Themes presented in the work center around experiences that reflect the artist’s journey of individuation and the shared archetypes of human consciousness. The paintings form a personal narrative through abstracted color and line, leaving a history of events that are both individually intimate and illustrative of broader ideas regarding human consciousness and the subconscious.
These themes are rooted in a specific family heritage and regional culture. In 1750, the artist’s ancestors traveled the Great Road from Pennsylvania to the Blue Ridge Highlands, and there is a deep imprint of the region’s topography and Appalachian culture in the creative process. The simple and difficult mountain life of successive generations of family, the arguably abstract crafts of quilting and furniture building, and the mix of natural beauty, poverty, and musical history: these are things the artist encounters daily in reconciliation with the counterweight of a mostly urban adult life. The relative lack of contemporary artistic expression in the Blue Ridge Highlands is a call to create work that speaks of a centuries-old Appalachian culture through a lens of rural-to-urban (and back to rural) migration.
A blank canvas is approached without preconception; the artist begins with gesture-sketch lines, shapes, and curves using a combination of charcoal, sepia pencil, china marker, and graphite. The underlying sketch holds vague symbols, loosely formed words, and abstracted objects that flow intuitively and quickly.
The shapes are filled with thick layers of medium that are blended with brush, knife, and thinners. This underpainting takes on the quality of a Gees Bend quilt—organic shapes in bold colors without clear pattern. Here the artist sees childhood images of an Appalachian great-grandmother and a living room of colorful quilt scraps in paper bags. Paint is added with an often heavy hand followed by a cutting into the thick layers with the end of the brush or other tool and then pulled back revealing hints of the original drawing. The charcoal and pencil is softened by the play of the paint on the surface. Bold color is added liberally and loosely over the entire patchwork composition. Hints of the underlying areas shine through; this effect has been compared to the “fire in an opal” (art writer Rebecca Jones of Richmond, Va.). Scratching and scraping into the paint using various tools builds yet another layer of linework.
Decisions regarding color, shape, line, and texture become reflexes and reactions to the medium, a dialogue that rises as a bell curve and wanes as the painting nears completion. The textural quality is a hallmark of the work as the pieces lean toward minimalism, formalism, and contemporary abstract expressionism.
ABOUT THe ARTIST
Duane Cregger is contemporary artist working in oils and acrylics. His large, brightly colored and heavily textured works form an abstract narrative of life in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Highlands.
Cregger received a Bachelor of Arts in Art from Roanoke College in Salem, Va. He lived in Washington, D.C. for nearly 15 years, with a career in art direction and corporate graphic design; in 2003, he began to paint.
Cregger’s work has been featured in Élan Magazine, American Art Collector, Cottage Style by Better Homes & Gardens, Home & Design, Richmond Home, Traditional Home, and the Better Homes & Gardens Home Decorating Guide. His paintings are found in private and corporate collections throughout the United States, including that of actress/director Drew Barrymore, and in Canada and the Caribbean.
His work was featured in the Richmond Symphony Orchestra’s 2012 Designer House and a three-month solo salon at the Richmond corporate complex of Capital One. A selection of his paintings was juried for inclusion into William King Museum’s contemporary biennial, From These Hills: Contemporary Art in the Southern Appalachian Highlands, with juror Ray Kass; his Ombré.01.blue was selected by New York curator and art writer Doug McClemont for Roanoke College's Olin Hall Galleries 2015 Biennial. Recent commissions include clients in Houston, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Ontario.
Cregger is represented by Aaron Gallery (Washington, D.C.) where he shows with celebrated international artist Javier Cabada, Crossroads Art Center (Richmond, Va.), Appalachian Spirit Gallery (Marion, Va.), Walton Gallery (Petersburg, Va.), Appalachian Arts Center (Cedar Bluff, Va.), Glass Growers Gallery (Erie, Pa.) and Wizzie Broach Interiors (Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Va.).
He is founding member and president of the Appalachian Spirit Artists Cooperative and was appointed to serve on an advisory panel for the Virginia Commission for the Arts from 2009-2012.
Photo by Marcus Bennett, MGB Photography and Video.
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