by John Dilg
Kristin-Wigley-Fleming Fine Arts Gallery, Center for the Arts
April 8 - May 24, 2009
John Dilg is a professor of painting and drawing at The University of Iowa School of Art and Art History. His work has been exhibited throughout the country and is held in numerous public and private collections, including the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Chicago, and Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Villafames, Castellon, Spain.
Dilg holds the bachelor of fine arts degree in painting and filmmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design. He has received a Fulbright Grant to study in India, a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship, and residency fellowships at the Yaddo Foundation and the Ragdale Foundation.
His recent solo exhibition venues include Luise Ross Gallery, New York City; Catich Gallery, St. Ambrose University; Schmidt Contemporary Art, St. Louis, and the Evanston (Ill.) Art Center.
His work has been included in recent group exhibitions at the Esther Klein Gallery, Philadelphia; the Center for Creative Studies, Detroit; and five New York venues: Moti Hasson Gallery, Andrea Rosen Gallery, Luise Ross Gallery, Kraushaar Galleries, and the Yaddo Foundation.
Amateur and outsider art, 19th century landscape paintings, signs and advertising are among the sources for Dilg’s work in the current exhibit.
"I like to represent the iconic in my paintings and a sense of the quiet of time passing. Humor and melancholy usually exist — as corollaries. To this degree the images are representational, though not as fully expressive or descriptive renderings. Rather, for many viewers the images are reminders of something seen before or elsewhere under different terms or conditions. And the titles are important — the image and word-sound producing a further meaning, or willfully extending the enigmatic.
In my studio, for source material and for comfort, I surround myself with the amateur and naive images of others — pictures done in earnest concentration to describe any number of occasions: a school project, goods or services for sale, a souvenir, or the commemoration of a life-event of importance. Occasions such as these often provide the inspiration for an intimacy, poignancy and beauty of a kind found only under domestic conditions or small commercial enterprises. In addition, the so-called “untrained” eye fosters an idiosyncratic vision that increases our knowledge of the visual world. The nature of being human seems especially present in the context of pictures made to record or commemorate the personal — as opposed, perhaps, to the contract that is always implied when images are made for the purpose of religion, politics, or commission. My paintings are products of the special conditions present when remaking reality makes the world.
The preceding is an over-arching, general description of my imagery. For this show, however, I decided to limit the imagery to two chief sources of mine — amateur waterfall painting within the primitive landscape and the historical role of the moon as a major backbeat to all things romantic and sinister. It could be said that this recent work derives from emotions based in a simulacrum of nostalgia. I have collected waterfall paintings for more than 25 years. What began as ironic glee evolved into a collection of that which many amateur painters considered ground zero — a souvenir-based remembrance of the American landscape. This, in turn, grew into an interest in investigating what could be called a “rustic arcadia” — imagery that is a product of the self-trained artists’ interest in painting as an iconic realization of beautiful (American) places. In my paintings, associations to the Hudson River School; Victorian gothic imagery, as seen in painters like Albert Pinkam Ryder and James Whistler (The “Nocturnes”); and Casper David Friedrich (all those moon paintings) are also a big part of the “mix.” Let’s add Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson to this also, as individuals who were able to draw the outside in and create icons of the instinctual and the primitive within the pretense of accepted civilized languages. The result, I think, is the general idea of land, watered by falls, lit by the moon, and filtered through the sources of untrained visions. "