Copper in the Arts

August 2011

Keith Jacobshagen: A Glowing Distillation of Landscape

By Janie Franz

A Golden Year 1Keith Jacobshagen 05.24.2010, oil on copper.
A Golden Year series.

Photograph courtesy of Larry Gawel

The vastness of the open prairie of Nebraska has always fascinated Keith Jacobshagen. "Being a person who has lived a large portion of my life in fly-over country, it is always something that's interesting to contemplate," he says. "The vast majority of the people in the country wouldn't be interested in spending as much time here."

This influence led Jacobshagen to become one of the the country's most sought after landscape painters, with his series of signature paintings on copper that capture the emotion, depth and brilliance of the Midwestern sky. Since 1968, he has had sixty-three solo exhibitions, including shows in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. His work is included in many public, corporate, and private collections throughout the country.

When Jacobshagen first began experimenting with painting in the 1960s and 1970s, the sky and earth of Nebraska became his muse. Taking the advice of an older painter friend who suggested that he make as many paintings as he possibly could, Jacobshagen discovered that the only way to capture that vastness in one sitting was to paint on small canvasses, 3 x 5 notecard size.

Over time Jacobshagen expanded those landscape ideas onto larger canvasses, developing a very loyal following. In an exhibit at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha last month, he returned to those small images. This time Jacobshagen produced 365 images of the same location at the same time of day on postcard size plates of copper.

A Golden Year Keith Jacobshagen, 06.17.2010, oil on copper.
A Golden Year series.

Photograph courtesy of Larry Gawel

But his work is not photographic. It is an interpretation, an emotional response to what is his experience of the landscape that day in any kind of weather. The copper on which he paints exudes its own essence, enhancing what he is translating to a small space.

"I saw the copper as having this great possibility of exhibiting a kind of partnership between what I do as a painter and what the copper does naturally," he says. "Somehow I sort of understood that if I laid down a layer of paint that was thin and therefore close to transparent or maybe even transparent, that the copper would come through that and would allow the paint itself to appear incandescent without my taking an enormous amount of time to mix it to that effect."

Hesse McGraw, the curator of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, says the public's reaction to Jacobshagen's work has been positive but very surprising. "Keith's work is well known in the region," he says. "People want to rush into the room and often we hear them gasp. An audible indication of that surprise is a pretty wonderful thing."


Keith Jacobshagen, Kiechel Fine Art, Lincoln, NE, (402) 420-9553

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