Sheldon Tapley


Sheldon Tapley


Clouds, Tree

Oil on Linen

32 x 84 inches

Signed Lower Right

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Artist’s Statement
The Sublime: Romantic Landscapes Cincinnati Art Galleries

A towering cloud that might be bigger than my own small town, lit by the late afternoon sun in May, glows stately and magnificent beneath a canopy of more distant, shredded, dusky clouds. From my earthbound view, the tree before me seems—however impossibly—to be as large as the cloud that I see beyond it. In reality, the tree and I are small in comparison to the atmospheric display above.

The sky is the best abstract painting ever, with color fields of unmatched luminosity and endlessly inventive painterly gestures that can never be inauthentic. A painter cannot hope to capture it, but I can embrace the inspiration it brings: the desire to make a thing that brings the sky indoors. Dried oil paint, sometimes crustily thick, in other places luminously smooth, can, strangely, be used to suggest light on insubstantial vapor--these structures that seem to be nothing and something at the same time.

Clouds, Tree is the largest of the eight paintings I have exhibited in this show. Its size and long horizontal format are inspired by the tradition of architectural decorative paintings, aiming to turn nature into pattern, to enliven a large space, to project the power of color, to bring indoors our memory of the grandeur outside.

The study for Clouds, Tree is exhibited here, too. It helped me to plan the composition of the larger version, but the color in the two works is different: it became more intense when I painted the image in grand scale. I wish I knew why; all I know is that is was necessary, and took an enormous amount of repainting to discover.

A Cloud Like an Anvil is the study for a second large canvas, now in progress in my studio. In Farm Pond At Sunset, the last sunlight of the day pierces the clouds, making shapes that seem to streak across the dark expanse, turning a small utilitarian pond into a mirror of something much bigger and more mysterious. All these images depict the landscape near my home in central Kentucky. They led me to a renewed excitement about painting the landscape, a practice I had given up for years. Since I made these, I have been creating a series of paintings of the area in which I live. Over the past two years, I took to painting outdoors, from direct observation. The views of Lake Herrington, which borders my county, are some of the first of these.