Ahzad's Azimuth

Landscape artist Ahzad Bogosian follows the sun for inspiration

Jan 10, 2001 at 4:00 am
Ahzad Bogosian's landscape paintings almost exclusively depict the Midwest, but something in them frequently evokes the desert. The flat vistas of the Great Plains and the monumental views of the sky connote a feeling of gorgeous emptiness, with bands of dark shadow below and infinite variegations of cloud formation above. Although the Midwestern landscape may be criticized for lacking the drama of cliffs or ocean, Bogosian has divined an oeuvre of intense drama afforded by long views of the land and sky surrounding our area. The result is a contemplative and usually moody look at the beautiful desert, if you will, of the Plains.

The artist first photographs and sketches views of the landscape, often observed from the Illinois flats between St. Louis and Chicago. He then repairs to his studio, a high-ceilinged room in one of the former Lemp Brewery buildings, to create a painting. He has painted hundreds of the vistas that inspired him while traveling through Missouri, Illinois and Wisconsin.

"One of the reasons that I like the Midwest," says Bogosian, "is, when I get out into the farmlands, I pull over and take photographs and stuff, I find that dawn and right before the sun goes down there are so many kinds of mysterious things that happen atmospherically that attract me to painting."

Those who have made the drive on I-55 between St. Louis and Chicago usually report that the scenery is unchanging and boring, but they're missing subtle scenes of beauty and forgetting about the sky. Bogosian was recently chosen to be featured in a hardback coffee-table book, The Artist and the American Landscape, which features both long-dead genre masters and modern lights. Author John Driscoll writes of the Great Plains: "Here one can focus on ... the silence at twilight when the final light of the sun lacerates the horizon and the night bleeds slowly across the plains -- puddling here and there before filling all with a darkness that is both impenetrable and vast. The compelling nature of the volume of darkness on the plains is explored in the paintings of ... Bogosian."

The painter often chooses his spots at sunrise or sunset for the dramatic effects of the sky and the quality of sunlight. He has, he admits, taken "certain liberties with accentuating" some of these introspective vistas to "kick them up a notch," which he says helps in rendering a deep-red sunset like that of "Twilight on the Missouri." That scene seems to have been observed through a blood-red lens, something that "wouldn't happen unless there was a nuclear war or something," Bogosian says. "It's not like I'm trying to give the absolute end-all representation of one specific place -- I feel like I'm trying to paint responses and putting emotion into paint."

Lately the painter has been working in muted brown colors applied directly to wood. The resulting shades of umber make the deserted land seem even more shadowy and mysterious, the clouds ominous. These works are melancholy and perhaps even spooky, stealing dark narratives from the landscape that place the mind of the viewer in thrall to Bogosian's muse, the unfathomable Midwestern sky.