Sunday, May 16, 2010

Jim Buckels

Since my last post I got very nostalgic thinking about my high school days, and then got even more nostalgic thinking about my middle school and elementary days, and one artist whose images especially bring back the wonder and emotions of my childhood are those of Jim Buckels.

I first remember seeing a coffee-table book of his post-modern, neo-surrealist images when I was about twelve. They immediately struck a chord with me. I would spend hours gazing at them all.

I swear I could almost smell the fragrance of mid-summer roses, hear the gentle warble of a wood thrush, and feel a cool vapor rising off the lake onto my face. His images were captivating and dream-like, so much so that part of me yearned more than anything to live inside their perfect stillness forever.

Born in 1948 in Iowa State, Jim Buckels' fascination with fantasy began in early childhood when his mother, who taught English comp and literature at Iowa State University, would read to him from storybooks illustrated by N.C. Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish. The similarities between Buckels' and Parrish's use of light and architecture are quite apparent.

Maxfield Parrish

Jim Buckels

When he was eighteen, Buckels won an art competition and received a full scholarship to the University of Northern Iowa. In 1968, he interrupted his studies to join the army and serve two years in Vietnam. Once he returned he completed his education, found work as a freelance illustrator, and later worked in a design firm, becoming known for his stylized landscapes and dreamscapes.

On first glance they appear "pretty", perhaps even uninspired landscapes, meant only to please the viewer. Art for art's sake. However, on second glance they seem to reveal truths of lingering memories that continue to haunt you long after wards.

There is an interplay of warm fantasy and mythology to them, as well as an element of cold, modern starkness. Perhaps, this is due to Buckels' airbrush technique which produces straight lines and reflections of such geometric precision, and detail of such meticulous, crystalline clarity... but it's not just that. Everything is almost off-puttingly serene; the water so untouched, the lawns so exactly cut, yet there isn't a human soul to be found.

Buckels' surrealist influence is evident from his use of marble spheres and random pianos floating on water and in air. Are these objects purely symbolic or actual embodiments of the artist's dream-like subconsciousness?

I suppose for a young impressionable girl of my age there was nothing more alluring than a world of fairy tale chateaus, magical palaces, and elegant villas, but I like to think there was something more to the images that enticed me than silly girlhood fantasies.

Perhaps it was the ever vigilant moon, a symbol of the feminine, or the female busts and statues named after greek goddesses that seemed to address a certain feminine mystique.

All I can say, is there was something about the dusky twilight and glow of the street lamps that made me swell with awe and almost dread. The best way I can think to describe the beauty is that it made my heart ache. Way to elicit an emotional response Mr. Buckels.


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