Jeff Ael­ing

Western Art Collector - - CONTENTS -

South­west skies

Mis­souri-based painter Jeff Ael­ing is fond of a story that was told dur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween mythol­o­gist Joseph Camp­bell and jour­nal­ist Bill Moy­ers in the fa­mous 1988 PBS doc­u­men­tary The

Power of Myth. The story goes that a group of indige­nous peo­ple, who were con­stantly sur­rounded on all sides by dense jun­gle veg­e­ta­tion, were taken out of the jun­gle and into a vast desert.

“They freaked out. They had never ex­pe­ri­enced vast­ness on that scale,” Ael­ing says. “When you’re con­nected to na­ture in that way, be­ing in a vista of that size can feel alien­at­ing. And for me, it can also be more con­tem­pla­tive, more of an in­ter­nal ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Ael­ing will be bring­ing new land­scapes, many of them of vast open plains and ex­pan­sive skies, to Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery in Tuc­son, Ari­zona, on De­cem­ber 7. The show, South­west Skies, will fea­ture around 20 works, many of them orig­i­nat­ing in Colorado, where the St. Louis-based artist grew up and went to high school. “My brother and my best friend live there so I try to go to Den­ver twice a year and usu­ally go into the moun­tains. For a num­ber of years I would fol­low the I-25 down into New Mex­ico as the plains fol­lowed the Rock­ies south,” the artist says. “Lately, though, I’ve been more in­ter­ested in Colorado, in­clud­ing the South Park area, which is where the South Park TV show is set. There isn’t a town there re­ally, just this amaz­ing plain up there that is as wide as 40 miles in some places. Up there near the moun­tains you the sen­sa­tion of how big things are and how small you are in com­par­i­son.”

New pieces in the show in­clude Smoke Plume, W. of Co­topaxi, CO and Even­ing S.

Park, CO, both of which show the vast­ness that at­tracts Ael­ing to the area. Nine­teenth-cen­tury land­scape painters—artists such as Fred­eric Church, Al­bert Bier­stadt and Thomas Mo­ran— would of­ten ex­ag­ger­ate the beauty of the scenes they painted, adding geo­graphic fea­tures that were taller or more col­or­ful, or com­pos­ing their scenes in more dra­matic ways. For Ael­ing, he paints what he sees, and that sim­plic­ity in de­sign makes for an emo­tion­ally truth­ful work.

“I don’t feel like you have to add any­thing to my work. In fact I’m more in­clined to sub­tract things, be­cause I like that min­i­mal aes­thetic,” he says. “I want to stick to what I con­sider to be the barest of ele­ments, that aus­tere spare feel­ing, es­pe­cially as I find con­nec­tions with the very large and the very small.”

Even­ing S. Park, CO, oil on panel, 34 x 48”

Pine For­est, Twi­light, oil on panel, 30 x 16”

Sun­set Eleven Mile Reser­voir, CO, oil on panel, 34 x 48”

Creek Near Hart­sel, CO, oil on panel, 16 x 24”

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