Ever his own disruptor, Beardsley has added complete unpredictability into the core of his practice. Each painting now begins with a series of thick layers—acrylic paint, modeling paste, glaze. He then assaults this confection of mediums with fire—bubbling, cracking, burning texture into canvas. “I can’t walk away from what appears,” he says. “I’m forcing a lack of control into this whole situation. The surface becomes undeniable.”
Thus he manifests the knife edge between freedom and chaos as a material reality, challenging conditions he must contend with as he adds his signature cowboy iconography into the unwieldy composition. “I’m trying to hem in the chaos with a recognizable figure,” he says, a gesture rooted in the visual wrangling of Abstract Expressionism as well Impressionism. As a sixth generation Coloradan, Beardsley has been painting cowboys all his life; by rupturing his own process, he’s introducing an undeniable uncertainty he’s always, humbly felt in the studio, in proximity to his free-wheeling subject. “If I feel uncomfortable working with the cowboy, then I’m doing something right.”
Turning to the artists riding alongside his current crew of cowboys, Beardsley channels the experience of examining a Klimt landscape: Beneath the sum-total beauty, magnifying the artist’s brushstrokes reveals an infinity-scape of expressionist marks. Much like Johns’ approach to his banal subjects (flags, numbers): each brushstroke explodes the familiarity of the forms themselves, introducing complexity through impasto exuberance. Or the painterly “ka-pow” of Basquiat: his unequivocal embrace of fierce, fiery freedom. “Those three are pushing me right now,” he says. “I’m thrilled that my influences couldn’t be more non-Western. In pursuit of great image-making, there are conceptual connections that transcend subject. It doesn’t matter if these are cowboys or teapots or nudes; these paintings would still be considering this crazy, stylized, chaotic value-shift in the background."
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