As an artist, I’m interested in the choices I can make, the inventory or “visual vocabulary” I can build which is unique to me but accessible to those I come into contact with through my paintings. At times I choose subjects or arrangements because they are funny, which is essential and miraculous. Some of my paintings are meant to host the sublime, which is the undercurrent of our world; it’s origin and mystery. Other paintings are meant to remind the viewer of an aspect or attribute to lay claim to. I paint paintings that I want to see, that I can’t wait to paint. I simply trust my own interest and taste expecting others to come along.
Bradford Overton is a Salt Lake City, UT based artist with a prolific career, exhibiting for nearly two decades multiple bodies of artwork. Overton likes to play the role of the trickster in art and life. The trickster or jokester is an energy he cultivates – intentionally balancing the typical sobriety of art with a touch (or wallop) of humor. “Once you have established beauty in your artwork, the philosophy I am enjoying right now is finding the humor…because without humor you are just suffering,” Overton says.
With Overton’s Vintage Toy series, we get a sampling of his humor – all titles are taken directly from iconic rock song names i.e.: ‘Gimme Shelter’ or ‘Janie’s Got a Gun’ or ‘Against the Wind.’ With technically masterful attention to detail, Overton renders a naturalistic depiction of his subjects. The vintage toys are made of lead – chipped, petite but solid, and jewel-like; originally manufactured, molded and painted on an assembly line by hand by factory workers. With misaligned paint-jobs and unignorable casting mold seams, these bought again/sold again, forgotten objects reemerge under Overton’s eye with the child-like levity and metaphysicality intended from the bygone curio. The objects themselves have amazing character with form and gesture resembling figures from a Botticelli painting – and to paint a still-life of an already strangely painted mass-produced and forgotten object as a large monument allows Overton to invite his art-lovers to play again.
The toy figurines range from downhill skiers to cowboys and Indians. “Many artists edit Western history to icons instead of our real dark history - creating a fantasy based on reality. But it is good to be mindful of our very real history when ‘playing cowboys and Indians” instead of our romanticized Americana leanings,” says Overton. Overton’s ironic take on his subjects can both conjure a magical connection with our youth while complicating our contemporary relationship with our present history.
"At times I choose subjects or arrangements because they are funny, which is essential and miraculous. Other paintings are meant to host the sublime, which is the undercurrent of our world; it’s origin and mystery. Other paintings are meant to remind the viewer of an aspect or attribute to lay claim to. But the common thread is that they are meant to serve the viewer.”
- Bradford Overton
Bradford Overton has exhibited in galleries and museums across the US and is included in many private, corporate and public institutions and collections. Recent exhibitions include the Arcadia Gallery in Los Angeles, Blue Rain Gallery in Santa Fe, Julie Nester Gallery in Park City, Marshall Gallery in Scottsdale, and Phillips Gallery in Salt Lake City and Coda Gallery in New York City.