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Article from March – April 2007 in New York City
Jeffrey Weston: An Artist Enmeshed in the American Grain

One of the most accomplished exponents of the rugged, rustic strain of American painting that proceeds in a straight line from Marsden Hartley to Richard Bossman is Jeffrey Weston, a resident of Cascade, Idaho, two of whose paintings are in the year-round salon exhibition at Montserrat Gallery, 547 West 27th Street.

Weston, who lives in the mountains, is reportedly a fireman as well as a sculptor and a painter. He was also the 2005 United States National Snow Sculpture Champion. To a New Yorker, he sounds like a larger-than-life latter-day Paul Bunyon kind of character, and that makes his paintings seem all the more authentic and interesting to contemplate.

However, it would be a mistake to perceive Weston as an autodidactic outsider or a colorful primitive. For he holds a BFA from the University of Oregon and is a sophisticated artist with a thorough grounding in art history that gave him the insight to state in a recent interview that much art today consists of "slick techniques and illusions devoid of any higher purpose."

By contrast, Weston’s own work is anything but slick. Rather, it is possessed of a rough vigor that is auspiciously suited to such subjects as "Steve’s Blue Truck," which depicts a vehicle of an especially vibrant hue parked outside a log cabin in a landscape where pine trees proliferate. The whole scene has a tactile quality, as though one would get splinters or get stung by pine needles if one were to run a finger over its surface. Weston’s brushwork is such that the whorls in the grain of the logs, the crusty substance of tree-bark, and the spiky essences of pine needles, among other specific details, are convincingly, almost physically, evoked with each stroke.

However, Weston eschews fussy descriptiveness in favor of a more expressionistic technique. He makes you feel the crisp quality of the cool country air by virtue of the clarity of his colors. Individual forms are blocked boldly in a manner that enables him to integrate cubist structuring in a naturalistic context; to knit together disparate forms in a coherent composition.

Indeed, while Weston shows great affection for the simple trappings of rustic life, it would be a mistake to classify him as a contemporary regionalist, given the European influences that are present in his work. Particularly effective among these is his device, evidently adopted from van Gogh, of employing individual brushstrokes as near-sculptural entities, to impart physical presence to tree-limbs, foliage, and other natural objects, as well as to lend them expressive energy.

In another painting at Monserrat called "Guitar Master," the figure of a musician bent over his instrument is expressively distorted in an almost Picasso-esque manner, albeit with a formal economy that is especially characteristic of Weston’s style.
In his paintings, such musical subjects (which are also recurring themes in his welded steel sculptures) are evoked through a successful synthesis of flowing form and expressive color. Like his landscapes, they convey the blunt beauty that makes the art of Jeffrey Weston, like that of Marsden Hartley, a testament to the power of rugged individuality.

––Byron Coleman

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