Daniel Gerhartz: A Silent Medium
Showcasing new works at Insight Gallery this February, Daniel Gerhartz encourages viewers to discover their own meanings.
If you ask an artist to explain the meaning behind their artwork, the emotions they intend it to elicit or the metaphors behind the little nuanced elements, the answer will reside on a spectrum. On one end, there’s explicit meaning and intention— the artist knows exactly what statement they hope to make, and on the other end there’s complete open-endedness. For Daniel Gerhartz, he swims in the deep end of the latter half of the pool. “I would rather leave it open. Everyone has their own history to bring in terms of seeing art. Everyone brings all of their past into it…the more I say the more confused the viewer gets. How that piece hit me is not how it’s going to hit someone else,” he says. “I know from experience that I can’t manufacture that for anyone else. I can’t make them feel a certain way. I pour every ounce of what I feel for [a painting] into the work. And then I let the rest happen by itself.” While freedom of interpretation is extremely important to him, Gerhartz explains that for himself personally, art is a symbol of hope, and faith plays a major role in his career.
The artist, who was classically trained at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, now lives back in his hometown of Kewaskum, Wisconsin, with his wife and children. Inspired by the modern masters like John Singer Sargent and Nicholai Fechin, Gerhartz’s impressionist paintings are imbued with emotion and honesty. This sense of raw, unfiltered emotion forms the backbone of his work. The subject matter is varied—one day, you might find him capturing a beautiful French landscape or the interior of a church building, and another day, a woman standing in a pond, a family on the beach or a couple sitting together playing the guitar. Whether through an accomplished grasp on human anatomy or a masterful understanding of light and shadow, Gerhartz’s artwork portrays reality charged with intimacy. He explains that he looks for moments in his life that captivate him and bring an unbridled sense of passion to the forefront of his experience. “This is a silent medium; it is not a medium that requires words. You don’t need a four-page essay on
what this painting should say to you. Leave that to the viewer,” he says.
Gerhartz has an upcoming exhibition at Insight Gallery in Fredericksburg, Texas, this February 7 to 28, where he will show new works, the majority of which were created within the past year. An opening reception with the artist will take place on the first day from 6 to 8 p.m.
“It’s all about capturing the effect of light and letting that speak. It’s kind of a language of its own,” he continues. In Warmth, time seems to slow down as a man and a woman share a moment of repose. On the left, the man strums his guitar while the woman leaning against him calmly reads her book. In the background a fire casts a warm glow over them, while in the very foreground a cat is curled up fast asleep. Gerhartz explains that he had been thinking about the busy world we live in, where stopping to take a breath and enjoy the simplicity of the moment is a rarity. “It’s just kind of an idyllic setting. For me it was just an emotion and a feeling, and I did my best to compose it in a way that [resonates with others]. It’s based on real life. This is what a lot of humanity shoots for. Just a peaceful, restful time shared with a loved one. They’re unplugged, immersed in the moment. How much do we in our culture desire that?”
In Grandma’s Treasures, we see a quiet moment of a young woman delicately holding what naturally feels like a cup of tea, amongst what can be assumed are her grandmother’s belongings. We don’t know exactly what the
girl is thinking, but the expression on her face feels like one of contentedness. It speaks to the idea of slowing down and immersing oneself in the present, fully appreciating something as simple as a warm drink.
He references another piece in this body of work that particularly resonated with him, To Capture a Moment, depicting a woman in a tranquil stream carrying a basket of flowers and glancing slightly over her shoulder. “She’s walking away from the busyness of the world to just get away. To her favorite place, to her place of solitude,” Gerhartz says of his interpretation of the piece. He recalls the experience of painting that piece as a joyful afternoon walking back and forth through the stream with the model, basking in the lighting, waiting for the perfect moment to capture. The result is an image in which soft light plays delicately across the forms of the figure, creating an almost halo-like effect.
Variety in the subject matter represented throughout any body of work remains a constant goal for Gerhartz. Other paintings in the show include scenes throughout Paris from a recent trip the artist took, as well as a landscape of maple trees from a spot just a few miles near his Wisconsin home. “The French landscape pieces, they’re just beautiful…the stunning light, design and harmony, the warmth of the sun,” says Gerhartz. Vespers on Rue Royale and Shining Forth capture the immaculate architecture of two Parisian church interiors. This is a subject that Gerhartz circles back to again and again. “I still have a deep faith in God, and a lot of that started with churches as a boy growing up…it’s something that I’ve been finding more and more with a broad audience, that there are people who relate to being still before God.” When everything is said and done, the creation of his artwork comes down to simple, raw emotion— to the virtues of hope and faith. This is what continuously pushes him forward.
“All of these things, to me, just stirs my heart with wonder,” Gerhartz says of the moments and scenes that captivate him. “Whenever anyone sits before beauty, it can’t help but move your soul one way or another. I’m just grateful the imagery, the people and the places I paint resonate with other people as well.”
Daniel Gerhartz painting in his studio.
Autumn Maples, oil, 18 x 24”
Warmth, oil, 30 x 40”
To Capture a Moment, oil, 60 x 32”