“That speaks to me.”
Those four words are invaluable praise to a two-dimensional visual artist. To one who applies paint to a substrate, communication involves not just creating an image, but an image that asks a question, tells a story, invites the viewer to step in and listen. For fine art painter Jordan Henderson, painting creates conversation.
“I view painting as a means of communication,” the Dayton, WA, artist says.
“The painter projects their vision onto the canvas by physically applying pigment in such a way as to convey that vision, refines it as long as the painter wishes to, and then the audience can see what the painter envisioned by looking at the canvas.”
But it’s not a quick process, he adds — neither the act of painting itself, nor interpretation on the part of the viewer. Appreciating a painting, similar to getting to know and genuinely communicate with another human being, takes time, intensity, and effort.
Communicating Takes Time and Intention
“I am going to draw from popular culture here to make a point. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books this very slow speaking character (Treebeard) says of his slow language (Old Entish), ‘It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time saying anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to.’
“Well, that statement is a good analogy for an important aspect of painting. Painting is a lovely language, but it takes a long time to say anything in it compared to other forms of communication.”
When you look at a painting, Henderson continues, you are looking at subject matter through an artist’s eyes. It is for this reason that Henderson, who grew up on a farm and developed a keen appreciation for barnyard fowl, cattle, goats, and horses, so enjoys painting them. The animals are so ordinary to most people, he explains, that few take time to stop and appreciate their charm and beauty. Or, as Treebeard might expound,
“By painting say, geese, I first make the value judgment that they are worthy of taking a long time to say something about, and then I can communicate with the viewer, ‘Look at this bird’s attitude,’ or ‘Look at how the light falls on these feathers.'”
If successful, he won’t so much have breathed new life into the subject matter as have conveyed worthy elements that were there all along. The geese are worth painting, because they’re worth talking about.
Geese, and Covid-19
This conveyance, he adds, goes beyond the barnyard into the political paddock, where Henderson explores the repercussions and reverberations of deeply controversial topics, most recently, Covid-19. It is a subject matter he began focusing upon in Spring 2020 and continues into the present.
“My allegorical Covid-19 paintings might seem like a 180-degree turn from painting geese, but actually it is rather similar: Orwellian doublespeak, contempt for the rights of individual human beings, and total nonsense put forth as unquestionable truth, have become so commonplace that people fail to see their brutal significance, just as easily as they overlook the beauty of a domestic animal.
“Painting is every bit as useful for shedding light on these things, communicating their existence, as it is for highlighting beauty.”
Henderson’s Covid-19 paintings have attracted the notice and attention of independent media, including GlobalResearch.ca, Off-Guardian.org, WinterOak.org.uk/, Nevermore.Media, MuchAdoAboutCorona.ca, and LockDownSceptics.org. These and others have published Henderson’s images online or in print. The description and story of the paintings have been translated into other news platforms in French, Spanish, German Chinese, and Slovenian. He has been interviewed and appeared on podcasts by John Manley of Much Ado about Corona and Richard Jacobs of FindingGeniusPodcast.com. A number of indie book authors have approached him about doing the cover art for their books.
Communicating around the Globe
Henderson has sold prints and originals of both barnyard and political paintings throughout the world. One buyer in the UK purchased the originals of White and Grey Geese, featuring, well, geese, and Safe and Sanitized, an allegorical Covid-19 image of handcuffed skeletal hands holding aloft a skull gagged with a medical face mask, to hang together in his home. He wrote Henderson that visitors expressed approbation of each.
And whether he’s painting gaggles of geese or skulls in masks, Henderson appreciates the marriage of high tech digital communication with the timeless tech of oil painting. Combined they communicate, literally, across the globe.
“Oil painting is old tech, but it is also high tech in the literal sense that it is a highly developed technology, with hundreds of years’ worth of trial and error, and contributions by artist and art suppliers.
“I want a medium that I can use to say exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it. I can do that with oil paint. The medium doesn’t get in my way, and does basically whatever I want it to.”
Contact Wenaha Gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.