Edwin Owre’s New Series Pushes Landscape Painting Forward
This essay appeared in Vermont Art Guide #7. Vermont Art Guide #7 has nearly two hundred places to see art around the state. The full-color, printed magazine has artist and venue profiles as well as articles and news about Vermont Art. Our goal is to document and share the state’s incredible art scene. SUBSCRIBE TODAY
“The next one I am gonna start is with a chainsaw…I’ve never chainsawed paper but that’s not a bad idea.” Those are the last lines of a video made by Winooski documentarian Dan Higgins during a visit to Edwin Owre’s studio in December 2011. Owre’s comments speak to his particular brand of artmaking: an experimental approach to materials, a disdain for “fussiness”, and a willingness to “give it a go” and see what happens. Architect David Sellers cites Owre as instrumental in establishing a movement of design/build in which artists and sculptors and architects design and build things in the process of making something. But the cavalier buoyancy with which Owre’s approaches artmaking is tempered by a keen ability to react and respond to movements in art. Owre’s fluency with color, shape, and composition pours out of the constructions on view at the BCA Center this past winter, and, if I may be so bold, suggest that Owre is doing with landscape painting what John Chamberlain did with abstract expressionism. He is bringing it into the third dimension.
Brightly colored fragments of plywood are assembled into fields. Barometer of Mercies, with its zig-zag geometries and rambling blue shapes evoke the sky. Intersecting white rectangles of Cross Talk and a suggestive orange dotted line propose an aerial view of a cityscape. How can one not see the mountain in Fleurs du Mal? Standing works use the tabletop as a horizon and rise up from the surface like buildings in a fantastical city. Pinks, blues, and orange hues reflect the palette of today’s painters who see not only green and brown but a blazing range of colors in the atmosphere. At various times, in these works, the paint crosses and combines genres. Raw wood contrasts with refined, smooth surfaces. Thick lines of red, white, and yellow break up luscious fields of swirled paint.
The thing to understand about Owre is his place in Vermont art history. From 1969 to 2003, Owre taught drawing and sculpture at the University of Vermont and over the course of those decades influenced countless contemporary Vermont artists. He taught students to unleash the possibility of mark and gesture, to consider copper tubing and bales of hay as materials, or to chainsaw paper if the mood strikes you.
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Vermont Art Guide is a quarterly, printed magazine about contemporary art in Vermont. We offer a curated list of places to see art and publish profiles on artists, art venues, and public art. Each issue is a celebration of the state’s great art scene. Learn more at www.vermontartguide.com.
About Edwin Owre
Edwin Owre has been working as an artist and educator for over 50 years. In his Grand Isle studio, the “constructions” he creates explore the possibilities of drawing and the gesture through abstract sculpture. “Solid and Light”, an exhibition of these abstract constructions, was at GreenTARA Space in North Hero, June 8 to July 15, 2018. Owre’s “New Constructions” was on display at the BCA Center, January 19-April 7, 2018.
“New Constructions” (installation view)
by Edwin Owre
at BCA Center, Burlington
January 19-April 7, 2018
Photos by Sam Simon