Landscape painting, for the most part, tends to be a sober genre. And despite the number of artists that take a graphic approach to the subject, there are only a few that embrace it with a sense of humor. Southwest artist Stephen Morath is one of the more successful of these artists.
The paintings of Morath are a blend of bright, expressionistic landscapes with a touch of wry humor and nostalgia. Whether capturing a bountiful table of delights on a Mexican beach or a parade of trailers through the desert countryside, his paintings express the artists obvious amusement and fascination with the Southwest. Morath juxtaposes vintage automobiles, trailers and billboards in such a way that they seem a natural addition to the beautifully painted landscape.
In this rare blending of kitsch subject matter, tongue-in-cheek titles and superb draftsmanship, Morath produces acrylic paintings and prints that celebrate the wild, wide open spaces as well as crowded tourist towns. Indeed, majestic mountain ranges are portrayed as carefully as airstream travel trailers, roadside motels and letter barrels.
According to the artist, in essence my work portrays that West and the Southwest in a generic sense. And yes, I flirt with camp and kitsch because in a way the land forms are humorous to me - the pinon covered hills, the bent and broken saguaro cactus, the intense colors of the earth. And yet, the vast West is by no means trivial: its just that at times what I see around me has a distinctively funny personality to it, he says.
Stephen Morath has always been interested in art but took no classes in the subject until entering the Boston Museum School at the age of twenty. He received a Bachelor of Arts from that school, in association with Tufts University in 1979.
He describes his method of working as 9 to 5 every day in the studio. He completes a large 48 inches by 58 inches painting in two to three weeks. When traveling, Morath does some pencil sketches, but the paintings themselves are ultimately a distillation of places and props. His style is personal and cartoon-like, yet imbued with wry sophistication.
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