Minneapolis artist adds new dimensions to his landscapes

Gregory Euclide
Gregory Euclide has explored landscape and its deeper meanings for several years.
MPR photo/Euan Kerr

Gregory Euclide landscapes are beautiful, and deceptively simple looking. They feature gentle washed-out colors, with crisp looking buildings tucked into sprawling hills and forests.

And usually there are wisps swirling across the surface.

Poetic Time Transfer
"Poetic Time Transfer:Growth" is being used as the poster for Euclide's new show "This is how I've been moving through it," at Augsburg College in Minneapolis
Image courtesy Gregory Euclide

They are decorative but Euclide says they have several possible meanings.

"I think of them as being either like wind or currents," he said. "Basically it's a visualization of things that are usually invisible - seed proliferation, or how one plant might move from this part of the prairie to the next or it may be flight-lines of birds, or it may be how we move through space, like an ariel view of how we might move through the topography of the landscape."

There are multiple layers to the entire pictures. These are images from what he calls idealized memory.

They are recognizable places, but Euclide said that's only because we carry what he calls a mediated idea of how landscape should look. It's not necessarily from our direct experience of nature.

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This is what we have come to recognize as landscape, and when it comes to the buildings, what we have come to recognize as architecture.

Euclide has also been experimenting with placing fragments of landscape paintings in plastic domes.
MPR photo/Euan Kerr

"I'm pretty, just, dissatisfied with architecture in general, the square box - I mean probably the same reason I am dissatisfied with square paintings, flat square paintings," he said. "It just seems like, with the materials that we have and the desires that we have as human beings that these boxes that we live in seem like prescribed things that really don't seem to make much sense."

And that's why Gregory Euclide has taken his landscape paintings to another dimension.

In the Soo Visual Arts Center in South Minneapolis Euclide leads a tour of more recent work he did to get his MFA.

There are about 30 clear plastic domes stuck to the walls. Scattered round them are about a hundred smaller bubbles, each surrounding a tiny picture of a tree, a hill, or a building.

Three dimensional
Gregory Euclide is now exploring landscapes through a process which creates a large three-dimensional structure out of paper and paint.
MPR photo/Euan Kerr

The big domes jut out six inches or so. They hold fragments of a landscape painting, which has been torn and crumpled. Some of them also contain fertilizer, dirt or a twig. Euclide wants people to see the landscape paintings differently.

"And so it's not this beautiful square. It's this torn blown out piece that's contained," he said.

Euclide said the clear plastic may be to protect the landscape on the inside, or to protect the viewer on the outside.

"There's a lot about growth and decay. So in my work, so I like to do these large paintings, and then tear them apart, and then I'll make these works out of them," he said. "And then these works will be torn apart and so there's this constant regeneration in the work, and then again for me, that mimics how nature works."

Euclide said he also hopes to mimic how people experience nature.

He leads the way to a large apparently crumpled mass of paper hanging on one wall. It's only when you get close you notice it's got tiny, delicate trees painted in it's crevices.

"Results of the Historical Unknown"
"Results of the Historical Unknown" (2007)
Image courtesy Gregory Euclide

"I start off doing a large drawing or a painting and I'll work on it while its still wet, so I am spraying it constantly," he said. "And I'll paint a landscape on it and then I'll spray that away with water." The ghost image remains though. And then Euclide begins to fold and sometimes tear the paper, painting more as he goes. It's so wet and paint covered that it begins to develop a life of it's own.

"You make a fold and water falls down into it, and OK that water has to go somewhere, so if you make another fold, it kind of trickles down into here, and now you've got a river valley, and so the process is this unfolding of a creation story in a sense," he said. "He's trying to seduce you into using your whole body in perceiving this artwork," said critic Ann Klefstad.

Klefstad covers the arts for the Duluth News Tribune. She began following Euclide's work some years ago, and she has been watching it evolve. She said for centuries landscape paintings have been seen as something to identify.

"So we see them, we call them by their right name and we move on," she said. "That's a rotten way to experience any kind of art, even if you can get it in 15 seconds, what are you getting? Well, not a lot."

Klefstad said Euclide's three dimensional work forces you to stop and really peer into the folds of the paper, to explore and experience the tiny things you find in his landscapes.

"He really is in love with his subject, which is not the same as being in love with his work. He is very much in love with a subject that is much larger than himself and that's always a good case for an artist you know," she said.

This weekend Gregory Euclide opens a new show at the Gage Family Art Gallery at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. It's called "This is how I've been moving through it." Gallery director Kerry Morgan said Euclide's work is exciting in the way it deals with landscape on so many levels.

"This isn't just taking in the vastness, it's actually taking that and compacting it in a way that asks you to look really, really close," Morgan said. "And I think that macrocosm and microcosm is something that his work draws us into."

The show will include some of Euclide's flat work as he calls it and several of his three dimensional pieces too.

Euclide admits he's at an intriguing point in his career. With the completion of his MFA he's got to strike out on his own. His landscape pictures sell well, and he says he's still happy to do them. However, it's the three dimensional work that excites him, and there aren't as many customers for them.

Critic Anne Klefstad said that's part of the challenge of being an artist, and when it comes to Gregory Euclide, she's confident he'll work it out.