A Bubble in the Lake
“I was given these gifts for a reason. I can make realist paintings that have never been made before.”
In this unique personal portrait of an exceptional artist, American painter Walton Ford tells about his challenging childhood and upbringing, early love for nature, and endless love for large watercolor paintings. Read more …
“I tried a lot of other things – film, acting, music, and different art forms. But painting is what I am really good at.”
Already as a child, Walton Ford was drawn to nature and saw it as a place of refuge. During long expeditions into the wilderness of Canada and New England, he learned how to survive and sustain himself – developing an intimate relationship with the natural world.
“My project has more to do with how animals live. It is how animals live in the human imagination.”
“I have a sort of faith. There is a scientific aspect to me being interested in nature, but there is also a spiritual dimension to that. A Buddhist scholar once said that animals have a reason to communicate and that I was a channel for that. It has not to do with artistic ego or talent or any of that. These animals have their own agenda, and I am a sort of incarnation to deal with that. It isn’t about me. This is about me trying to learn from the animal in front of me that happens to come through my hand but isn’t mine.”
At the end of the film, Ford reflects upon the human impact on the globe as well as his own mortality:
“So the human race eliminates itself, and then nature continues, evolution continues. There was an asteroid strike on the dinosaurs, and we are doing the asteroid strike on ourselves, so what? Life will continue. But my images do mourn; they sometimes function from the place of grief.”
“The bubble in the lake thinks that it is an independent being. The bubble is floating around independently, floating on the top of the lake: ‘I can go wherever I want. I am a bubble, I am a bubble, that’s who I am, I am a bubble.’ The bubble pops. It goes back into the lake. It was never anything but the lake.”
Walton Ford was born in 1960 and grew up in the Hudson Valley, New York. He received a BA from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. He lives and works in New York City and Berkshire County, Massachusetts.
Walton Ford’s monumental watercolor paintings and editioned prints expand upon the visual language and narrative scope of traditional natural history painting, mediating the often violent and bizarre moments at the intersection of human culture and the natural world. Drawing from an extensive research practice that references scientific illustrations, field studies, fables, and myths, he develops stories about animals as they exist in the human imagination. Although human figures rarely appear in his paintings, their presence and effect are always implied.
Ford’s mid-career survey, Tigers of Wrath, opened at the Brooklyn Museum, New York, in 2006 and traveled within the US through 2008. Ford’s first institutional exhibition in Europe opened at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof–Museum für Gegenwart in 2010 and traveled to the Albertina in Vienna and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark, through 2011. In 2015-16, the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in Paris staged a solo exhibition of works by Ford, which was integrated into the museum’s collection of artwork and historical objects related to hunting, nature, and taxidermy.
Taschen has published four editions of Ford’s monograph, Pancha Tantra. His work is included in several private and public collections, including the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI; the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Walton Ford was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner in June 2023. The conversations took place in Walton Ford’s studio in New York City and Berkshire County, Massachusetts.
Camera: Sean Hanley
Edited by: Jarl Therkelsen Kaldan
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2023
Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet and C.L. Davids Fond og Samling.
Becoming Paul McCarthy
On the influential and groundbreaking contemporary American artistSeries / 3 videos