“I AM A REALIST in the traditional sense,” says Janet Kruskamp and, as far as it goes, that is a fair self-judgment of the work of this Los Gatos artist. Realism, however, is a matter of degree. Bierstadt, too, was a realist who was concerned with the majesty of the Western landscape, at least in his major works. His realism bears little relationship to that of Kruskamp. Our best known artist-illustrator, Norman Rockwell, is a realist, too-a bit closer to the Kruskamp camp, but the latter seldom relies on facial expressions to evoke audience reaction.
“Objects showing a history of human use, a hammock, an old chair… a front porch whose steps are worn and bowed from the years of use.” These are the subjects found in Kruskamp canvases. “All are mute evidence of man’s activities.”
Unlike many contemporary artists, particular those working in traditional media and techniques, Janet Kruskamp can be quite verbal in describing her work.
“Many of my subjects are of a nostalgic nature,” says the artist. “My studio is full of old worn objects that show the effect of time and use – driftwood, old bottles, a rusted ice cream freezer, bricks, trunks, dried weeds and other memorabilia. I have long been fascinated with these discards and use them in many of my still life paintings.
“I suppose,” says the artist, “I could be called a ‘regionalist’ even though I strive for a universal appeal in my work. A person doesn’t have to travel very far to see true beauty. It’s right around the corner or, as the saying goes, in your own back yard.
“I feel everything is relative. People are basically pretty much alike the world over. They love, they hate, they work and strive, they grow old and die and the young take their place.”
Working in oil or egg tempera, Kruskamp has evolved a technique that suits her philosophy perfectly. The patina of age she is able to cast at will over her “dicards” furthers the intensity of her “meaning.” Her penchant for detail and strong chiaroscuro – never one at the expense of the other – solidifies her nostalgia for the human condition.
While modernists might scoff at Kruskamp’s traditional romantic realism, there are a few among them who can solidify their own thoughts on canvas so competently. In the twentieth Century, estheticians and artists have led each other on many merry chases – some fruitful, some fruitless – and, strangely enough, in contrast have nurtured at specific times close reexamination of more traditional styles. We see this today in the evaluation of the great body of 19th Century painting of the American West as well as in the “school” of modernity labeled “The New Realism.”
All this is well and good and healthy exercise for the professional critic and historian , but it is always refreshing to view the work of a competent artist, such as Kruskamp, working in the romantic realist tradition. Refreshing because one doesn’t need a degree in art history to understand it one needs only to be human.
Ms. Kruskamp’s work will be on exhibition at San Jose’s Rosicrucian Museum from June 17 to July 30.
Original oils & acrylics, if not framed, are also stretched on wooden "stretcher bars" ready for framing. See all information under each painting.
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