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Thomas C. Jackson

Paintings On Site


The Grand River Center, Dubuque Iowa

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  • People at the Dubuque Museum of Art informed me about this opportunity and requested information on my artwork to show the City for consideration for the Grand River Center.
  • The City of Dubuque issued a formal Request for Qualifications and conducted a site visit for all interested artists, which I attended.
  • I created and submitted a proposal for site specific work. This proposal contained photos of small watercolor sketches showing concepts for artwork for the building.
  • The selection committee commissioned the oil painting Meander, 22" X 80" to hang behind the main reception desk on the first floor.
  • The City of Dubuque requested each artist with art in the Grand River Center to write a description of the artwork:

I created the concept for this painting with the area behind the main reception desk of Dubuque's new Grand River Center in mind. If it were not for this specific space, the building, the Mississippi River, and surrounding land, this painting would not exist.

At the time I made my first site visit to the as yet unfinished Grand River Center in the summer of 2003, I was working on a series of paintings inspired by carved relief panels from ancient Mesopotamia that I had sketched while visiting the Brooklyn Museum of Art. I was using irregular lines similar to lines where the stone panels had been broken, shapes reflective of stylized figures, and series of parallel lines used in cuneiform writing, the first form of writing developed by man. In completely unrelated moments I had also been thinking that I would like to do an abstract painting of the concept of a meandering river. I used all of this thinking and my feelings about the Grand River Center to create Meander.

When viewing the reception area site I had a strong feeling that a single, extreme horizontal oil on canvas would work best in that area rather than a more traditional shape or two or more paintings. This shape was also perfect to express the idea of a meandering river. This was my starting point. In determining the color palette to use I departed from the very bright colors I had been using on previous paintings and based color choices on the natural colors of sky, water, earth, vegetation, limestone, and river stones. I was particularly intrigued by the range of colors of river stones when both dry and wet.

When making choices on shape I found that many of the shapes I had been using in previous paintings worked perfectly. The horizontal lines of cuneiform writing suggested horizontal lines of limestone in bluffs or furrows in fields. Angles in figures suggested the same angles used in the building itself: in stone columns, in shapes of tiles in the floor, and the angle used on the reception desk. Irregular lines of broken stone suggested irregular tree lines or the lines of creeks separating fields.

The composition of Meander thus is based in equal parts on ancient artifacts, the Grand River Center, and the Mississippi River Valley. Areas of the painting may suggest an aerial view and at the same time suggest a side view of land driving along roads cut through the river bluffs. Meander is not only important to me because of the synergy of the placement of the painting within the Grand River Center, but because it has also taken my art in general in a new direction.