Charles Burchfield
The Shimmer of Nature

November 9 2020

I wonder how I could overlook Charles Burchfield for so long. I’ve come across the name several times when other artists mentioned him as influential to their work, yet initially his paintings didn’t speak to me. Until recently, when I discovered an image that opened me up to his visionary way of seeing the world.

Now Burchfield’s nature scenes strike me as among the most experiential art I know, as he’s able to put you right into his synesthetic experience of nature. His images are infused with a lifeforce he senses beneath the surface of things. And he found a symbolic vocabulary to translate them into brushstrokes. It’s the expressionistic idea taken to the most tangible extreme. Sometimes it’s just an ethereal shimmer that seems to hint at something beyond the mundane, and sometimes it’s the full-blown psychedelic experience. Everything is alive and beaming with an otherworldly light, trees vibrate, the air pulses with rhythmic patterns and birdsongs take on shape and color. This ability to convey the strange aliveness of nature is why I love his art so much.

As an artist grows older, he has to fight disillusionment and learn to establish the same relation to nature as an adult, as he had when a child.Charles Burchfield