Art Gallery: Scott Burdick


Painter Scott Burdick doesn’t want you looking at his art. He wants you to read the expressions of his subjects and find the emotion from within.

Whether it’s an image of a Navajo woman standing with her arms crossed against the backdrop of Monument Valley or a young girl wearing long braids over a pink dress and butterfly vest dressed for a powwow, painter Scott Burdick leaves his subjects’ faces expressionless, and even vague by design. “I like to have a neutral expression where people can read into it,” he says. It aims for realism, but only up to a point. “I tend to paint people, both in landscape, interiors or even in a magical-realistic environment. I tell a story and try to create a visually interesting image or person you want to highlight. know more.

An open storytelling quality of his images – mostly people, and usually more women than men, he says – animates all of Burdick’s paintings. Although the interpretation is her own, her goal is to spark interest and subtly create an emotional connection between the image and the viewer, so that each can convey their own stories to the painting, not the other way around.

The emotion is there, but it is subtle. You have to look for it; you have to commit. And that’s precisely what Burdick is aiming for: the magic that happens when a story comes to life.

Weaver by Scott Burdick; oil on canvas; 24×18.


“Painting, writing and filmmaking were what obsessed me as a kid,” Burdick, now 55, says from his studio outside Winston-Salem, North Carolina. , in the Appalachian foothills (his wife, painter Susan Lyon, has a separate studio on the property). “It’s about telling stories and having something you want to say and convey to someone else. Some stories can only be told visually. What I love about painting is that she’s telling stories. It shows a visual image or something that I see in that person. I could tell you about it, but you won’t get it, because it’s not for words. I have to. to paint.

For Burdick, the stories became the world he lived in when he was constantly in and out of the hospital for operations on his club feet as a child. The eldest of four children, he lived with his family in a working-class neighborhood in Chicago. His mother accompanies him to his visits to the doctor and teaches him to draw to pass the time. When he wasn’t reading books or writing stories, he was drawing in notepads, creating worlds and stories different from his own.

By the time he was in high school, he knew he wanted to be a writer or a painter. “I took the bus and the “L” on my crutches and went to classes on Saturdays at the American Academy of Art; in the summer, I took drawing lessons from life,” he says. “I paid them with money I earned working at a hot dog stand.” After that, he got a scholarship there and sealed his fate by honing his craft with nights and weekends at the infamous Palette and Chisel Club.

He hasn’t slowed down since. Today, Burdick travels the world for new subjects and stories, frequently packing up his oils, watercolors, and brushes and hunting West – Utah and Arizona, in particular. He paints what he finds there: landscapes, people, or both. “When I paint, I always talk to the person and ask them for their story,” he says. “For me, that’s the most fun part. Sometimes I just talk to people and other times I record their stories. Those that are really interesting, I will write them down and post them on Facebook or on Medium. He can do up to two to three paintings a day on these trips, rework them in the studio, or just leave them as they are.

“Sky Riders” by Scott Burdick; acrylic paint on canvas; 20×30.

“White Feather” by Scott Burdick; oil on canvas; 18×24.

“Nation” by Scott Burdick; oil on canvas; 30×40.

“The Gathering” by Scott Burdick; oil on linen; 70×68.

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Among the many paintings he produces in a year, four of them will go, as they have done for more than a decade, to the prestigious Prix de West exhibition in June at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma. City. For last year’s exhibition, when Burdick won the Robert Lougheed Memorial Award (voted by the exhibition artists for best group of paintings), he painted four portraits of women living in the West, each representing a different racial group. “I titled the four paintings The number, Colors, Of ourand Nation“, he says, “only one of the paintings would be a recognizably ‘Western’ painting, but the great thing about West’s Prize and museum directors is that they take a broad view that includes modern aspects. as well as historical. of what the West is and what it could be in the future.

As another example, Burdick recalls the year he painted a couple of young Navajo children sitting in their minivan looking out the half-open window. “The children were dressed in a resolutely modern way; the only clue from the west was some mountains in the background. I named the table Traditional Navajo minibus. Susan Patterson, the museum’s exhibit curator, laughed with delight when she saw my odd submission and said she was pretty sure she had never seen a minivan in the exhibit. previously.

Although many of his paintings depict Western people and places, Burdick does not consider himself a “Western” painter. “I don’t put any sort of label on my paintings,” he says. “I love western scenes and I love native culture. But I love all cultures. I don’t know what kind of painter I am. I’m just painting my experience, and some of that is happening in the West. Wherever I am, I always find something interesting.

Ponca Nation by Scott Burdick; 36×24; charcoal and acrylic on paper.


Visit Scott Burdick online at scottburdick.com. He will exhibit at Prix de West (art will be on view June 2-August 7; paid art sale weekend will be June 17-18) at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City (nationalcowboymuseum. org).


Photography: Courtesy of Scott Burdick.

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