Friday, July 5, 2013

Meditation and Mystery

Jeff Cochran explores the natural world of landscapes and primates.

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

Transformation 48"x34" oil on canvas
by Jeff Cochran
Many painters like to switch back and forth with their favorite subjects. I find that I tend to go from interior settings with many details to still lifes, which are much more relaxing. 

Jeff Cochran focuses on two very different subjects: landscapes and chimpanzees. You might wonder if there is any connection between the two. I certainly did, so I gave him a call.

Obviously, interest in the natural world is a link. But, mystery is also the common thread. Jeff says that chimps have a certain mystery – they are human-like and can connect with the viewer, who wonders what they are thinking. His landscapes have a sense of mystery, too, painted in a dreamy idealized style.
When I looked at some of Jeff’s paintings, I was reminded of the Hudson River School, a mid-19th century American art movement of landscape painters whose vision was influenced by romanticism. He agreed that he, too, liked to portray pastoral settings. “My paintings look like a place where you could go and sit and think,” he said. Instead of New York’s Hudson River Valley, the land around his home in Taos, New Mexico is Jeff’s inspiration.

Late Summer Irrigation, oil on canvas 54" x 68"
by Jeff Cochran
“I like to do plein air studies in the alfalfa fields that are in this area,” he said. “The rolling mountains and irrigation washes also become subjects for my paintings. There’s a certain atmosphere around here that gives a soft glow to the surroundings.” You can see examples of these places in his paintings entitled “Irrigation at Patrick’s Place” and “Late Summer Irrigation.” These works are larger paintings, taken from his studies and done in his studio.

Irrigation at Patrick's Place oil on canvas 32" x 33"
by Jeff Cochran
Although Jeff paints from nature, he is not interested in being a purely representational artist. His paint palette does not always reflect local color; rather, he prefers to use muted hues that convey his romantic view of the scene. “A Soft Summer Afternoon” and “Pasture in Talpa New Mexico” both have that dreamy quality that draws people to Jeff’s work.

A Soft Summer Afternoon, oil on canvas 46" x 56"
by Jeff Cochran
Pasture in Talpa New Mexico, oil on canvas 40" x 48"
by Jeff Cochran
So, then, you might wonder why he likes to paint chimps. According to Jeff, about 20 years ago, he visited the San Diego Zoo, and was impressed by their amazing chimpanzees. “I started painting them, and people responded very well,” he said. The eyes of these creatures and their soft, fuzzy fur are very appealing. Since he seems to know them so well, he has humanized them in portrait form. “Transformation”(shown at the top of this post) and “Psychedelic Chimp #9 are good examples of Jeff’s skill in getting up close and personal with these creatures, and adding some humor as well.

Psychedlic Chimp #9 oil on canvas 50" x 46"
by Jeff Cochran
His fascination with chimps and their portraits led to his acquaintance with the renowned primatologist, Jane Goodall. Jeff’s relationship with Jane Goodall came about when he found out about her Institute’s annual fund raiser. Uninvited, he sent them a four-foot chimp painting. Jane Goodall loved the painting and didn't want to auction it so she could hang it in her office. “I sent a second painting to donate to the auction, and later on, I attended her 70th birthday party.”

Jeff has a third area of interest. He’s also an organic farmer, selling vegetables at farmer’s markets, as well as opening his farm to young people interested in gardening and farming. Cochran thinks of his farming as art, and that what he is really doing is creating a giant land sculpture. Maybe we can look forward to seeing some romanticized vegetable gardens!


You can view more of Jeff Cochran's art at Wilde Meyer Gallery.