Courtesy of the artist.
Some For Gerald Cournoyer, painting is a meditative process and a way of reflection on his culture, as he tells the stories of many lives through his works. Cournoyer explores patterns, illusions, realism and abstraction all within a single painting – the results are original, unique paintings with a voice. As an artist, Cournoyer strives to bridge the gap between traditional Lakota art and contemporary art.
Gerald Cournoyer was born in 1966 in Wagner, South Dakota. After serving 4 years in the United States Marine Corps, Cournoyer decided to study art, and he has received degrees from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of South Dakota, and a Master of Art at University of South Dakota. Gerald is currently working towards his Master of Fine Art in Painting at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.
Cournoyer’s works have evolved greatly over time, as his style now is mostly abstract, as he incorporates the use of geometric beadwork and quillwork forms. Color is very important and personal to Cournoyer, as he sees the use of color in his paintings as analogous to the traditional spirituality of family history. Cournoyer uses his large non–figurative expanses of color and form as an opportunity for the viewer to explore the depth and stimulation of color. Recently, Cournoyer has been experimenting with a technique involving glass, which creatures texture in his work, while it still maintains a reflective surface. This technique allows Cournoyer to create depth and three-dimensional imagery within his work. Cournoyer’s work was recently included in Broadway Gallery’s Global Art Project, a show that pays tribute to the format of a salon hanging and focuses on the significance of exhibiting a variety of works in a pluralistic art world.
One of his most impressive works on view was A Closer Look at Gall. Made of a grid-like series of ellipses, rectangles and squares this work is intense. The shapes form to make up the face of a bearded man captured in deep blue with hints of reds and greens. It is a bold work of rich nuance. The man’s face is frontal, stern, visceral and bold. One could say that Cournoyer is an artist who paints the way he wants to paint it. Each work is a copy of the original in his mind; a combination of emotion, realism, and abstraction. And in this work, there is a recognizable element, de-contextualized, and integrated into a new, graphical environment, entirely based on the artist’s impression and preference.
Courtesy of the artist.
Another equally intense work is Badlands Beauty at Evening. Here Cournoyer mixes disparate imagery with ease. Set against a deepened blue background at bright, golden butterfly soars in the upper corner. Butterflies are symbolic of innocence, purity and freedom. Below this majestic sight is a fence and street of hot red, green and black. This geometric partition is decidedly graphic and bold. It stands out as a unique separating device between the upper and lower halves of the canvas. This keeps the viewer in and out at the same time.
I recently caught up with Gerald to find out more about his work.
Rose Hobart: Do you ever find yourself wanting to expand your subject matter?
Gerald Cournoyer: Yes, I often experiment with a larger color palette and expansive shapes trying to create works of pure symbolism.
RH: How long have you been painting?
GC: 20 years.
RH: Do you have a favorite piece or series?
GC: I find an appreciation and a connection with the Raven Series of paintings. Within Lakota spirituality and philosophy the raven represents a messenger foretelling what is to come, possibly bringing news from ancestors of the past. The raven is held within high regard, therefore my portrayal of the raven within a series is a way of honoring my culture and ancestors for providing this talent.
Judging from his recent track record, Cournoyer is an artist at the height to his career. He is a seminal paintings explore the interaction between opposites. Made visible when he investigates the connection between reality and illusion, silence and noise, curves and straight lines. These are the qualities of true experimental artists.