At first glance, Todd Gordon’s landscapes look like photographs. However, they’re realistic oil paintings.
“A photograph is a snapshot of a moment in time,” Gordon said Monday in the Ohio Wesleyan University’s Ross Art Museum, where his exhibit, “Matter of Fact,” is on view through Nov. 13.
“These paintings, because of the amount of time I spend working on them, there’s an inherent sense of time built into them. You may be looking at a static image in all of these paintings, but they were done over the course of hours, days, weeks and months.”
Delaware-raised Hayes High graduate Gordon doesn’t paint from photographs, either. He goes to an outdoor site that catches his eye, whether it’s in Morrow County or New York City, and paints there as long as he needs to, in any kind of weather or light. Gordon will often do multiple paintings “en plein-air” — French for “in the open air.”
“Stylistically, it’s been an evolution in terms of how I arrived at this place,” Gordon said. “I’ve been painting for over 20 years, and 10 or 15 years ago I came to this idea that I wanted to paint as much as I possibly could, as much as I could see in the environment and the location where I was painting. It’s a Herculean feat in and of itself. Really, it’s an impossibility and there’s a futility to that, but I really wanted to challenge myself and see what would happen in a painting if I could do that.”
Perhaps even more Herculean is continuing to work in this fashion in Stockholm, Sweden, where Gordon and his wife now live.
“In wintertime, there may only be six hours of daylight, total,” he said. “I try to compensate by working at night. How do I make a painting without being able to see what I’m painting? I’m mixing colors in the dark, really don’t know what I have until I get the painting back to my studio. There’s an element of surprise and unknowing the process of painting.”
Most plein-air artists paint places that might already be considered beautiful, but Gordon finds beauty in urban, post-industrial settings.
“I paint in these hinterland spaces with decay and deterioration,” he said. “For me, there’s a lot of things that are visually interesting. There are certain shapes or relationships of colors that start off as a possible idea to begin a painting. There’s something kind of romantic about those areas, as well. Maybe it goes back to my own childhood in Ohio.”
The exhibit marks a homecoming for Gordon.
“It’s the first time I’ve been able to show this many paintings, and paintings that I consider my mature work. This show covers about the last 10 years. It gives me a chance to bring work here and show friends and family here that I know.”
Gordon, who has taught art as a professor in New York, said all the 30 works on view are for sale. In addition, he will present an illustrated talk on his work at 7 p.m. Thursday in Room 312 of OWU’s R.W. Corns Building, 78 S. Sandusky St. The talk will be followed by a reception from 8 to 10 p.m. at the Ross.
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.
For more information, visit toddjgordon.com and ross.owu.edu, or call 740-368-3606.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.