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Painting from His Roots : The Work of Tucker Eason Painting from His Roots

Origami (oil on canvas, 36×48”)

by Lee Roscoe

Artist Tucker Eason says he learned to actually “see” when a professor of one of his varied media classes, starting with graphite drawing, stopped him when Eason water colored a bridge black because that was its “real” color — pointing out to him blues and reds he had missed.

We hold certain assumptions or iconography in our heads, Eason says, adding that in order to paint well, you have to see beyond those. And he does, entering the life of whatever he paints whether a Pepsi bottle, an old camera, work boots, hands (notoriously difficult to paint), or even, one of his first huge paintings done for a friend when he first started, a cat so beyond cat that it becomes an icon for the feline intellect.

He wanted complete mastery over various mediums especially oil, but also pastel and collage, so that he had the “tools in his toolbox” to free himself to create whatever moved him at the time, to pursue themes which would appeal to him he had not yet discovered.

On Center Gallery will show Eason’s versatile paintings, from representational, crossing over to abstract, with one feeding the other; making art of the quotidian, celebrating it.

His mastery of form is so complete that he can make an origami ship in a bottle trompe l’oeil so real you think it’s paper. A saddle seems to hold the history of the rider in it, ready to mount. A blue and white China teacup tempts you to drink from it and try to understand what household it was in, who drank from it.

Just in his thirties (and about to marry his girlfriend in September) his work is a journal of his life, his growth, his interests. At one point he says, “I became hyper-fixated on hands; in the different expressions people convey when they touch something whether a wine glass, a hammer, or a beloved heirloom.”

Then he painted objects themselves; they became portraits, a synecdoche, “holding space,” he explains, for the people who had used them. They are often vintage analog machines, not of the digital age, freezing a certain time, place, or social context, our connection to certain zeitgeists.  He talks of how “a movie projector is a beautiful machine,” but having outlived its purpose, it has a kind of “tragic beauty.” His series so far includes not only objects and hands, but portraits, and abstracts—some smaller, 30” by 30”, but. many up to 5’ by 3’ and beyond.

He uses his representational work as “underpinnings,” and “compositional pieces” for the new abstractions. He will paint a section cut from an old Life magazine, rather than using the paper itself, layering, building textures, filling in negative space. For the representational work, he photographs, draws, composes. Then it’s all laying on color, and the painting comes out of him. With the abstractions, he has to “think more.”  Where literal art, he says, comes with its own preset “associations and meta tags—working in abstraction is one of more courageous things you can do; there is something very emotional for the viewer, it’s raw and personal.” Surprising the viewer with revelations, often humorous, as in Eight Line, where a collaged bit pops with “the critics are panning us.” His work asks questions, he says; in the case of the abstractions, about art itself: the “hierarchy of media” artists use, with oil at the top.

Though his studio is in Brooklyn, Eason’s from Aspen, Colorado. He grew up with the cognitive dissonance of the romance of the West, his own lower-middle-class family (he helped his father in construction from an early age), and the divide of the wealthy inhabiting the town. Though he was very much a part of the community on the one hand, on the other, he sometimes felt like a stranger there.

The West is in his work: his dad’s Ford truck, cowboy hats, boots and coats, farm tools next to shotguns, fishing gear, a duck hunter in full regalia. Classic Americana. But there is nothing kitsch about this; they, and his portraits especially, pay homage to the individuality and lives of blue-collar men and women who, he says, are often piled together into a discarded, neglected category. There is nothing benighted about his people. He honors them as something beautiful.

A particularly striking piece is Airstream, which captures the dreamy joy of wanderlust. Eason talks about the irony of his mother traveling in it, then returning to Aspen to live in it while he and his dad built mega mansions 10 miles away. He interjects that working-class gear has been coopted by fashion designers and their upper-class customers, which is as bad as modeling an Indian headdress if you are not native. (“People are buying so much Carhartt [work clothing] that plumbers in Bushwick can’t find any,” he quips.)

Eason doesn’t want to paint about “white, middle-class, male sexuality and race,” feeling the subjects getting “old and preachy.” He’s disillusioned with “personal biography which doesn’t tell a larger story.”  He wants to find his own journeys and “more interesting subjects.”

His best joy is in painting. “I can’t tell you how much I love it. It’s my favorite thing to do. It’s meditative, challenging.” Sometimes it doesn’t come out right, sometimes it does, and sometimes it’s “like the Tibetan book of chance,” and takes him off guard with how well it did work, startling him, and he hopes, the viewer as well.

Tucker Eason is exhibiting his work along with Kevin Box in a show entitled Navigating Creativity at On Center Gallery, 352 Commercial St., Provincetown, now through July 10. For more information call 508.665.1988 or visit

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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