The heart and hand needed to create a strong American painting is not limited to those living east of the Mississippi. It is a product of endless work, self-evaluation, and the courage to allow one’s paintings to evolve. It demands the marriage of the artist’s lifestyle and his work. Theodore Waddell exemplifies this definition. His enthusiasm and lifestyle are reflected in the way he works and the imagery he uses.
Waddell’s paintings are a combination of rough marks; thick paint; transparent elegant strokes; and, on a few occasions a slow, hard line scratched into the canvas. You can feel the movement of the paint throughout the paintings but the subjects are frozen. They are not frozen as a stagnant object but captured as a solitary image. Captured, interpreted and enveloped in the landscape. They are carved out of, or laid onto the green and grey-yellow of the spring and summer, or the white canopy of winter. And sometimes there are ghosts in the paintings, the faint image of what has changed in the piece or decays in the pasture. These ghosts refer to Waddell’s interest in life and death and our own mortality. They are metaphors for the struggle and change that is constant in life. In his artist’s statement he says, “The understanding of death brings about a feeling of wonderfulness and appreciation of life and just how fragile and magical it all is.”
Whether Waddell is studying the changing seasons, animals as individuals, or the later figures, one can see his magic in his reverence for nature and celebration of paint. He is a painter’s painter: strong hearted, sure handed and high spirited.
Therefore, if I must categorize Waddell, he will live in the ranks of American painters and not be limited to the confines of the western artist.
Jennifer Complo McNutt
Curator of Contemporary Art