Eye Candy: Walton Ford
I first saw Walton Ford’s paintings during season 2 of the excellent art documentary series Art:21 on PBS and I have been utterly besotted by his work ever since. Mr. Ford paints large scale watercolor paintings that are evocative of the works of naturalist John James Auduban (that is to say, if Auduban had been possessing of a sense of humor about himself.) Satirical, witty and meticulously rendered – Walton Ford’s paintings embrace black humor in revealing the dark history behind the majority of naturalist artwork, as most of the animals captured for the sake of science and art did not fare well in the process.
Utilizing his tremendous skill as a draftsman and painter, Walton Ford uses animals as a metaphor for human-wrought calamity, blending humor, painterly beauty and craftsmanship to create artwork that is engaging on a multitude of different levels. Upon viewing the painting, “Falling Bough” – a massive piece depicting thousands of passenger pigeons surrounding and carrying off an enormous fallen tree and darkening the sky in the background - I was struck not only by the scale of the work, but also by the impossibly tight detail of it. It is a painting that becomes more complex and layered each time I look at it, so many things can be read into his subject matter, the components of which are illustrated so darkly.
Passenger pigeons are shown devouring their own eggs, defacating on each other, their helpless offsrping either pushed or falling from the nest unnoticed…weighty stuff indeed. Mr. Ford’s technical proficiency is a marvel in itself – nary a brushstroke is wasted here, every single mark -whether it be to illustrate a swirling tuft of fur or the deliniation of a single feather – is purposeful and thoughtful. The choices he makes as an artist all come together to fascilitate a wonderful piece of visual storytelling embued with biting social/political commentary.
I think Walton Ford paints like a superhero.
Walton Ford’s paintings are available at the Paul Kasmin Gallery in NYC.
If you are interested in watching a brief interview with the artist at work in his studio, I highly recommend viewing this.