CULTURE KLASH: Slightly Obsessed

By on October 11, 2017

‘Thelma and Louise (study),’ Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 16”

Artist Travis Walker gets lost in the moment–and his art

Travis Walker tends to get a “little obsessed” when he loves a movie. He has, after all, seen Forrest Gump about 50 times. Sometimes Walker’s obsession isn’t about the whole movie, though. Rather, it can be as simple as a line or a scene that Walker will watch and re-watch.

“There are certain moments I can get so lost in,” the Jackson artist said. “I can live in them.”

Those moments, from Thelma and Louise, Napoleon Dynamite, Forrest Gump and other favorite films, heavily influenced Walker’s latest body of work, which is hanging in Altamira Fine Art in Jackson.

The new show, aptly titled “So Many Roads,” is a two-person show featuring Walker and New Mexico-based artist Thom Ross. The show opened earlier this month.

Ross’ latest work features historical figures and Western mythology.

“As an artist, I look deeply into myths,” he said in an artist’s statement. “Why does Custer’s Last Stand matter? Why are they still making movies about the Alamo and Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp? We project our emotions through these figures, and there’s something really wonderful about that.

Ross works to portray iconic American figures and events in new ways that challenge the viewer to re-examine history, his artist biography said. He might render a scene where Native Americans play croquet, or show Custer riding away with a table balanced on his head. Ross’ work features a variety of media including mosaics, or pieces with sculptural elements.

“He updates history with bright colors, abstract forms and a contemporary style,” the gallery’s website said. “Ross believes that as we re-examine and question the historical forces that shaped the lives of the subjects he paints, their meaning as icons shifts and deepens.”

Walker will show about 12 new paintings in the exhibition. Many pieces in his new body of work are influenced by his love of movies, which has taken his work in a new direction.

One of Walker’s featured paintings was inspired by the film Thelma and Louise and shows a car suspended in the air over the Grand Canyon.

“I’ve always loved that scene,” Walker said. “There’s a lot going on in that scene, but the real power is that you don’t know what happened right after it.”

They could have lived, landing safely on a ledge. That frozen moment and the unknown that follows is exactly what Walker loves about painting.

“It does something very unique, capturing the suspension of a moment,” he said.

Walker also borrowed from old western movies, as well as contemporary films where the western landscape is a main feature, such as the scene in Forrest Gump when he runs to Monument Valley. The landscapes are beautiful, but it’s the scenery coupled with important theatrical moments that help create the inspiration for Walker’s art, and his iconic paintings.

“I’m trying to expand my western palette subject matter wise,” Walker said. “I feel like a lot of the movies I’m referencing have stoked the fires of the Western legend.”

The entire show isn’t about movies, but his paintings from real life share some of the same qualities with the cinematic scenes he renders.

One painting is of an Amish family in front of Old Faithful. He painted it from a photograph he took in Yellowstone, which Walker said reminded him of a movie.

“I wanted to know what the rest of the story was,” he said. “There was a whole movie around that moment (in my head). That made the painting more powerful to me as a subject, even though I took the photo myself.”

Walker hopes that people look at his images and want to know more, just the way he felt when he took the photograph of the Amish at Old Faithful. That ability to freeze a moment, and intrigue a viewer to wonder what’s next, or challenge them to imagine it, is the power of a painting, he said.

And while Walker explored new subject matter and muses, the western landscape still plays a prominent role in his work. The West has always been his greatest source of inspiration and remains the center of his paintings.

He still finds those empty places, void of RVs and tourists to recharge himself, though. It is where he finds hope. And when he thinks of his favorite movie moments, like Thelma and Louise driving into the abyss, he thinks of the grandeur of the massive canyon where their fate awaits and their story, at least in the movie, ends.

But in Walker’s mind, and his painting, the moment is frozen forever.  PJH

Travis Walker and Thom Ross, “So Many Roads,” show hangs through Oct. 21, reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Oct. 19, Altamira Fine Art, 172

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