For more than twenty-five years, English artist Tony Foster has explored Earth’s wilderness regions with his watercolors. He travels slowly and deliberately, often backpacking on foot, creating his paintings onsite and adding finishing touches at his studio in Cornwall, England. Tony Foster―Sacred Places, Watercolour Diaries from the American Southwest is an exhibit focused on the Colorado Plateau and nearby sites.
The exhibit opens at the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA) in Flagstaff and to the public on Sunday, June 16 through Sunday, October 13, 2013. Early viewing with the artist and exhibit curator will take place at MNA’s 7th Annual Gala on Saturday, June 15 and the Brunch and Curator’s Reception on Sunday, June 16.
MNA Fine Arts Curator Alan Petersen, who is also the curator of this exhibit, says, “Tony Foster’s paintings are a celebration of the beauty of the natural world, and the personal and visual freedom found in remote locations. His paintings are far more than simply depictions of a specific location. Foster’s watercolors combine the painted image with small natural or man-made objects that tell other aspects of the story of his subject. Often his works of art include an entry from his journal and a section of a topographical map, depicting the location and giving the painting a clear geographical context.”
Petersen has also selected a number of objects from MNA’s collections with their origins near the locations of Foster’s paintings. Seeking to create a philosophical dialogue with viewers, these objects enhance the story of the contemporary artist, and those artists and crafts people for whom these places are, or were, sacred.
This body of 33 works of varying sizes (some as large as three by six feet) painted over a period of three years, explores sites in the American Southwest that have sacred associations for a broad range of cultures and faiths. Foster has painted in locations that were sacred to ancient peoples, and others that are sacred to contemporary Native Americans and a broad range of cultures, faiths, and belief systems. The exhibition also includes a series of eight paintings which document a trip down the San Juan River in southern Utah and depict a riparian environment, significant to all of the natural and social sciences.
Tony Foster asserts, “…All societies need to express their reverence for extraordinary places. Tribal societies express it through their religious practices and ceremonies. Our own, more secular society, expresses it by designating national and state parks, national forests and monuments, thus rendering them sacrosanct. It could be argued that the environmental movement is the secular means by which we express our need to honor the earth.”
Museum Director Dr. Robert Breunig adds, “Foster’s works of art are visual poems that give form to the feelings and thoughts that the beauty of the Colorado Plateau inspire. They clearly illustrate the geographical and geological diversity that marks a journey in any direction across the Plateau Province, as John Wesley Powell called it. Tony Foster’s paintings of sacred sites on the Colorado Plateau speak to the richness of the human experience here, the beauty and complexity of the natural world, and the ways in which humanity has given meaning to those places.”
The exhibit is accompanied by a catalog containing reproductions of all the paintings and materials, and includes contributions by curators, philosophers, and ethnologists. MNA’s 7th Annual Gala Weekend includes the Saturday, June 15 Gala Dinner, exhibit preview with the exhibit curator, and silent and live auctions; admission is $250. The Sunday, June 16 (Father’s Day) Brunch and Curator’s Reception will include remarks by Alan Petersen; admission is $45. For event details, auction items, and tickets visit musnaz.org or call 928.774.5213, ext. 219.
A slideshow lecture by Tony Foster titled “Into the Wild―Painting Sacred Places” will take place on Sunday, June 16 at 2 p.m. The artist will talk about sacred places in this region and hiking into them. The lecture is open to the public and is included with Museum admission.
The 7th Annual Gala sponsors include lead sponsor Arizona Public Service; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona; Barringer Crater Company; Bella Investment Group LLC; César Mazier Landscaping and Consulting Inc.; Corbin Financial; Flagstaff Medical Center Foundation; Kinney Construction Services Inc.; Hufford, Horstman, Mongini, Parnell and Tucker P.C.; Miller | Russell & Associates LLC; McCoy Motors; National Bank of Arizona; Northern Trust; Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty; Randy and Carol Schilling; and James and Lillian Reed.
The Museum of Northern Arizona sits at the base of the San Francisco Peaks, in one of Earth’s most spectacular landscapes. With a long and illustrious history, MNA evokes the very spirit of the Colorado Plateau. The Museum presents an ongoing schedule of changing exhibits of fine art from the Colorado Plateau. The Museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and is located three miles north of downtown Flagstaff on Highway 180, scenic route to the Grand Canyon. Admission is $10 adults, $9 seniors (65+), $7 students with student IDs, $6 American Indians (10+), and $6 youths (10–17).