Keith Achepohl: Vision of Nature/Vessel of Beauty

January 20, 2018 to April 29, 2018

In 2011, Eugene-based artist Keith Achepohl (American, born 1934) spent three weeks at the Morris Graves Foundation Artist Residency, “The Lake,” in Loleta, California. That period of uninterrupted work, followed by a second stay in 2016, profoundly affected both the artist’s subject matter and his media. Thus far, Achepohl has created nine distinct yet interrelated explorations of the plants and trees that he observed at Morris Graves's final home, which are presented here for the first time.  Although the finished pieces are wholly of nature, they are, according to the artist, neither landscapes nor botanical studies. Rather, he describes them as “more fantasy than reality, an intensely personal language of nature that developed from careful observation to mnemonic response.” Achepohl’s virtuosity across media is evident in these sensitively rendered, metaphorically rich portraits of The Lake’s natural splendor.

In his artist’s statement about this body of work, Achepohl wrote:

It was easy to concentrate on a group of plants and begin witnessing the cycle from a young green stem growing into a robust maturity, finally transitioning into its final stage as its sleek lines shriveled and achieved a proud baroque character. A single tree could be observed many times, revealing a different landscape in the intricacies of its bark and branches at each perspective. The Lake provided an endless course of material to mentally record what I could record at the moment, and to this day those visions have generated mnemonic responses as significant as the initial encounters. What was seen then and later recalled has dictated the direction and materials used in the creation of the images presented here. Watercolor, pencil drawings, oil paint on raw linen, acrylic and collage paintings.  I have never thought of what I work on as “landscape” pictures. The plants and trees that have come into my life have always been living entities. Part of life, part of time.

Keith Achepohl received a B.A. from Knox College (1956), an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa (1960), and honorary doctorates from Pacific Lutheran University (1989) and Knox College (1996). He served as head of printmaking at the School of Art at the University of Iowa and director of the University of Iowa Summer in Venice. Among his numerous awards and recognitions are Fulbright grants in Egypt (1977) and Turkey (1984) and a National Endowment for the Arts grant (1994). Achepohl has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally.  His works are held in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.; the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid, Spain; the Kobe Art Museum in Japan; the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum;  the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art; and many others.

Keith Achepohl: Vision of Nature/Vessel of Beauty was curated by Danielle Knapp, McCosh Associate Curator, and Jill Hartz, Executive Director. The exhibition and its fully illustrated catalog are made possible with the generous support of the Coeta and Donald Barker Changing Exhibitions Endowment; the Harold and Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation; the Oregon Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency; Philip and Sandra Piele; Diana Gardener; and JSMA members.