Artist Profile: Joel Sheesley

Wheaton professor of art Joel Sheesley visited the John Brown University gallery last night with a collection of his recent paintings.

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The works were impressive in their technique and scale, all drawing their inspiration from two puddles in his driveway. He spoke for roughly 45 minutes about the exhibit, although I’m not sure how much I took away from the lecture. This is partly my own fault; for whatever reason my mind wandered at that point in the evening. A lot of the speech was recited, where the artist read from Scripture and various literature. I was personally hoping to hear something that seemed a little more directly tied to the paintings on the wall (although supposedly what he was reading was), something with either more practical information about the works or words to spur me on in my own artistic pursuits. But that’s just me.

Two things stood out as he spoke, his honesty and his process. He talked openly about simple nature of the subject matter, not making more of two puddles in the asphalt than one “should.” It’s easy for me to imagine certain artists using lofty language in an attempt to justify certain subject matter. With regard to his process, these new works begin with him laying a canvas on the driveway and applying a solid color using a broad scraping tool to go over the fabric as it lies on the asphalt. From the resulting image he begins the painting, allowing the imperfections of the drive to guide his brushstrokes.

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The one weakness I found in several of the works was a certain flatness or lack of modeling in the reflected objects. This was particularly true of the crows in the above work — the composition of whole of this piece I find stunning — and another where a person on a ladder is mirrored by the puddle. Perhaps this is his style, or the way things actually looked in the shimmering pools, but the missing detail left me wanting something more in these paintings.

Sheesly uses photographs to come up with some of the content contained within each reflecting puddle. He has also begun exploring a subtractive process, sanding and scraping paint already applied to the canvas. Painting is, quite obviously, generally an additive medium. I really liked the resulting appearance of the two works he pointed out where this subtraction took place. They had a sense of realism and depth the neighboring paintings did not.

These are pretty successful works in my opinion, and the show at the JBU gallery is worth seeing. Being a Friday night on campus, fewer people were there than at past shows.

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About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

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