Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Newport Art Museum

Red Diving Bird, 2010, oil on canvas; 24 x 24 in.

Gayle Hargreaves



In Trent Burleson’s paintings, birds vie for a vulnerable

morsel, dive with grace and focused intent, or threaten

each other with displays of aggression. Their shapes and

the foliage that surrounds them are softened, blurry – as

though viewed though a gossamer veil. His colors range

from muted tones of ochre, brown and gray to more

intense shades of yellow, red and green. But always the

scenes are illuminated by an unnatural light: things are

not quite what they seem.

A painter of landscapes, still lifes and portraits,

Burleson says, “All of my work is about the same things:

composition, structure and geometry. I’m interested in

how a painting works, how shapes are repeated, how

they relate to each other.” His interest also extends to

“...the narrative that the birds create. I love the bird(s)

because they’re flying, they’re going somewhere.” In

most of these paintings, “the birds are contending for

something, they’re striving.”

Burleson’s birds are beautiful, breathtaking even, but

they aren’t precisely true-to-life. “If I were a naturalist, I

would make the birds more realistic; paint them with a

higher degree of verisimilitude.”

Despite the title “Birds and other Metaphors,” Burleson,

who teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design,

declines to offer his own metaphorical interpretations of

his paintings. says Burleson, “I invite the viewers to find

their own meaning and metaphors.”

Trent Burleson will be here to talk with us over lunch

on Tuesday, July 26 at noon. At 1 pm, Trent will

demonstrate chiaroscuro, a technique with origins in

the renaissance and still used today to create depth

on a two-dimensional surface by manipulating light

and shadow. Bring a lunch. Free for Members; $5 for


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