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  • Writer's pictureShea Stanfield

Evolving from Classical to Jazz Attitude

The present-day inspiration for artist Timothy Chapman's work began in the 1700s with French Naturalist and Mathematician Georges Louis Leclerc Buffon. Timothy would describe it as, "The look of Buffon's work owes a lot of my fondness for earlier styles of recording images of animals with copperplate engravings." Victorian scientists predating Charles Darwin produced thousands of animal portraits and scientific illustrations to expand and share knowledge gained from expansive expeditions worldwide.

Today's would-be surrealist naturalist met his creative self through a process of evolution of curiosity, observation, environment, and a logical course of study. Timothy grew up in the wilds of Phoenix, Arizona, during a time when open space began at the end of your driveway and oozed out to touch near horizons. In this outback of the Southwest lived odd and fascinating creatures, from horned toads and ancient tortoises to the imagined Jackalope of legend. Timothy claims old natural history illustrations and surrealist artists Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte as his first influencers. According to him, "Animals have always had a powerful presence; they are mysterious, hilarious, and terrifying." There is more here than meets the eye for this keenly aware artist musing, "Our relationship with the animals fluctuates with the condition of our intellectual, psychological, and spiritual beliefs systems, much to the preservation and extinction of species."

Occidental College near Los Angeles was Timothy's first effort to understand the natural world academically. Upon earning his A.B. in Biology. He realized he enjoyed the esthetics of nature studies as much as the actual science. Following this insight, Timothy returned home to attend Arizona State University for a BFA in Printmaking. Now he was dancing on the edges of quantum physics, where not everything is absolute, and the creative possibilities began to emerge. Timothy's next phase was to earn his MFA in Printmaking at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. Printmaking is a space-intensive and economically expensive process; as a result, Timothy evolved into acrylic paints and canvas. His influencers became Hieronymus Bosch and Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 16th-century painters who created bizarre portraits of people by incorporating images of animals and vegetables as heads and faces.

"I love the representational/surreal work I do; I needed to explore a new direction and let the paint do its own thing; this became a new direction in my work into abstract elements."

Timothy's intuition paid off in 2014; Timothy Chapman was honored to be chosen by the U.S. State Department to show paintings in the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia. His work became part of the embassy's permanent collection in Myanmar (Burma). Today, Timothy lives and works in Arizona and maintains a studio at the Cattle Track Arts Compound studio in Scottsdale. He supports a menagerie he calls the strangeness of life; collections of succulents, desert plants. They become subjects, along with various animals, "basically inaccurate, rendering using humor, irony, and surrealistic sensibility not available to most scientists."

Timothy's goal is to impart to the viewer a sense of wonder and strangeness that nature photography and video, despite their inherent capacity for precision, cannot. Timothy explains, "I love the representational/surreal work I do; I needed to explore a new direction and let the paint do its own thing; this became a new direction in my work into abstract elements." He tends to think of the process in Invented Natural History as Classical works and the pieces with the abstract elements as Jazz, extremely improvisational.


The evolution of artist Timothy Chapman has earned his work a place in private, corporate, and public collections across the country and the Art in Embassies Program in Tunisia and Myanmar. He is represented by Wilde Meyer Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ, Visions West Gallery in Bozeman, MT, Giacobbe-Fritz Gallery in Santa Fe, NM, Button Gallery in Douglas, MI, JRB Art Gallery in Oklahoma City, OK, and Paderewski Fine Art in Beaver Creek, CO.


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