Fayetteville artist Daniel Coston is a native of Monticello, and his landscapes of farm fields, barns, grain silos and other rural scenes are evocative of certain constants in rural Arkansas. His exhibition at Cantrell Gallery, which opens Friday, Nov. 13, is called “Memory 20/20,” and in an artist’s statement he writes about the things he saw growing up and places and things he’s seen elsewhere that have filled in his memories:
“My work is bound up in memory. Some paintings are specifically my memories, of places, usually. Others remind me of something that I have seen or lived through. In this show there is a painting of my grandparents’ old barn where I played as a kid. I climbed up into that loft and played on bails of hay and ducked wasps. I remember fields of cotton from my youth and the 1980s in southeast Arkansas and so when we found a field of cotton near Tucker in 2019 I wanted to paint that scene. On the same trip we saw skeins on geese flying over flooded fields and that reminded me of similar scenes I remember from my time living in Dermott, Arkansas.
“I remember corn growing in my grandparents’ garden and walking in among the rows of corn. My “corn scenes” in this show are actually from Delaware but I remember Arkansas corn fields from my youth. I remember my Grandfather walking among his cows, saying, “Sook, sook. Sook, sook.” (Not sure what he was saying.) So when a friend sent me photos of some striking cows from a ranch in Texas they became my memories of cows. A trip to Golden, Colorado gave me a ancient cedar tree coiled up like a dragon. Maybe it’s a symbol of some science fiction/fantasy story I read as a kid. Or part of a memory I don’t fully remember.
“One painting shows a man standing in front of his Model T Ford. I’m pretty sure this is a photo taken somewhere in northwest Arkansas. It stands in for my memories of all those folks and cars I remember as a kid growing up in south Arkansas. Dust on the running boards. Creaking, squeaking doors and no colorful colors. I wish I had a photo of my grandfather and his 1950s truck. Which is one reason I paint things like this.
“You have to make do with what you have. Human memory is not 20/20. Even a visceral, deeply emotional memory is not perfect. A photograph is not the actual event. Most of my memories are kinda fuzzy. A few are sharper but never good enough. So I keep looking for photos that remind me of my past. I make do with what I have.”
The year 2020 can be improved by enjoying the deftly painted nostalgic landscapes of “20/20.” To attend Friday’s reception and meet Coston, reserve a time at 501-224-1335. The reception will run from 6-8 p.m. The show will run through Jan. 9, and can be viewed during regular business hours, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat. The gallery will also post a video of the exhibition on its Facebook page.