Painting Ohio Prairies: A Year in the Life – 2014 Ohio Plein Air Society Exhibition

Dec 6, 2014-Feb 22, 2015 This Ohio Plein Air Society (OPAS) exhibition brings together painters from around Ohio and beyond, all dedicated to painting in the plein air tradition. OPAS artists focus primarily on painting the landscapes of Ohio while braving the elements – the heat of the summer or the cold of the winter, sometimes the darkest night or in gloomy rain. 

The OPAS painter, depending on his or her whims, may create works in oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastel or perhaps other art media. Each medium is unique and provides the artist with challenges and rewards that differ from another medium. 

Much of Ohio was once covered by sweeping expanses of tall grasses, few trees, and low, rolling hills. Indeed, the land on which Springfield sits is considered prairie land. Many of these prairies still abound, some patches of virgin ground around this part of the state having never been turned by a plow. In the exhibition, you will see paintings of the nearby Bigelow pioneer cemetery, swaths of land from along I-70, the gentle hills of Champaign County, and the grassy fields that now grow soy beans and corn to feed the world – these are all prairies of Ohio.

– Jon Browning, OPAS Exhibition Co-chair

Juror’s Statement: Frederick Fochtman

I want to thank the Ohio Plein Air Society for entrusting me to jury “Ohio Prairie: A Year in the Life,” this year’s OPAS exhibition at the Springfield Museum of Art. This collection of works celebrates painting the Ohio prairie and all of its interpretations. I think there was a fear the subject matter would create a narrow focus and perhaps lead to a degree of sameness. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Society was able to provide endless original and creative works for consideration.

My assignment and objective was to select a cohesive exhibition that best showcases the artistry of the painters who make up the Ohio Plein Air Society. It has been a privilege on one hand and an agonizing process on the other. What pieces are in? Does the painting resonate with me the way it does for the artist? Is that work worthy of an award, and is there really a “Best of Show”? All of these considerations and more become the challenges of the process when jurying a show such as this. My eye as a collector and my instincts as a painter are the most important tools I can bring to this undertaking.

Perhaps I was chosen to jury this show because I am a painter with a soft spot in my heart for the process of plein air painting and all methods of life painting. It is a process that challenges the painter to address light, time, weather and environment with sensitivity to changes and the intuition to anticipate a bit of the future. When the work is complete, painters ask themselves, was I successful or is the painting honest and satisfying? Did I achieve what I set out to do? My job as juror is to say, yes, these works are successful and together they best represent the finest work among this year’s entries.

There were several elements I considered while reviewing the submissions. Perhaps the most important for a plein air painter is a sense of place. I would like the painting to let the viewer share the experience. Values, color choices and mark making are important while craftsmanship and composition should also be well represented. Naturally, when all of these elements are successful, the painting will provide the requisite sense of place and the air that describes it. Certainly, creativity, originality and innovation are also considered and in some cases a piece may simply warrant extended viewing. While making this year’s selections, I was taken by the amazing variety of the works and the idea that so many are beautiful simply because of the passion evident in their creation. Why else would someone stand in the cold or heat, rain or snow, to try and put marks on a surface? I think it is easier not to.

Thank you to all of the artists who submitted paintings and congratulations on all of your fine work. I appreciate being asked to jury this year’s exhibition and hope the show reflects the sincerity with which it was selected and the outstanding talents of the painters in the Ohio Plein Air Society.

– Frederick Fochtman