Blanden shows livestock landscapes

Sonja Searcy Johnson’s contemporary livestock landscapes will be featured in the exhibit “Impulse and Remembrance” at the Blanden Memorial Art Museum from now until May 25.

A free reception with the artist will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. April 6, with the artist’s talk beginning at 3:30 p.m. in the East Gallery.

The 31 paintings depict farm animals rendered with an abstracted realism.

The works of art express her daily visualizations on the farm, in Thompson along the northern border of Iowa, adjacent to Minnesota. Johnson has lived on Iowa farms and worked with livestock animals her entire life. Her paintings come from physically knowing the landscape, as opposed to the romantic sensibilities most often present when farm landscape paintings are created by outsiders.

In her work, landscape and animals are grounded in the atmosphere of a work ethic, with long days and nights, and livestock animals that have their own behavioral ways.

“My impressionist paintings of farm animals begin with unguarded, simple ideas,” Johnson said in an artist statement for the exhibit. “In regard to the animal subjects, I do feel a connection. There is motion, instinct, remembrance, and experience. Did I choose them? No, I insist they chose me.

“I begin by looking at several photos, preferably my own. As an introduction I make simple small sketches for reference. Color combinations, light, and value are quickly explored. These are simple possibilities like chords without a melody. Then I can be flexible within the painting process.

“I brush gestural lines directly on the canvas, mapping out the composition. More color is added. I try to think in terms of temperature, warm colors coming forward and cooler tones receding. By the middle stage, a lot of color is used, thick and thin layers of paint. There is exaggeration and improvising, sometimes like loud crescendos of color.

“By the final stages I simplify and harmonize. I choose two, sometimes three main colors for the painting. I try to express what I feel rather than what I know. And then perhaps realism is surrendered for a higher emotional feeling.”

The Blanden is open Tuesdays through Saturdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 920 Third Ave. S. Admission is free. For more information, call 573-2316 or visit