Contemporary Painter of the American West
To celebrate rural America without a trace of western art cliche is a challenging and lifelong pursuit for any artist. Don Coen has spent his lifetime capturing the sometimes quiet, yet always insistent character of the rural west through large scale and somewhat photo realistic acrylic paintings that mesmerize through their dynamic portrayal of the commonplace.
The Lamar Series is the visual poetry chronicling every day rural America. Absorbing the forgotten and mundane details of farm and ranch life, these fifteen oversized canvases convert the ordinary and overlooked into powerful statements of universal realization and intense reverence for life. The chemistry of the farm fields and the grain feeders are conveyed through many levels of personalities, both bullish and passive, bored and content, always expressing the complex dualities that characterize the west.
As his subjects convey dualities of both character and place, Coen’s technique highlights the complexity of his topic. Viewed from a distance, the paintings in the Lamar Series, evoke familiarity and childhood memories of animals and farming. Yet, up close, the canvases are a mixture of coarse textures, blurred subjects, pencil lines, layers of paint, and pure white canvas. This duality, clarity from afar juxtaposed with a chaotic and luminous beauty parallels the dynamism of rural American that Don Coen chooses to capture.
Until recently, Coen has documented images from his life in Lamar, Colorado. These paintings, and Coen’s work, chronicling farm life are now evolving as America’s agricultural traditions are also changing. As an extensive and appropriate evolution from the Lamar Series, Coen is now working on a new series of large-scale canvases of migrant workers. These paintings will capture the lives and spirit of America’s contemporary migrants. An early morning encounter in 1992 with migrant workers sacking onions in Northern Colorado was the catalyst leading Coen to begin this new series of paintings. With the Migrant Series, Coen’s goal is to raise the consciousness of America to this very overlooked yet vital part of our society, and for the first time give America’s contemporary migrant workers an identity through his paintings. Like the Lamar Series, this new work portrays the dualities of the spirits and worlds we often drive by or do not care to notice. Capturing the essence of rural America, migratory labor and the human spirit he has found, Coen’s work inspires us to notice, to respond and to care about the commonplace.