A Talk by Peter Frank
at the B. Sakata Garo Gallery


Peter Frank, Art Historian and Critic

Years ago, a friend of mine in Philadelphia, an artist, was telling me about her drive out west, through Wyoming and Montana and here. She enthused about the variety and especially the drama of the topography, all the ups and downs and ins and outs and darks and lights and colors and textures. She described it as "landscape sex." I suspected she was doing so in order to divert my attention and to keep our own interaction on a Platonic plane, but I had to admit she had a point. Landscape is sexy. And, as you can see, Jack Stuppin agrees, with no little passion.

Jack's show here is called "Sensual Landscapes." But that's the PG version. His regard for the landscape, especially the effulgent and abundant landscape that stretches between his home in Sebastopol and the Pacific Ocean, is downright libidinous. The way Jack paints, you want to run your hands all over his paintings - AND all over the actual hills and groves and waves and clouds he paints. And you fully expect the landscape, and the paintings, to caress you back. Fortunately, Jack is too much the gentleman to paint pornographic landscapes, and has developed a style that, like any good party outfit or date movie, still leaves something to the imagination. Jack's paintings look as if they've sprung from the imagination in the first place, but in fact they are largely reportorial. Without being literal, they tell it like it is. The Sonoma coast looks like this. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say, it feels like this. Which makes the show title "Sensual Landscapes" make sense. Except that the title doesn't indicate what a turn-on the landscape and Jack's response to it both are.

If you're a cinema buff you'd probably compare the paintings to those films that European directors write and shoot, movies that star their lovers or spouses, movies that capitalize on their makers' deeper sense of the objects of their gaze. So often, these films are not about the satisfaction of desire but the perpetuation of desire, the self-amplifying quality that looking at or thinking about your beloved causes. That same frisson builds up in these paintings, until you want to jump into them and become paint yourself. You want to disappear into Jack's pictures and never come back - and not even disappearing into the real landscape out there by Bodega will do. Jack goes out there all the time, embraces his landscape love, comes back to the studio, does larger, more polished versions of his encounters, and then goes back for more. And in that way he keeps US coming back for more. Landscape sex is the love that dare not speak its name - and, at the same time, is the love that can't keep quiet.

Peter Frank - Sacramento, CA - February 14, 2004