‘A Sense Of Place’

‘A Sense Of Place’

Artist tries to capture more than what he sees



“As an artist, I have always been interested in a sense of place and the various characteristics that make any one location unique,” muses David Mudrinich. “This can include the natural geographic features of landscape as well as the human alterations made to the land. My work fluctuates in perspective between both expansive panoramic views and more intimate, close-up locations.

“The works I am presenting are my meditation on a sense of place, as it relates to the natural world I live in,” he adds. “My hope is that after viewing this show, others will reflect more on their own experiences and enhance their relationship to the environment they live in.”

Mudrinich, who studied at Penn State and the University of Georgia, lives in Pope County and is a drawing and painting professor in the department of art at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville. He’s also the guest artist currently showing his work at the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum. His exhibition is titled “An Element of Nature – Drawings, Paintings & Beehives.”

“David was the winner of the 2018 RAM Invitational,” explains Lou Meluso, the museum’s executive director. “That provided a cash award ($3,000) plus the opportunity to have a one-person show at RAM. This is his show.

“The invitational is judged by qualified art professionals in the region,” he adds. “I don’t get to vote — drat! — but his work is fabulous.”

Here, Mudrinich talks about his childhood, his artistic choices — and the beehives.

Q. How did your life growing up in Pennsylvania inform your art? Or did your inspiration really come in the forests of Georgia?

A. Both locations really played a role.

I was always outside as a kid growing up. We lived on a small plot of land with a creek running through the back. There is where I first discovered the natural world of plants, animals and design patterns in nature. The creek was always moving, supporting life and changing the natural appearance of the stream bank.

Parallel to this experience, I would also spend time in the mill town of Farrell, Pa., where I was born and where my grandparents still lived. It was just over the hill, three miles from this backyard creek, but it was an extremely different environment. All the houses and streets were in rows lining the hill. This setting was dwarfed by the gigantic, loud, dark, bellowing steel mills that filled the river valley below. I always thought the building bricks were black in town until I saw them pressure-washed one time, revealing their true red-brown color. This dual contrast in environments, as a youth, was striking and remains with me forever in life.

As this steel economy collapsed, I moved south near Athens, Ga. Here my young family and I lived mostly off-grid, renting an old tenant farmhouse without plumbing and heating only with wood cut from the land. Living like this brought you close to all the elements of nature. It was a large piece of acreage that backed up close to the University of Georgia School of Forest Resources research property called Whitehall Forest. I was hired there as a forestry technician, working a number of years while I also attended graduate school at UGA for art. This experience provided a practical scientific understanding of the environment that I blended with my more poetic spiritual view on nature. I feel it gave me more insight into the landscape that I seek to portray.

Q. You say you work best when you’ve been in a location. What does that experience give you that a photo or your imagination could not?

A. When you work on site, all of your senses are exposed to the place you are at. You can hear the crows calling as they fly overhead, helping to define the depth of the space you are in. You feel the temperature of the time of day on your skin. You can smell the rain as a storm cloud approaches. It all heightens the total experience beyond just sight. Everything is in motion, and it forces you to act quickly as an artist, filtering and retaining the more essential characteristics of the location. It also provides additional information that can feed your imagination as you plan your design for a studio-made piece. A photo can give you some information but is never enough on its own for me.

Q. Talk, please, about the variety of media you work in — and why?

A. The works in this exhibit are created with either oil paint, pastel or conte crayon. I also work in charcoal, graphite, ink, watercolor and acrylic. Each medium has its own unique physical characteristics, and I like the challenge of working with that range. Watercolor and acrylic paint work well for me when I am doing studies on site. I often walk some distance, and they are a little more durable for the hike. Pastel is the more recent material that I have come to use. When I am pressed for time with my teaching schedule, I can just pick up a color stick, draw for whatever length of time I have, stop and not have to deal with any excess prep or cleanup. Working with a variety of media also allows me to offer a more enhanced experience to my students that I have in the classroom.

Q. Beehives. Why beehives?

A. The farm next to me has beehives that I see every day. I guess it was just the repetition of those boxes and how they were placed within the landscape that first intrigued me. As pollinators I knew that bees were essential for my garden and for the planet at large. But as I continued to study them, more relationships became revealed. Bees and their hives have been symbolic since ancient times and in many cultures. Because of their sudden appearance after being dormant, they have often become symbols of death and rebirth. As I come across different apiaries, they are sometimes found at abandoned locations such as a farm, home or school. These hives seem to symbolize a regeneration of purpose, giving new life to what was once an active place. Their configuration on the land can also resemble a ritual-like setting, like a calendar or sundial measuring time. I like to roll ideas like this around in my head as I draw. It keeps me motivated.



David Mudrinich:

‘An Element of Nature – Drawings, Paintings & Beehives’

WHEN — Through Nov. 24; hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday & 1-5 p.m. Sunday

WHERE — Fort Smith Regional Art Museum

COST — Free

INFO — 784-2787, fsram.org

Categories: Galleries