Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Beauty in Both Sides

Even though we’re in middle of a winter storm, there’s no reason we can’t turn our thoughts to vibrant colors and thriving flowers.

It’s precisely this appreciation for all—even dissimilar or contradictory—aspects of life that artist Richard Bolingbroke wants people to appreciate. And it’s what the British-born, San Francisco-based artist shares through his artwork.

An exhibition of Bolingbroke’s vibrant watercolors is on display at Obrich Botanical Gardens Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., through January 4. The show, Rituals and Meditations, marks the last stop on a three-year cycle that’s taken the paintings to Milwaukee and several southeastern states.

Bolingbroke taught himself watercolor painting by working on still lifes in his San Francisco studio. But after some time painting flowers, he tired of exclusively happy and beautiful subject matter. “I was only seeing half of what life is representing,” he explains.

He began incorporating other objects and imagery into his compositions. Of particular interest to him were bones and skulls—items that inevitably evoke thoughts of death and decay.

“I’m exploring the sides of life we don’t normally look at,” he says. “It’s not about death, it’s about the processes of life.”

Bolingbroke finds such imagery richer with artistic possibilities. And he thinks they’re just as aesthetic as flowers. “Beauty is not just in life but in death,” he says. “All processes of life have inherent beauty in them.”

Through his artwork, Bolingbroke hopes to change the way people see the world around them. He wants them to learn to find beauty in all facets of life and points out that recognizing one naturally leads to appreciation of another.

“We wouldn’t enjoy summer so much if we didn’t have winter,” he says.

Bolingbroke may be living in San Francisco, but that sentiment is spoken like a true Madisonian.

Photos are courtesy of Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

1 comment:

Eric Burkett said...

I'm a close friend of Richard's, and I agree strongly with your assessment of his work. I'm pretty familiar with his entire body of work and - despite those who may find the subject matter of skulls, bones, and dead leaves rather maudlin - it truly does represent the full range of life. And that in itself is very beautiful when considered as profoundly as he has done in his art.

Eric Burkett