Daniel Ger­hartz: A Silent Medium

Show­cas­ing new works at In­sight Gallery this Fe­bru­ary, Daniel Ger­hartz en­cour­ages view­ers to dis­cover their own mean­ings.

Western Art Collector - - CONTENTS - By Alyssa M. Tid­well

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”

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