Rick Beerhorst’s paintings draw from the rich well of American folk art as well as Byzantine icons, early Renaissance painters and American Limners who, despite having no formal training, travelled the length and breadth of 19th Century America soliciting portrait commissions from the growing mercantile class.
There is something unsettling about these pictures, the women in Beerhorst’s paintings innocent, engaged in domestic chores, seemingly relaxed yet simultaneously tense, uptight as if unable to release tension, energy, their sexuality muted. It is a paradoxical dynamic, as if Beerhorst is using the portrait to explore deeper and more fundamental issues around domesticity, education, the sexualisation of women in a consumption obsessed culture as well as the industrial decline and loss of manufacturing in America. Above all these picture represent a desire to connect into the mystical journey of life. Here’s what he has to say about his work:
Each work is the result of a slow process of planning , building, tearing down and building up again. I use oil paint and sable brushes to create the images. I use razor blades and sand paper to break them down and reveal portions of earlier paint layers. This method creates a rich surface of color and texture that results in a painting with solid physical presence radiating an otherworldly quality. By using either antique mirror frames or hand built frames, I create a unique and dramatic context for each piece. A consistent narrative element is my desire to link the ordinary to the mystical.
My influences include Early American limners, the art of the Middle Ages, as well as religious icons. The faces in many of these portraits are partially obscured; this hide and seek refers to how revelation always comes to us incomplete in bits and pieces. In this way painting also becomes a form of inquiry into the hidden mysteries of life.