Art in residence: Exhibit offers depictions of landscapes artists call home

Rachael Le Goubin | Staff Photographer
The first floor of Fowler-Kellogg Art Center is devoted to showcasing “Homeward Bound: An American Pictorial.”

The first-floor gallery of the Fowler-Kellogg Art Center is filled with depictions of urban, suburban and rural landscapes — all areas that different people call “home.”

Judy Barie, director of galleries, wanted to do a twist on a classic landscape show and found young artists who created scenes of places across America that people consider home. Barie said she likes to have a mix of media in a show, so the work ranges from painting, to collage, to glass and ceramic pieces.

The opening reception for “Homeward Bound: An American Pictorial” will be held 3 p.m. Sunday in Fowler-Kellogg Art Center.

Sarah Williams has six oil-on-panel paintings that depict houses in small-town, rural Missouri, where she grew up.

When she moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to study art, she found she had something to say about places people found mundane and run-down but that she found unique. She liked giving each structure importance and significance, she said.

The population of her campus at the University of North Texas was exponentially larger than that of her hometown, and it was in Texas that she began to paint scenes of the rural areas of her youth. She said she didn’t realize her homesickness influenced her choice of subject matter until she returned to Missouri two years ago.

The paintings all depict homes without any inhabitants in sight.  She uses light in the windows or tracks on the ground to indicate the presence of its inhabitants.

“The structures might seem abandoned, but you can tell there’s signs of life,” she said.

Williams said that some people find her paintings “creepy.” While the small, boxy houses depicted in her six pieces do seem forlorn, the glow from the windows and lights suggest that inhabitants dwell within and have a haunting, staying power.

Now teaching painting and drawing at the University of Missouri, Williams said she finds herself painting more residential structures instead of past industrial scenes or scenes of gas stations and barns.

She believes her paintings of home can be seen as little portraits of the inhabitants.

“You almost start to see them as the kind of personality of the person that lives there,” she said.

Seven paintings by Paul Rouphail are also included in the show. The Pittsburgh-based artist said the city’s gritty, industrial landscapes have influenced his work.

Rouphail said a lot of his work has a basis in architectural imagery and he sees some of his paintings to be an extension of a vernacular style of painting, that is, painting considered native to a certain place.

Although his paintings are urban landscapes, he said he looks to painters from the Hudson River School for inspiration, as well as the work of photographers Robert Adams and Stephen Shore.

Rouphail said a lot of his paintings are not renderings of an actual physical place, but sort of composite images, whether drawn from his photographs or from the imagery of advertisements.

A year spent in Lima, Peru, also informed his work, and some of his paintings display the imagery of a South American port town while others are distinctly Pittsburgh-centric.

Several of Rouphail’s paintings include depictions of advertisements and billboards. He said that advertisements “exacerbate” the division between nature and culture that interests him.

“In some ways the paintings get in between those areas of advertisement and the natural reality of the place,” he said.