Behind the Canvas

Greg Lindquist and Damian Stamer, both North Carolina raised, create shimmering landscape paintings, simultaneously abstract and representative, that are the focus of our exhibition Altered Land. Here the artists talk about their commonalities, their motivations and inspirations, and their artistic processes.

A gallery view of Damian Stamer and Greg Lindquist’s works on display in the North Carolina Gallery in East Building. The free exhibition Altered Land runs through September 11, 2016.Damian Stamer: I have always admired your ability to produce such extensive research and writing pertaining to the subjects and issues of your two-dimensional work and installations. How do you think this writing affects your paintings, and vice versa?

A panorama view of Greg Lindquist’s work in the galleries. The artist painted the mural background on site with the help of student volunteers.
 Greg Lindquist: The Smoke and Water project is the culmination of my diverse interests and skills, but it’s also an ideological position. In today’s political, social, and aesthetic climate, art has to reach outside of galleries, institutions, and museums. It must cross boundaries, incorporate new strategies and, in short, be about living here and now. I’m more interested in pushing against the traditionally accepted functions of painting. How can the canvas extend into choreographed actions, how can the execution be done by many people beyond myself, how can the beauty of painting address the ugliness of pollution. I believe the artist must be polyvocal, have great flexibility and fluidity with media/approach, and be adaptable.

We both also spend inordinate amounts of time alone with the process of painting, right?

DS: I burrow deep in my studio, entering a zone that, although I am looking out at the world, is quite insular. I very much enjoy that solitude and try to find the depth in the things that I paint. I visit them over and over again, painting the same barn or the collection of barns repeatedly until I discover something new and hidden. 

Damian Stamer, South Lowell 18, 2014, oil on panel, 48 x 90 in., Purchased with funds from the William R. Roberson Jr. and Frances M. Roberson Endowed Fund for North Carolina Art, © 2014 Damian StamerIt’s hard to think of an image kitschier than the American barn. If you Google “landscape painting” you may come up with an old barn eight times out of 10. So in taking something so ubiquitous, and transforming it into something powerful and personal, I’m pulling the specificity of these places and their connection with my own experiences all the way through the wormhole to emerge universal on the other side.

GL: It’s important for my work to not address landscape as the nostalgia of the past but rather the urgency of the present. Sentimentality can manipulate the viewer. I’d rather ask the questions:  How can we use art to make visible pollution that corporations want us to ignore? And how can it play a role in legislative and policy reform to bring equal access of natural resources for all, regardless of race or class? Hopefully, in the future, these paintings will serve as active documents for change. Do you see the work as an emotional document of familiar structures of your childhood?

DS: Yes, in a way. Painting preserves these memories while also documenting these barns that will soon be gone. My work takes these thoughts and manifests them into a physical form; it freezes them, in a way. One of my favorite poems is “Birches” by Robert Frost. He sets up that tension between the imagination and freedom of a boy who grew up too far from town to learn baseball versus the weighty considerations of adult life. Returning to places of my adolescence helps me contemplate my own understanding of happiness, wonder, and exploration, and how these notions both change and stay the same as the years keep rolling by.

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