I left yesterday to travel to Arkansas for my Residency as Artist at Hot Speings National
Park. I left a day early to spend a night in Bentonville, Arkansas to visit the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Museum of Native American History. Last night I checked out Crystal Bridges and it was just spectacular. The collection just floored me. I saw so many paintings by artists who have had profound influences on my work; Audubon, Thomas Moran, Diebenkorn, I could go on and on. But the most important work I saw was by Neil Welliver. 11 years ago I was in a beginning painting class at age 19 at University of Missouri. I didn't know anything about art except that I enjoyed painting. My professor told us to write a report on a living artist who's work I admired. I didn't know any living artists, so I googled "living landscape artist" and came across the work of Neil Welliver. He paints the woods. He makes them look loved, careful, organized, inviting. His paintings are huge, you could step right into them. I wrote my report on him, but he actually passed away in the two weeks before it was due. No longer a living artist, I had to choose someone else. He stuck with me though. His work is something I always go back to. He's not a famous artist by any means, and I had never seen any of his work in real life. But last night I came across a huge snowy woodsy landscape at Crystal Bridges. It was emotional to see. I was an American landscape painter on my way to paint some landscapes during the centennial of the National Park Service, standing in front of an unexpected painting by my biggest influencer. It was his work that took me on this journey. I'm incredibly grateful.