Geoffrey Gersten - An American Surrealist

Ecce Homo: An American Surrealist

Painting is who I am. There was always something in me that was going to grow into an artist. As a youth, two images profoundly impacted me; I will never forget the fear and distraction I felt when I first took in the eternal repose of the characters in Grant Wood’s great American Gothic. Then, I saw The Persistence of Memory, or Soft Watches, by Dali. I have a romance with the old memory.
I cannot remember many details of the painting, but I saw it differently then.
When I view the painting now, my mind goes hastily to work, examining perspective, composition, atmosphere. I cannot help but conduct automatic analysis. This is how I learned to create.

It was not until 2007, however, that I sat before a sheet of paper and began to arrange meaningful strokes upon it. I became so hooked, like nothing I had ever experienced. This was it! This was really, really it. I began to collect art books maniacally. My very first studies and infatuations were with the best abstract paintings and the entire impressionist movement. I found a pleasing similarity between the suggestive shapes of abstract expression, and the well timed strokes of an impressionist composition. I could not stop with mere visual suggestion, though. I was destined for more. I rediscovered Dali and explored the Surrealist movement. Magritte, love and hate, will always be a part of my foundation as a visual composer.

For I knew from the start that I was going to be a surrealist. To grow as an artist and learn how to paint, I would flip through documentary books on Turner, Velasquez, and Gainsborough until I encountered paintings so immensely beautiful that I could not turn the page. I would not turn the page for several days. I left books open on my bed, the floor, the desk, any surface around to display the paintings that I “reverse engineered” to discover the secrets of traditional technique in oil painting. I felt like my heart lived in those great paintings. Through reference and practice, my artistic vision began to flourish.

My influences are as a “great cloud of witnesses,” a family of historical personalities: surrealist imagery, the gem-like quality and intense beauty of Bosch’s hell paintings. Andrew Wyeth’s quiet despair, Caravaggio’s dramatic entourage, Rogier van der Weyden’s passion and tears; Leonardo da Vinci’s excellence, Rembrandt’s heartsick truth, Odd Nerdrum’s strange mysteries; a dash of Philip C Curtis, Titian, Andrea Mantegna, and Albrecht Durer.

Painting is who I am. There was always something in me that was going to grow into an artist, and I declare, it is an immense gift instilled within me by no other than Almighty God.

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