As a young child, Professor of Art Lynette Lombard was on her father’s shoulders when she saw her first painting by French artist Henri Matisse in a museum. This was one of Lombard’s earliest art memories and set off an appreciation for the craft which eventually led her to Knox College.
“I just remember these huge paintings of figures with lots of movement. When I came out here for my interview [at Knox], I was a still life painter. Monica Berlin was actually one of my models when she was a student,” Lombard said.
As discussed in her recent talk “On The Edge of Nature,” Lombard has moved away from figure painting; however, her love for large scale work with lots of movement has stayed the same. Sometimes Lombard’s work is so large that she uses a ladder as an easel.
For fellow Professor of Art Tony Gant, his first introduction to the art world was through the work of Thomas Hart Benton. Benton, a muralist from the 1930’s was known for gigantic pieces that often spanned the entirety of the rooms he was commissioned to paint.
“Those murals that I saw were around all four walls of the room and so you were actually inside the image. I’ve been kind of responding to this notion of being inside of a work of art in terms of making my own work,” Gant said.
Gant also presented in the “On The Edge of Nature” talk, where he discussed building a piece of artwork on the late professor Robin Metz‘s farm. In his piece titled “The Serpent,” Gant installed an art piece and restored an abandoned shed. For Gant, nature is huge source of inspiration.
“I’ve always had a connection to nature, partially because I come from a long time farm family. Not my parents, but their parents I try to learn the species of the landscape I’m working in. I’m trying to figure out the relationship with the ecosystem,” Gant said.
Similarly, Lombard is constantly trying to re-figure and re-imagine nature in her work. In particular, Lombard has a fascination with the horizon in landscapes.
“I remember being at the airport in Galesburg and looking at the fields, it was April, and I remember thinking [Vincent] Van Gogh would have painted those browns and greens. Really I wanted to paint that, but I hadn’t realized it yet. Being out here [in Galesburg] has been a huge influence,” Lombard said.
Besides the landscape of Galesburg, Lombard’s main influences come from her peers. She likes to think of herself as part of a collective that appreciates sisterhood and feminism. Lombard enjoys the work of famed abstract painter Joan Mitchell. She also believes contemporary artist Amy Sillman is doing excellent work. Grant and Lombard both encourage their students to expose themselves to as much radical and thought-provoking art as they can.
“Art is not a style, art is the result of an investigation of interests. As a result of trying to figure out what you’re interested in, it’ll hopefully look like nothing you’ve seen before,” Gant said.
Lombard likes to remind her students that everytime they create art they are participating in a larger discourse.
“I always tell students that they have a biological family and they also have an art family,” Lombard said. “The art family goes from now and you can trace your lineage back in time. Maybe back to the Renaissance and for some people before then.”