Sean Cavanaugh
Under the Elders’ Gaze
October 27, 2016 – June 25, 2017
Sean Cavanaugh (American, b. 1969)
True Vincy, 2014
Watercolor and gouache on paper, 46 x 33 inches
Courtesy the artist

Artist Sean Cavanaugh (b. 1969) revels in the mundane. Specifically, trees—which for so many of us are merely background noise to the daily rhythms of our lives—are a source of endless fasciation for the artist.

Cavanaugh, who received a Bachelor of Arts in Art and Environmental Studies from Pitzer College (Claremont, CA), sees in trees not only a boundless array of dazzling visual information but also a limitless range of metaphors. For him, trees are visceral manifestations of the visual splendor and awe-inspiring beauty of the natural world. They are also chronographs, registering the passage of time in their very cores. Trees are sentries, standing guard in their forest homes, and they are our elders, bearing witness to humanity’s endless parade as it passes under their gaze.

Through his meticulously detailed work, Cavanaugh explores richly textured tapestries of bark, lichens, and fungus, each different but all embodying a universe unto themselves. He does so through subtle watercolors, which, while naturalistic, never lose their painterly magic. Light and shadow dance across his surfaces, creating fascinating interplays of contrasting forms and inviting the viewer to embrace a range of interpretative possibilities. The artist’s tree studies are detailed and tightly cropped, and lend themselves to being read as landscapes, moonscapes, or even stratigraphic studies.