Gene Jenneman, director of the
Dennos Museum Center, where the paintings are featured, credits Harry and Piper Goldson with securing the display. The Goldsons, owners of Suttons Bay
Galleries, have worked with both
Chatham and Pittman for the past dozen years to build the collection.
For a long time, Russell was the only living painter we carried, Goldson says. She is clear about the reason: Chatham is the best American landscape painter living today, she says.
WHOS WHO OF COLLECTORS
Titled Poetry of Landscape: The Seasons-Paintings by Russell Chatham, the retrospective represents nearly 35 years of Chathams career. The exhibition is most impressive, Goldson says, because it represents the largest single collection of Chatham paintings.
The 68-year-old Chatham, from Livingston, Montana, is widely known for his original lithographs. Lithography involves applying paint to multiple plates, and then printing the plates for the finished image. Goldson says
Chatham uses primarily aluminum plates in his work, and where typical lithographs might be printed from four plates, Chatham uses as many as 20,
allowing for a far more subtle effect.
Chathams paintings and lithographs have been displayed in more than 400 one-man shows. His works can be found in more than 4,000 public and private collections, and his collectors are a whos who of film, publishing, and more, including Jimmy Buffet, Tom Brokaw, Sean Connery, Jack Nicholson, and others.
Of the paintings set for display at the Dennos, Goldson says, We had collected them one by one over the last 12 years. She is enthused to have the works assembled in one location. Its great to see paintings I havent seen in years, she says.
Jenneman says he is delighted to bring the collection to the area, as it is a chance to present another side of Chatham.
Goldson says the collection was possible not only because of time, but patience and luck as well. She says it would be impossible to put together a similar collection today, in part because Chatham is not painting today as he was 10 or 20 years ago.
Chatham, a native of California, picked up painting early, finding himself influenced by his grandfather Gottardo Piazzoni, who is considered one of the most important landscape painters of the early 20th century.
In addition to his painting and
lithography, Chatham is also a
notable author and publisher. His books,
including Dark Waters and Seasons of the Angler, deal largely with bird hunting and fly fishing, two of his other
passions. He also operates Clark City Press in Livingston.
Chathams connection to Northern Michigan is the result of his longtime friendship with writer Jim Harrison, a former Leelanau County resident and current Livingston area neighbor. Chathams paintings have regularly
appeared on the cover of Harrisons more than three dozen books. In addition, Chathams work has graced the covers of books by another former Michigan resident, Dan Gerber, who has also long collected Chathams work.
Harry Goldsons mutual friendship with Harrison ultimately forged the relationship between Chatham and Goldson. Harrison told Harry, Ive got this friend Id like you to meet, Piper says. Soon after, the Goldsons, who deal almost exclusively in rare works, began carrying Chathams work.
A STRIKING COLLECTION
The paintings in the exhibition, which range in sizes up to 24 x 30 and consist primarily of oil on canvas,
represent the collections of many of Chathams literary friends. Goldson says two of the works were formerly part of the Gerber collection. One was once owned by author Richard
Brautigan, and another formerly
belonged to writer William Hjortsberg.
The paintings are displayed alongside storyboards that offer quotes about Chathams work from his
collectors and friends. Gerber declares that
Chatham shows us how to look with new eyes. Harrison believes Chathams work is so inconsolably austere and authoritative that we have the choice of turning away or temporarily losing our personalities.
Chatham works with his own blended colors from a palette, primarily
depicting scenes of northern California and rural Montana, the two places he has called home. What results is a combination of light and shadow which
emotionally evokes the complexity of an
otherwise sober landscape.
Chatham has recently been out of the country, painting, and was
unavailable for comment at press time.
Goldson is hopeful he will be able to visit the
exhibition later this winter.
Though his work is well known in Northern Michigan, Chatham has only rarely used the area as subject matter. Michigan Fields-II renders a scene from Leelanau County and is a notable exception. It is a former part of Gerbers collection.
Poetry of Landscape: The Seasons-Paintings by Russell Chatham runs through March 30. For info call the Dennos Museum Center at