Artist's Statement ::
One form of my art emerges as landscapes in oil paint on stretched linen. These images begin with the act of hiking into the landscape. The exertion and experiences of the hike are the underpinnings of a drawing. The opportunity of a drawing is also dependent on favorable conditions in a sometimes difficult environment. When these factors all come together, I make the drawing in full color with colored pencil.
I edit the landforms at will and construct my unseen image. I work fast, simplify the forms and seize the opportunities. Later, when I expand the drawing into a painting, other transformations will occur, as a result of the changes of scale, materials and my interior psychology. The experience of passing through the landscape will still guide the painting. I seek to represent the experience of heightened and altered awareness that hiking through the landscape inspires in me.
Another form of my art emerges as wall sculpture. These pieces are expressions of the delight of making things. They incorporate three kinds of material: 1) real-world objects made of wood or metal, with complex, naturally-aged surfaces; 2) symbols from a collection of glyphs that I have created over the last thirty years; 3) abstract, layered forms in wood, which present the objects and glyphs, and which generate the color chords that complete the piece. The finished sculpture can generate feelings in the viewer in response to the color, the formal language of the shapes, and the apparent linguistic power of the glyphs.
Living as we do in a world of highly-refined and sometimes powerful objects, we are trained to approach unknown objects as if their meaning will soon be revealed by friends, trainers, sages or user manuals. These sculptures encourage the anticipation of function and meaning. While waiting for that revelation, the pleasures of mystery and speculation remain.
John Boak was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in the Berkshire Mountains. Most of his childhood was spent in northwestern Connecticut, where he also attended the Hotchkiss School. He is a graduate of Yale University; he received his BA in Fine Art in 1970.
As a child he drew tigers and other animals that garnered him some praise. As so he continued to draw. Sometime in his high school years his older brother took him to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. It was a momentous day. He saw many paintings that excited him including the works of Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Georges Braque, Umberto Boccioni, Alberto Giacommetti, and Henri Matisse. He was thrilled to think that a person could choose to make such things as an adult activity.
He attended school in England between high school and Yale. This allowed him to see more great art in the London’s Tate Gallery, the Louvre in Paris, the Prado in Madrid and many other galleries and museums. He hitchhiked about and got to visit wonderful architecture in cities and villages along the way.
He continued to draw and take art classes even while he majored in English at Yale. In his junior year he decided to become an art major. And thus his career path was set. While at Yale he was able to visit galleries and museums in Manhattan regularly. He took painting courses with Knox Martin and William Conlon. He studied print making with Gabor Peterdi. He studied drawing with Bernard Chaet. He took courses based on the work of Joseph Albers, the Bauhaus artist who had taught for many years at Yale. He had one seminar with Helen Frankenthaler, held at her townhouse in Manhattan. He had a scholarship job in the Sterling Memorial Library making signs on a hand operated letterpress press, made by famed printer/typographer William Caslon in the early nineteenth century. He also studied many other things.
This was the decade of the sixties, a time of great cultural upheaval, an exciting time when the youth culture was not yet entirely a product of the entertainment industry. Boak’s response after graduation was to follow his heart. And so, after a perfunctory stab at getting a job in New York, he let wanderlust take over. He moved to Maui for some postgraduate study in surfing. He later moved to Oak Creek Colorado and began drawing and painting the Colorado landscape, which was to be such an important part of his later work. He also began free-lance design work for local businesses, a method of making money without having a job, a modus vivendi which still aids him in the production of art.
Eventually he moved to Denver, which has been his home ever since. He has shown in a variety of galleries locally and on the coasts. And has continued to design visual goods for business as well. He continued his personal studies of the art & politics of early twentieth century Europe, whose art movements provide the graphic innovations which make our world and mediascape look the way it does. He was also active in creating the movement to close the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons plant near Denver. And he has been active in the Critical Viewing movement, which encourages people to be more aware of the qualities and effects of the entertainment industry’s media products, focusing especially on television news. He also maintains a weblog called cubistro.com which uses cubism as metaphor for analyzing issues of fragmentation and simultaneous multiple perspectives in world cultural and political affairs.
He has worked in a variety of media. He has always produced landscapes in pencil drawing, as well as acrylic or oil paintings. He has also painted invented realities in free-hand air brush. He has painted cubist inspired paintings in oil on a substrate of license plates. He makes wall sculptures of painted wood and found objects. He made prints in many media, including silkscreen, hand lithography, and industrial lithography; his studies of the history of lithography led him to use hand color-separated art on industrial presses.
His design projects have brought him work in print, web design, and architectural enhancements in steel, glass, stone, stucco, wood, aluminum, bronze and painting.
He and his wife, poet Linda Keller, and son Canyon (11/6/90) hike frequently in Colorado and Utah. John draws in colored pencil on some of these hikes, and these drawings form the basis of many of his paintings. They would all like to travel more, but have managed over the years to visit many places in the west as well as Hawaii, France, Italy and the island of Santorini, Greece.
He is a lifelong skier, and an experienced snowboarder. He once saw a person telemark skiing at Jay Peak, Vermont, in the mid-sixites; a few years later, in 1972, living near Steamboat Springs, Colorado, John taught himself how to telemark and began to pass the knowledge on to others. Later as the telemark became well-known and visible even at ski areas Boak began reviving the 1930’s free-heel Christiana, and remains perhaps its only practitioner in the current age. He has always had a strong interest in old knowledge and recommends that everyone read a lot more history.
John Boak 1/14/04