Studio Visit with Eric Wert
Tucked away in a backyard studio of a Southeast Portland neighborhood, artist Eric Wert works feverishly at an easel with headphones plugged in. I enter the space to see paintings in various stages of completion. Most notable is a large scale painting depicting a gorgeous still life of spilt peonies, waiting to be re-worked by Wert. Hues of red, pink, and white pop against the grayish-blue background, but Wert isn't totally satisfied with the color scheme and says 'Something's not quite right. I think it's the background'. I notice a computer screen displaying the same wallpaper pattern being recreated against the flowers and realize he has plans to incorporate a purplish jewel tone for the background.
The intricate tapestry backgrounds for which Wert has become known haven't always been there. He points out an older work hanging on the wall showing two flowers shoved petals first into a glass jar, leaving stems out and half upright. Though Wert is completely aware of the phallic reference (even joking about it) what he's really aiming to bring to my attention is the blue curtain behind the flowers. The curtain itself is rather unremarkable, a single shade of blue and no pattern aside from the fold creases. Though the painting is beautifully done, it doesn't make my eyes dance as they do with Wert's more recent works. Which is exactly the point Wert wanted to make and the reason he was searching to add a little more punch to his pieces roughly 10 years ago. Today, viewing his work is like a smorgasbord for the senses. His canvases are bursting with intense color palettes and there's an abundance of texture not only in the background, but with the objects as well. I swear I can feel the surfaces even without touching them. The fragrance of his floral arrangements are instantly detectable as with the flavors in the portrayed foods.
Our visit continues with a tour of his and his wife's, Marci, art collection. The couple has been collecting over the past 17 years and have acquired an eclectic mix of realism, conceptual, and naive art. Included in the tour are two graphite drawings by Wert, the larger titled 'Giant' is a remarkable rendering of a cluster of mini cactus while the smaller is a detailed depiction of porous rocks. These drawings (dated 2006 and 2007) are the last drawings in a series created by Wert, mainly because of the painstaking process involved. Realizing working in oils was physically less demanding, he soon turned his attention to painting. For these two graphite works, the conscious shift in mediums is significant not only because they are his final drawings, but also because they inadvertently launched Wert's focus onto painting.
Wert's passion for art is obvious as is his talent for hyper-realism. The visit leaves me with a greater sense of him as an artist, an artist who's inherent nature is to constantly push himself to perfect his craft. And although it may seem that he's reached the pinnacle with his art, I'm certain we will witness another beautiful evolution from Wert in the not too distant future.