“I have chosen to develop a style of artistic expression with little precedent in the modern aesthetic vernacular. I have ignored the modern concept of the human being as divided into mind and body, and of the human as separate from nature.
This concept is based on the primacy of a scientific approach to ‘knowing’ our world, which marginalizes intuition as a tool for perception and spiritual integration. In an attempt to find meaning, I have reached beyond the sources of the conscious, commenting, and language-oriented mind to something older, richer, deeper and more primitive in the human psyche. I am convinced that there is a need for modern man to move beyond his dualistic relationship with reality and only intuition provides a path to accomplish this goal. Thus I have been most drawn to the older and more spiritual artistic traditions: in particular, the cave paintings at Lascaux, middle American Indian art, elements of Greek and Roman mythic works, and the Renaissance painters and sculptors. Recognizing these traditions, I have not tried to repeat them but have chosen instead to create an artistic expression, which gropes for a future, as yet unseen, where internal reconciliation of both the individual and his world is possible.
My approach, materials and methods are directly related to my artistic philosophy. I begin my work with pencil drawings. These drawings are created on paper by a process, which can only be called "automatic drawing." Initial lines on paper generate their own images. These non-rationally created images are compositionally refined and translated into three dimensional bas-relief terra cotta sculpture panels which exist somewhere between two-dimensional and three-dimensional space. The translation from paper to clay and thus from two to three dimensions also allows for a further deepening of the initial two-dimensional imagery. The clay work is initially fragile; it may explode in the kiln when fired and be completely lost. The images themselves are ephemeral; they are of things and beings that do not exist in the "real" world. Yet, at the same time, they have the potential to create real meaning for the viewer, which may change they, way he lives his life.
The original inspiration for these panels was Ghiberti's golden doors, depicting scenes from the life of Christ, which I had seen when I was in Florence, Italy. Like these doors, my panels are aimed at inspiration for the integration of the human spirit; yet, unlike the more traditionally religious imagery of the doors, the imagery of my panels draws from more universal sources. They also seem to have a familiar literal quality, yet on closer examination they are familiar only as symbol and literal only in an imaginative sense.
It is my conviction that my works provide openings into a different mode of relating to reality which we have lost but which needs to be recreated and refashioned to fit our modern circumstance. With these panels I am attempting to express our prehistory while at the same time generating a future iconography.
The panels are strongly affecting, and individual pieces can generate strong and often times contradictory responses in different viewers. I believe this is because my works challenge each viewer to honestly delve into the inner reaches of their creative self. I have observed that such a challenge can alternatively be viewed as stimulating or offensive depending on the viewers openness to the process.
The pieces have an earthy relationship with life, which makes them more compatible with an organic space such as a garden than with a dry, intellectualized gallery space. One is called by them to return to something known but forgotten, not so much to discern the development of aesthetic elements (color, line, form) but rather to discern their meaning in a deeper spiritual sense. It is this experience which I am most committed to in my art and which I feel lies at the source of renewal for our present art and culture."
Brad Burkhart was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1949. He attended Kalamazoo College in western Michigan, where he graduated with a major in Art and a minor in Physics. He later received a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Michigan.
As an undergraduate, the artist traveled extensively in southern Europe and was profoundly impressed by the Renaissance and medieval artists. He was struck by the change of human consciousness from one of the spiritual orientation to one of intellectual orientation. Brad has exhibited in his art in innumerable group and solo shows widely throughout the United States.
In addition to art, the artist has a persevering interest in the relationship of nature/ecology to art, which led to a study of horticulture and landscape design, as well as art. The pursuit of these interests has led him to become a leader in native habitat restoration. His artwork, like his landscape work, attempts to address the deep sense of alienation from self and from nature, which exists for human beings today.