Topographies: Paintings by Wayne L. Geary

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tags: Art Exhibits

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Paintings by Wayne L. Geary
Sat, Jan 14, 4pm

"Topography" is a favorite word of mine. Generally, it refers to a graphic representation of real terrain. It shows the relative positions of landforms and their elevations and depressions. In other words, topography is a representation of the “lay of the land”. Topography can also refer to the actual land forms themselves. Both of these meanings are present in this exhibit of my paintings.

Topography can describe the physical qualities of the land by being an abstraction of those features. For example, a topographical map is a kind of schematic, aerial view of an actual place, where landforms are defined by contour lines. A good topo map can be immensely informative, but it also has a good deal of aesthetic appeal, an often beautiful piece of abstract art. Some of the works in this show reflect this idea: they are made of fragments of topo maps, painted, and included with collage elements from other sources, such as images from 1950’s science fiction and horror comics. My aim in these works is, among other things, to create map-like spaces, essentially two-dimensional, with ambiguous, shifting planes of shallow space.

The more representational works are also topographical in nature, but in a more direct way. These works are “realistic” in that they depict real landforms in real places, mostly in Southern Utah, though some depict areas of the Greater Yellowstone region. In these paintings I use light, shadow, and color to recreate the forms, the topographies, of the subjects. I am not particularly concerned with the picturesque and scenic qualities of places; rather, I aim to use topography as a way of penetrating surface appearances, to try to get to the inner essence of an area or a landform.I see both these modes, the abstract and the representational, as a dialogue between different ways of approaching the infinitely varied forms of the Earth.

I was born in Ogden, Utah. My father was an officer in the US Air Force; my elementary school years were mostly spent on the East Coast—New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. This experience broadened my horizons, no doubt, but at the same time I often felt an acute homesickness for the Western landscape, for the mountains of home. This love for the land of the West has stayed with me ever since, and has been a major source of inspiration for my work.

When I was eleven, I saw “real” art for the first time. It was a kind of epiphany: I experienced the power of great art, and at that moment I knew I was going to become an artist. The moment of revelation occurred on a rainy November afternoon in Wiesbaden, Germany. My father was stationed there at the time, and my family spent a total of four years there. On this occasion, wishing to escape the gloomy weather, I went into the city museum, and spent the next hour wandering through Roman relics, medieval altarpieces, and various natural history exhibits, all fairly interesting. Then I happened to come to a gallery that stopped me cold. The room was filled with enormous landscape paintings by the great German Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich. While I was dazzled by the technical virtuosity of these paintings, I also experienced their deep spiritual qualities, their sense of metaphysical longing, and intimations of the infinite. It is no exaggeration that this experience changed my life, and to this day I still draw power from it.

Years later, in college, I received a degree in art history from the University of Washington and went on to earn an MFA in painting and drawing from the University of Utah. During this time, I began to explore the Canyon Country of Southern Utah, which also proved to be a life-changing experience. Eventually, the landscapes of the Southwest became a major source for inspiration in my work.

I have been fortunate to work for extended periods of time in places with landscapes that are truly inspirational. In 2013, I was selected as the artist-in-residence for the Escalante Canyons Arts Festival, and I spent a month exploring and painting in one of Southern Utah’s most beautiful areas. In 2015, I was the artist-in-residence at the University of Utah’s Taft-Nicholson Center in Montana’s Centennial Valley. This experience led to a greater emphasis on light and color in my work, and perhaps, to a greater simplicity as well.

For a number of years I have also taught art to a wide range of students of all ages. Although teaching can take quite a bit of time and energy from studio work, I value the human contact, the give and take of teaching, and I enjoy sharing my expertise with others. At present, I am a half-time art specialist in a Salt Lake City elementary school, with mostly minority students. This seems to be an ideal balance between sharing my enthusiasm for art with others, and devoting time to my own work.

I am currently seeking gallery representation. For more information, visit

Location: Main Library, Gallery at Library Square

Contact Information: 801-524-8200