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Visual Art

En Plein Air: Menomonie artist displays rural life in V1 Gallery

Hannah Mumm, photos by Timothy Mather |

AIR APPARENT. Wisconsin painter Marc Anderson started out doing caricatures at Valley Fair while studying at UW-Stout, training under MAD Magazine’s Tom Richmond. His current exhibit showcases rural landscapes.
AIR APPARENT. Wisconsin painter Marc Anderson started out doing caricatures at Valley Fair while studying at UW-Stout, training under MAD Magazine’s Tom Richmond. His current exhibit showcases rural landscapes.

Marc Anderson will not be confined. The Wisconsin born-and-bred artist stays true to his outdoorsy roots, preferring to paint his natural landscapes in nature, or – as the French (and Marc) say – en plein air. Anderson has never shied from the sunlight. He got his artistic start drawing caricatures at Shakopee’s Valley Fair amusement park between semesters at UW-Stout. It was there that he met and trained under MAD Magazine’s Tom Richmond, who ignited his passion for illustration and cartooning.

Since then, Anderson has become a kind of pioneer, constantly exploring new avenues of expression. Most recently, he’s been experimenting with traditional paint media including watercolors, oils, and acrylics.

“Barns are such interesting subjects to me. There’s so much texture, discoloration, deterioration, line, and shape variety in barns. They tend to be custom fitted into the landscape they’re a part of, so no two are alike.” – Marc Anderson, painter

“It was intimidating at first, but once I got a feel for the paints, I fell in love,” he said. “That was the start of my transition from illustration and cartooning into more traditional fine art.”

In “The Meeting Place,” Anderson’s current exhibit at the Volume One Gallery, he paints a tour of rural Wisconsin in oils, filled with familiar country sights. Originally from the tiny town of Wild Rose, Anderson draws from his childhood surrounded by agriculture, Victorian farmhouses, and natural landscapes.

“Barns are such interesting subjects to me,” he said on his affinity for farms. “There’s so much texture, discoloration, deterioration, line, and shape variety in barns. They tend to be custom fitted into the landscape they’re a part of, so no two are alike.”

“The Meeting Place” makes a stop in the Chippewa Valley, passing sites on the outskirts of Eau Claire and in Anderson’s current hometown of Menomonie. Among them, a farm on U.S. Highway 12, the Chippewa River, and the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts.

Anderson’s other muses are in sharp contrast to the wide-open spaces of his plein air work. He interrupts the tour of barns, silos, and greenery to break for an early morning brew, to get lunch at a small-town diner, and to sit down for a hibachi dinner. “The Grinder” peers down on a sleepy-eyed man grinding coffee beans in a homonymic play on the workaday grind. Eatery and in-home settings impart intimacy on walls filled with aloof landscapes, connecting gallery-goers to the scenes and characters before them.

No matter the subject, Anderson’s oil paintings are original and fascinating. Each utilizes unique brushstrokes that make them appear as if through water or cloudy glass. Together, the artworks create a distorted realism that feels at once traditional and innovative. Though inexplicably linked, this effect puts distance between art and spectator. They eavesdrop on conversations and imagine families inside cozy farmhouses as they pass by on country highways – always observing, never experiencing.

“The Meeting Place,” an exhibit of work by Marc Anderson, is on display through April 29 at the Volume One Gallery, 205 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire.