A beautiful view: Artist Brian Ritchard captures American wind power with his brush

27 August 2014 by Natalie Jacewicz Natalie Jacewicz

As wind energy spreads across the country, its signature white turbines have become identified with American optimism and ingenuity.

Artist Brian Ritchard’s series of turbine paintings pay homage to this view of America in vivid color and animated brushstrokes.

According to Ritchard, his art over the past 25 years has been dedicated to “making and exhibiting paintings that have dealt with the specific mash-up of nature, culture and landscape.”

As Ritchard portrayed the American landscape, he grew interested in the works of 19th century American landscape artists. His research delved into the work of artists such as Thomas Moran, Jens Jenson, Frederic Edwin Church, and Thomas Cole, as well as the park designs of Frederick Olmsted (designer of landmarks like Central Park and the National Zoo).

Ritchard’s “task in the studio at this time was to filter these art historical sources into a contemporary landscape practice.” Eventually, the artist’s investigations exposed him to famed landscape artist J.W. Turner and his artistic forebears – the Dutch Masters.

“When these old masters from long ago sought compelling subject matter, they had only to gaze out through their studio windows and country houses. They saw windmills. They saw sky and rain and wind, and were inspired to pick up their brushes. They understood and revered nature. They felt duty-bound to document it, and to be proud of their communities for designing and erecting such clever devices for capturing and using the energy that was there and free for the harvesting.”

Ritchard soon began traveling through the American Midwest, using his Chicago studio as a base. The legacy of Dutch windmills focused his attention on wind farms. He views wind turbines as symbols of “human ingenuity and strategic thinking.”

In painting the wind farms, the artist has also met many local residents, from the rural farmers leasing their land for wind farming to the technicians working on the turbines. Locals are often interested in his art and all too willing to recommend the best local barbeque joint.

During his travels, Ritchard has encountered all kinds of landscapes and all kinds of Americans connected to wind. He hopes his paintings will help celebrate the “type of forward thinking” that leads to innovations like wind energy.

View more of Brian Ritchard’s art at: brianritchard.com/turbine-paintings