We had the pleasure of talking with this well know local artist in his Art Walk show at Burton Jewelers in Anacortes.
Art lovers were offered a rare treat on the Anacortes March First Friday Artwalk. Not only was it a calm, precipitation-free evening, but best of all, Burton Jewelers convinced Alfred Currier to put together his first Skagit Valley show of area landscapes in 10 years. We were fortunate enough to talk to this internationally known artist at the event.
Al is from southern Ohio, and spent most of his early years in the Midwest. He
received a degree in Fine Arts at Columbus College of Arts and Design, and the American Academy of Arts in Chicago. Al mentioned that he started out studying medical illustration. I’m sure he would have been a fine illustrator, but thank goodness he branched out. Al went on to teach figure painting, that’s figure not finger painting, at the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts, also in Chicago.
.Lest we imagine that he has been a successful painter his whole life, Al worked a variety of jobs as well as teaching to supplement his income. In addition to running a bicycle shop, he also related a very interesting story about a commercial painting job in 1963. While still a student, Al linked up with a union painter that was contracted to put a fresh coat of paint on the Mackinac Bridge with connects the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. Having traveled this bridge several times as a resident of that state, I can attest to the effort it would take. The bridge itself is 5 miles long. I would venture to say that the state probably doesn’t realize that it owns the largest Al Currier work in the world! Al has lived in the Skagit Valley since 1990. His answer to my question of what drew him to this area was:
I was drawn to the Pacific Northwest by the combination of the water and mountains, and the moderate climate. I’m really a small town guy, so this seemed like a good place to settle.
Speaking about his creative process, he stressed two things.
I’ve never focused on the commercial aspect of painting. What I really enjoy is that feeling of getting lost in the process, losing track of time and space.
As we walked around the exhibit, Al explained that his smaller works are rendered in the plein air technique, while the larger ones were created using the impasto method. Plein air refers to paintings being done on the spot versus impasto which requires oil paints to be applied in varying thickness and texture. It takes one to three weeks for him to complete one of his large impasto landscapes. I asked Al who his inspirations were, not surprising, he mentioned the Impressionist painters, Cezanne, Monet.
The vibrant colors, and soft, blurred lines of the subjects certainly reminded me of works by the universally known European painters. Al directed us toward his painting of a daffodil field.
See this yellow area? If you look closely, you’ll see that there are also black, blue, and red highlights mixed in. These other colors give it a fragmented appearance.
Many of his paintings celebrate the riot of color that takes over the Skagit Flats during
tulip season. Just as important as the flowers themselves, are the workers toiling to pick them. I asked Al about the figures, and he said that he wanted to draw attention to the important contribution these people make to our lives. He works with several organizations that support the Hispanic community. Al’s works have been on display in many different galleries. He was the official tulip artist in the Netherlands for several years. There are galleries on Bainbridge Island, Lynnwood, and Palm Springs that currently show his work. He did admit to “pulling back a little bit lately” as far as setting up shows, but when I asked him how long he intends to keep producing his beautiful and visually satisfying works, his reply was “forever”. In addition to his signature Skagit landscapes, Al also has works inspired by his travels to Buenas Aires, Greece, and Morocco. He also has a series called Patrizio, named after his father’s Sicilian heritage. This body of work explores his love of abstract painting. It was a real pleasure to take in the beauty of his finely textured landscapes up close, and chat with this humble and talented individual who also calls this area home.
Entertainment Writer Mark Perschbacher…A man who will cross great barriers to find exceptional music, art, food, and beer. Mark is a long time Skagit County