The Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts (LSMSA) will host Jon Griffin Donlon’s Landscapes of the Atchafalaya, abstract expressive paintings & 16X20 fine art photographs in support from October 8th through October 28th in the CPT Art Gallery .
Jon Griffin Donlon was born in Lafayette, Louisiana and graduated from ULL; he left Louisiana to pursue graduate work at the University of Illinois. He has since then shown his drawings, paintings, and photographs from time to time regionally, nationally, and internationally. This is the first large show of Donlon’s free-hanging landscapes since 2005 when much larger work (12 X 16 and 16 X 20) were displayed in Baton Rouge.
Donlon took his Ph.D. from the U of I in the Department of Leisure Studies, specializing in controversial leisure and tourism. In the ensuing decades he has worked in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Near East, the Mediterranean, and the United States. The author of Bayou Country Bloodsport: The Culture of Cockfighting in Southern Louisiana published by the McFarland Press, he has recently finished 8 years in Japan as a full professor at Tokai University in Tokyo and is now occasional faculty at ULL and LSMSA in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
Donlon’s work, usually fairly large paintings, falls into a broad movement in American art that began in the late 1940s and with powerful impulse continues to this day. Exploding from the dynamics of social change triggered by the war, this Abstract Expressive form quickly became a dominant trend in Western painting during the 1950s with people such as Willem de Kooning, Franze Kline and Mark Rothko being well-known exemplars. Donlon admits to being especially fond of and influenced by Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, Ad Reinhardt, Elaine de Kooning and Robert Motherwell, most of whom worked, lived, or exhibited in New York.
Many different painterly styles are involved in Abstract Expressionism, varying in both technique and quality of expression although, despite this variety, the results often share several broad characteristics. According to one authority, “they are basically abstract—i.e., they depict forms not drawn from the visible world. They emphasize free, spontaneous, and personal emotional expression, and they exercise considerable freedom of technique and execution to attain this goal, with a particular emphasis laid on the exploitation of the variable physical character of paint to evoke expressive qualities.” Donlons landscapes of the Atchafalaya don’t render the place as it looks, but as we are made to feel when we look at it.
Aside from his paintings, Donlon is showing sets of drawings and suites of photographs around the state. With his Others InSite the artist at times approaches and at times avoids fully exploiting the beautiful, chilly fine-art surface of “hand-printed” photographs. His images hint to the viewer that the exotic setting is at once a gorgeous presentation, and the result of a slightly appropriative, voyeuristic gaze. Anchored in Dr. Donlon’s travel scholarship, these images demand that the viewer reflect on the process of creation, that bringing into being as “fine art” necessarily imbues the quotidian with prestige. At the same time, the subject under view undergoes jeopardy of loss of autonomy when “captured.”
Donlon was fortunate to have been a student of the legendary Elmore Morgan, Jr., both as a child in Lafayette’s Girard Park Summer Program (enrolled by an aunt who partly raised him), and, later, while working for his art degree at then USL. The strong arts faculty of USL influenced him at the time, including Elemore Morgan, Jr., Fred Packard, Robert Russet, Bob Wiggs, and others – what a wonderful group of teachers, and how lucky he was back then. Donlon’s interests in photography and painting flourished.