a Sharp Point of Focus: Shadows in the Light
by Kate Sullivan
Old friends finish our sentences. That much we know. Defining old
friends, well, it requires more complexity, more thought. Defining
a friend who has talent, who has a legacy of artistic achievement
attached to his life, that is problematic. I've spent a few days mulling
over this idea of a well-defined friendship. An enduring friendship
with a colleague of mine started this idea and it is his fault. I'm
not certain if anyone can define him. I'm not certain there is even
a point to trying. Robert Fichter is elusive and yet, quite straightforward.
He is funny. Not in that wear-my-lampshade-on-my-head funny. His wit
is dry, his humor is often abstract. His work and his life are filled
with innovation, with vexing and fused media. His art, for more than
thirty years, represents what is emerging and possible, but not what
already has been conceived and seen. Once called the Lone Cowboy
of the Apocalypse, Fichter continues to walk tall in those boots.
His art creates anarchy in viewers' heads.
of his recent paintings, one that currently hangs in a riverside home,
a rather foreboding image dominates a wall. Robert Fichter's painting
owns this wall. Appearing as if it takes up an acre of land, although
it may only be six feet by five, it demands a viewpoint. This painting
refuses to be ignored. It may require political perspective, it may
require a stand one way or another about all important endeavors,
but it certainly requires strength of purpose from a viewer. With
smears of black paint adjusting waves of darkness against social injustice,
a spotlighted commentary, in vivid, almost day-glo pop culture orange,
the image speaks out on the topic of a recent Bosnian war, on harsh
human landscapes, and on atrocities. The painting is strong. It is
poignant. It will not be denied. It is in the room, like it or not.
image by Robert Fichter
For biographical information on Robert
Fichter and information on his current work, visit:
State Museum of Fine Arts.
World War I Soldiers, 1970, 14"x18"
Courtesy of the Jerry Uelsmann Collection.
image, seen on this page and titled, "Soldier's Gift" brings
raw emotion to this war, to all wars.
brought to life by Fichter range from winged dogs and war to a comforting
"cup-oh-Joe" reminding us that there was a time before Starbucks.
recent paintings, when viewed by both the novice and the nuanced,
might evoke statements of comparison. "Oh, Chagall." Or,
to being true. Until
a viewer stands in front of a canvas and is able to clearly understand,
and state, "Hmm. Fichter."--that viewer will be missing
the point. The best reaction when seeing his work might be one that
we have when we see a sink hole filled with a mangled carcass and
from that, growing up from the open grave, an eggshell-colored rose.
The antepenultimate comment about life, and our lives. Stark. Visceral.
his photographs of his own cat allow viewers to see not only whimsy
and joy, but an acceptance, even an indulgence for the world's enlarged
folly. Folly by cats. Folly surrounded by light, by ambient shadows,
by historical and sentimental souvenirs of a life, a body of work,
a man remarkable in his choices, in his pursuits, in his guidance
and direction given generously to his students, his friends, and his
will tell you he has an honesty that might be considered abrupt and
to the point. His critiques of his students' art fall into the "minimalist
framework" and although he states his point with kindness, there
are no chances to miss the point.
artist, dancer, and woman-in-motion will tell you that he alternately
gives her freedom to work and second thoughts about practical matters.
Nancy Smith Fichter has a few nicknames for Robert Fichter, and one
of them is a term of endearment that coincides with what most wives
often call their husbands. It's not flattering, but it is fun.
than anything, Robert Fichter is fun. His art, however, offers a viewer
no chance to miss the point. Neither his life nor his art offers any
easily categorized or defined answers. And that is the point.
Cup.oh.Joe by Robert W. Fichter
Credit Photos and Images: Robert W. Fichter