Among the generation of American artists now in their seventies, Iowa born painter and printmaker Jim Buckels is a delightful anomaly: an artist more driven by his inner visions than by fashions and trends, while maintaining an innate sophistication that places his work prominently within the post-modern mainstream. In fact, Buckels is a Neo-Surrealist of a peculiarly American Breed: a creator of dream-like images, rendered in a meticulous, modern airbrush technique with the crystalline clarity of a Colonial limner. In his lithographs and serigraphs, as well as in his acrylic paintings, Buckels limns a seamless realm of fantasy that has won him a major reputation in a remarkably short span of time.
Jim Buckels' fascination with fantasy began in early childhood, when his mother, a professor of English composition and literature at Iowa State University, would read to him from storybooks illustrated by N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, and Howard Pyle. His artistic talent would later win him a scholarship to the University of Northern Iowa. His adventurous spirit compelled him to interrupt his studies during his sophomore year, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army for a three-year stint that would include a tour of Vietnam. Returning to civilian life and his studies at UNI in 1971, Buckels earned a bachelor's degree in art and began his career as a freelance illustrator. He would become known for his stylized landscapes, inspired by such regional artists as Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton, as well as by the primitive dreamscapes of the great French painter, Henri Rousseau.
These unique influences are reflected in the acrylic paintings, lithographs, and serigraphs for which Jim Buckels is now best known. The visionary vistas and fantastic architectural details offer the viewer a restful respite from reality. These paintings and prints provide a magical refuge for the viewer, a return trip ticket to the storybook realm of childhood reverie.
As one New York art critic recently noted, Jim Buckels works "tell stories that linger in memory long after one has viewed them, hinting at truths that lie just below the surface of the seen world". For this reason as well as for his outstanding technical skills, Buckels has emerged as a contemporary master whose work will continue to enthrall us for many years to come.
Captions from Jim Buckels: Metaphysical Landscapes
"Until [that] time, all my heroes had been Abstract Expressionists but I knew by [then] that I had no gift for making a spontaneous gesture. I just knew it wasn't the beat of my nature. However, I had begun to admire some of the Photo Realists, like Richard Estes. I tried to emulate this style and found that I could, and in the process, I learned a lot about the mechanics of painting. Ultimately, my new-found skills led me into applied art and illustration, where they were useful tools."
"A lot of contemporary art is about the paint itself and the surface. For me, though, as a painter of representational art, it's important that the viewer forgets about the frame and the surface and pass through them to enter the space I've created. Of course, once you've coaxed them that far you have a responsibility to do more. TV can accomplish this quite easily. For a painter it's much more difficult, but it can be done. You have to ask yourself: What's next? Will I entertain them, or soothe them, or will I challenge them to look at the world in a new way?"
"On one level, I think of myself as a decorative artisan, or at best a scene painter. I don't mind this distinction, because many of my heroes never achieved much more. It's a modest but honorable aspiration. The artists who have influenced me are quite dissimilar and usually less prominent in the pantheon of art history: Canaletto, the Flemish scene painters, the Hudson River artists like John Frederick Kensett, the Pre-Raphaelites like Edward Byrne-Jones, the Symbolists like Arnold Bocklin, the Surrealists like Magritte, and so on. Of course, I love the great masters from all periods, but I have a special affinity for the more obscure artist who had the gift for being able to coax you past the frame and transport you to another dimension. I think I actually do this sometimes and if it's all I can ever do, that's enough for me. Isadora Duncan said that all her life she had struggled to make one authentic gesture. I think that's what we all want."