John Walker: Recent Paintings
Two weeks ago when I pulled the little door to my black mail box open and saw a puffy brown envelope with my name clearly printed on it; I was instantly excited. As my eyes traveled to see who sent me this thine bundle of puff, I was sure goodness lay inside. However, I was suddenly faced with a dilemma as my eyes checked out the return label. The package came from the Alexander Gallery; in NYC, it was the catalog of paintings from John Walker's new show I had ordered a month ago. I immediately wanted to look through the catalog, but also wanted to wait until I was ready to write this blog. What to do? Hmm… I got out my white flag and surrendered, without much of a fight I might add, and ripped the puffy envelope open for a quick peek inside. I just couldn’t help myself and I let myself get lost in the most beautiful blue painting; Touch. Nevertheless, my conscience started to get the better of me. I immediately hid the catalog under an ample amount of books until this moment. Finally, now my excitement is flowing over as I sit by my window with leaves falling outside, a cup of coffee in hand and let myself enjoy this catalog. Hope you don’t mind waiting.
While you wait… I met John Walker when I visited BU for the first time, I was wait listed for a spot in there MFA program and since I was visiting another college near by, I figured I would stop and see what BU’s studios were like on the off chance I got in last minute. Jessie Lebaron, John Walker’s assistant at the time, and a very talented artist, gave me a tour around the studios, while answering all my questions. To my surprise the tour ended at John’s studio and I was not expecting to see or speak to him. So, when I entered his studio, I was nervous and said the first thing that came to mind. “ You smell like my grandfather, I love the smell of cigars.” He looked at me and in that moment I was not sure how he would take what I blurted out, but then he smiled and said “So your grandfather smokes cigars?” and to tell you the truth the rest was a bit of a blur. In the end I got into the program and I accepted BU. Over the two years I got to sit in John’s studio a few times and it was always filled with massively big paintings and many small paintings too. I learned a lot about painting from John but the best advice he ever gave me was about life. It was my second year at BU, my heath was catching up to me, and I didn’t think I could finish the program. I knocked on his door, sat down across from him and told him so. He said a lot to me that day, but what struck a cord with me were these exact words “ You have to learn to ask for help!” Something I still struggle with as my health has gotten the better of me these days, but when I can put the words into practice my life is always easier.
Back to the catalog; I must encourage anyone in the NYC area to get over to Alexandre Gallery and see John Walker's: Recent Paintings. The show ends November 15, 2014. I desperately wish I was in the area and able to do so, because, when it comes to John’s work, the general thickness and sense of tactile presence in his paintings are lost when it comes to an image in a catalog. I would say the same about a book of Auerbach paintings. That being said you can still enjoy an image of a painting and learn from that image, hence the many art books I own. Within each brush stroke of John’s new paintings, I see a creation of rhythmic movement, reflecting the complex composition of nature's song, reminding me of the sounds of Maine’s waves. When I stare at the ultramarine blue in John's paintings I end up in a meditative state. My thoughts travel to Matisse and his use of blue, then to Diebenkorn’s and his Ocean Park Series and back to the movements of the shores of Maine once again. Usually I am dying to touch paintings and feel the brush strokes move across the canvas, but with John’s new paintings I feel that I am touching the canvas, even though I am not; a truly marvelous feat. I think I will leave you with another piece of life advice John Walker gave me and my fellow students. “Be generous!”. Not only does John have my respect and admiration as an Artist, but also as a man. These paintings are just that, generous. They leave nothing behind in the studio or the shores of Maine, John's generosity gives all to his paintings' and that is exactly what makes great art.