It makes me think about the history of its making and the path it took ultimately winding up discarded along with a pile of trash.


…On a more upbeat note, and getting back to the subject of landscape paintings, Philadelphia is of course a great place to see them in the flesh. Right now, you can catch Max Mason’s paintings of the hills, valleys, roads –and cloudy skies of the region at Gross McCleaf. But the big news is that Mason’s got a suite of paintings of the construction of the new Phillies stadium, Citizens Bank Park. With their Mack-truck, girder and C-clamp veracity, the works (image, above, is “Ballpark Construction, Philadelphia”) are about the dignity of work in the bigger scheme of things.