Feb 152007
Authors: Amanda Hudick

Until recently, artist J. Michael Simpson kept the subject of his paintings a secret, fearing viewers would expect his paintings to look exactly like the place of his inspiration.

“Until recently, I did not mention the name of the river,” Simpson said. “I did not want the piece to be limited by any expectation that the piece should look exactly like the river I painted.”

Simpson’s creations, currently on display in the Curfman Gallery in the Lory Student Center, are abstract paintings of landscapes, and many are specific segments of a river called the Upper Middle Saluda River, which runs between western North and South Carolina and serves as a metaphor for life.

Simpson has been interested in hydrologic movements since he was a child. The artist said he feels excitement when he nears the stream on which his paintings are based.

“I think, in some way, my paintings are water dances,” Simpson said.

The “Re-implacements” exhibit has poetic landscapes including water, horizons and the sky, all of which represent sublime moments.

“My intent was to find sublime moments of change along the Saluda and poetically re-implace the river in Colorado,” Simpson said.

Presently a resident of Rock Hill, S.C., the abstract painter grew up in Illinois and received his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University and his master’s in science and MFA from Illinois State. This is the first time Simpson’s work has been on display at CSU.

“Going off of feedback, some people didn’t really understand the last show,” said Stanley Scott, director of the Curfman Gallery. “We’ve had a lot of positive feedback (on Simpson’s exhibit).”

Simpson came to CSU when his artwork was put on display in the gallery on Thursday, Jan. 25, and spoke at the opening reception. Through his process of painting, he started to incorporate personal life events into the scenes he painted.

“Hopefully my re-implacements can bring to mind, if even for just a moment, the environment and cultural importance of the sublime place and the sublime experience,” Simpson wrote in the exhibition schedule for the gallery.

There are 10 pieces of art in the Curfman Gallery by Simpson, including, “SwitchBackSwitch,” “PlungeLighteR,” “DropOffDrop,” “Froather,” “Confluence Group,” “Levelor” and “OverShootOver.”

“I’m really terrible at favorites, but the ‘Confluence Group,'” Scott said. “I liked how he ended one of the pieces.”

The Confluence Group is a set of four paintings, all of the same particularly watery landscape. The first of the group is the largest, with the most scenery in it, and as it goes down the line, the paintings zoom in, and get smaller until the fourth, which is only the corner of the circle, placed against a wall. The artist has a different favorite.

“In this show it would be “PlungeLighteR,'” Simpson said.

The reason for his choice would be the influential changes in his life recently, “so its drama of light swirling shift into a plunging swell of white water seem just right for now,” Simpson said.

Staff writer Amanda Hudick can be reached at verve@collegian.com.


“Re-implacements” will be on display in the Curfman Gallery in the Lory Student Center until March 9.

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