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Burkhart

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Brad Burkhart
statement of purpose

I have chosen to develop a style of artistic expression which has little precedent in the modern aesthetic vernacular. I have ignored the modern concept of the human being as divided into mind and body, and of the human as separate from nature.

In an attempt to find meaning, I have reached beyond the sources of the conscious, commenting, language-oriented mind to something older, richer, deeper and more primitive in the human psyche. I am convinced that there is a need for modern man to move beyond his dualistic relationship with reality. Thus I have been most drawn to the older and more spiritual artistic traditions: in particular, the cave paintings at Lascaux, middle American Indian art, elements of Greek and Roman mythic works, and the Renaissance painters and sculptors. Recognizing these traditions, I have not tried to repeat them but have chosen instead to create an artistic expression which gropes for a future, as yet unseen, where internal reconciliation of both the individual and his world is possible.

My approach, materials and methods are directly related to my artistic philosophy. I begin my work with pencil drawings. These drawings are created on paper by a process which can only be called "automatic drawing." Initial lines on paper generate their own images. These non-rationally created images are compositionally refined and translated into three dimensional bas-relief terra cotta sculpture panels which exist somewhere between two-dimensional and three-dimensional space. The translation from paper to clay and thus from two to three dimensions also allows for a further deepening of the initial two dimensional imagery. The clay work is initially fragile; it may explode in the kiln when fired and be completely lost. The images themselves are ephemeral; they are of things and beings that do not exist in the "real" world. Yet, at the same time, they have the potential to create real meaning for the viewer which may change they way he lives his life.

The original inspiration for these panels was Ghiberti's golden doors, depicting scenes from the life of Christ, which I had seen when I was in Florence, Italy as a student. Like these doors, my panels are aimed at inspiration for the integration of the human spirit; yet, unlike the more traditionally religious imagery of the doors, the imagery of my panels draws from a wider range of mythical sources. The stories on the panels also seem to have a familiar literal quality, yet on closer examination they are familiar only as symbol and literal only in an imaginative sense.

It is my conviction that my works provide openings into a different mode of relating to reality which we have lost but which needs to be recreated and refashioned to fit our modern circumstance. With these panels I am attempting to express our prehistory while at the same time generating a future iconography.

The panels are strongly affecting, and individual pieces can generate moving and often times contradictory responses in different viewers. I believe this is because my works challenge each viewer to honestly delve into the inner reaches of their creative self. I have observed that such a challenge can alternatively be viewed as stimulating or offensive depending on the viewers openness to the process.

The pieces have an earthy relationship with life which makes them more compatible with an organic space such as a garden than with a dry, intellectualized gallery space. One is called by them to return to something known but forgotten, not so much to discern the development of aesthetic elements (color, line, form) but rather to discern their meaning in a deeper spiritual sense. It is this experience which I am most committed to in my art and which I feel lies at the source of renewal for our present art and culture.
 

biography
Brad Burkhart

Brad Burkhart was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1949. He attended Kalamazoo College in western Michigan, where he graduated with a major in art and a minor in physics. He later received a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Michigan. As an undergraduate, the artist traveled extensively in Europe and was profoundly impressed by Renaissance and medieval artists. He was struck by the change of human consciousness from one of spiritual orientation to one of intellectual orientation. More recently he has been influenced by the writings of Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, Leonard Shlain (Art and Physics, The Goddess and the Alphabet), and Riane Eisler (The Blade and the Chalice) which attempt to address the reintegration of intuition with rationality. In addition to art, the artist has a persevering interest in the relationship of nature/ecology which led him to a study of horticulture and landscape design as well as art. These interests have led him to become a leader in native habitat restoration in Southern California. His art and landscape work, both address the deep sense of alienation from self and nature which exists today.

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