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Why Is Jack Stuppin at the SCM?

By Gretchen Giles

Amateurishly conceived with careful cloud lines and predictably squiggled trees, West County painter Jack Stuppin's garishly undulating canvases worry the walls of the SCM through Oct. 6.

A plein air artist who ordinarily paints in the swift breeze of the actual outdoor scene that pleases him, Stuppin this time retires to his studio to redaub past work. Using computer technology, he has digitally scanned smaller works in larger proportion and painted upon them again, adding what catalogue writer Mark Van Proyen terms "fantastical variations."

Why is the SCM, with all of its high aspirations, exhibiting this particular artist's work?

"The Jack Stuppin show really represents the phenomena of the county and the reality of the county," museum director Dr. Natasha Boas assures. "It was a collaboration with the Sonoma Land Trust. It made many people very, very happy. It brings many constituencies together, and it visually represents and celebrates the county. What I was doing with this show was making us think about the landscape in a broader way."

To which I can only reply that, yes, the canvases are broad.

Lacquered or shellacked to sheen hotly in the museum's keen lighting, Stuppin's earnest paintings, which aim, I suppose, for a blotchy childlike primitivism, embody the worst of Sonoma County landscape painting. He appears to begin copiously at the top of each canvas and then busily work straight down in a businesslike manner without regard to passion, beauty, or truth. Emotion alone would buoy these works, as would even just faithful representation. Instead, these churning canvases boil emptily.

This is what we can expect of SCM's focus on regionalism?

There is no joy in slamming the efforts of a well-regarded philanthropist and citizen who has given generously to many area institutions. Jack Stuppin is a good man who means well but whose work, in this writer's fervent opinion, is simply not worthy of the canonizing imprimatur of a one-man show in an ambitious, forward-looking institution that will next showcase Hassel Smith and James Turrell.

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From the September 12-18, 2002 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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