RAM Talks Art : Rockford artists Anderson, Busch impact national scene

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StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-119016109112322.jpg’, ‘Photo of art work provided’, ‘Rockford artist Stephen Warde Anderson’s Triuir Eithne. Anderson didn’t begin his professional artistic career until his 30s, and has no formal training as an artist. He is entirely self-taught, working in the media of tempera and gouache.‘);

Rockford, in its history, has produced artists who have impacted the art scene on a national level. Albeit we are not New York, Chicago or L.A., artists of this region are not lacking in creative and artistic abilities. Indeed, the case could be made that being away from a larger art scene provides a freedom to explore artistic possibilities that one may feel pressured to avoid in a larger city.

Let’s take a look at two artists from Rockford who have impacted the national art scene—Stephen Warde Anderson and Douglas Busch.

Stephen Warde Anderson has spent all but a few of his years in Rockford, yet he has exhibited nationwide, including Chicago, Milwaukee and New York. Prominent museums and collections that hold his work include the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., American Folk Art Museum in New York, the Roger Brown Study Collection of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Milwaukee Art Museum. Rockford Art Museum also holds some of his paintings.

Anderson didn’t begin his professional artistic career until his 30s, and has no formal training as an artist. He is entirely self-taught, working in the media of tempera and gouache. In 1988, he had a show at a Rockford café where he was picked up by Phyllis Kind Gallery in Chicago.

A love of classic cinema of the ’40s to the ’70s inspires most of his work. He owns more than 2,300 films on DVD. In the past, he has chosen to portray Hollywood actresses in portraits of their on-screen roles, such as B-movie star Mara Corday or “Technicolor Queen” Maria Montez. More recently, he seems to be delving into a broader range of subjects from diverse walks of life, including English authors Anne Brontë and Jane Austen, Roman goddess Cybele, Irish singer Enya, and contemporary French film sensation Audrey Tautou.

Normally created with the subject looking at the viewer straight on, or at a three-quarter view, these portraits evoke a sense of longing and romanticism for these famous figures. The touch of his brush in describing the flesh tones is very subtle and enigmatic. He contrasts this with a bold, colorful background that is sometimes monochromatic, sometimes a landscape, or sometimes a fantasy scene of his own device.

In an art world that sees many artists with graduate-level education futilely trying to mimic the art of untrained naïve artists, Anderson is real. He pursues his subject matter unpretentiously and with reverence, without the cynicism that characterizes much of the contemporary art scene’s approach to celebrity.

To see some of Anderson’s work, check out his Web site at stephenwardeanderson.com.

Douglas Busch moved to Rockford in 1975 to run the family jewelry business, two years after graduating from the University of Illinois with a degree in photography, and after working with photographic legends Morley Baer and Al Weber in California.

He secured his place as a photographic innovator in 1982, when, after leaving the family business, he founded de Golden Busch and invented the world’s largest portable camera, the de Golden Busch SuperLarge format view camera. With the aid of this 40-inch by 60-inch format behemoth, he soon started exhibiting nationally, and to great acclaim.

He has been featured, at some point, in virtually all major photographic magazines. The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia in Atlanta, Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Rockford Art Museum are among the myriad of museums that hold his work. Since the late ’90s, Busch has been garnering an international reputation with regular shows in Germany, France, Austria and, most recently, Moscow in 2006.

Busch’s choice of subject matter varies greatly—from portraits to nudes to landscapes—but the images always present a heightened sense of clarity. His camera picks up details that remain hidden to the human eye. Even his largest prints (measuring 6 feet by 6 feet) lack any blur or graininess. Busch looks to make the ordinary into the monumental.

In 1988, he produced his first socially conscious series, “Street People,” where he photographed nude homeless people. Many wore bruises and sores as evidence of difficult circumstances. His newest project, “In the Eye of the Beholder—Axial Ethos,” combines his social consciousness with his experience in design and architecture, which he has been cultivating since the early ’90s. A three-story building to be constructed specifically for this project will hold a labyrinth of photographs that will ask the viewer to consider human tragedy and how we are to cope and recover from it.

Busch lived in Rockford until the early ’90s, and currently resides in Malibu, Calif. To find out more about Douglas Busch, see his Web site at www.superlarge.com.

Rockford Art Museum Registrar Jeremiah Blankenbaker can be reached at blankenbaker@rockfordartmuseum.org.

from the Sept. 19 – 25, 2007, issue

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