Farrell Brickhouse: The slow burn

Farrell Brickhouse, “Struggle 5, Dancing Bear,” 2009, oil on canvas, 18×18″

Farrell Brickhouse has been selected as the grand-prize-winning commenter in the recent Two Coats contest launched to promote the new Facebook page. Thanks to readers Kim Neudorf, Mira Gerard, and Timm Mettler who were our other finalists, and to all FB friends who added the Two Coats Facebook page to their favorites.

Farrell Brickhouse’s paintings are small, jewel-like emotion-objects, brimming with authentic, unmediated feeling that seems to flow directly from Farrell’s heart onto the canvas. I would like to offer Brickhouse the same prizes that the “Work of Art” winner receives–$100,000 and a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum–but our slender budget and modest connections only permit a blog post about his paintings and an article in the new arts section of the Huffington Post. The grating irony is that, unlike the eventual winner of “Work of Art,” Brickhouse, who has been making remarkable paintings for over forty years and teaching at the School of Visual Arts since 1980, actually deserves a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum. But no one ever said the art world was fair.

I’ve been familiar with Brickhouse’s work since the late Eighties, when he used to show regularly at Pamela Auchincloss in Soho,  so I was happy to reconnect via Facebook last year. Since the early Aughts, when his work was primarily abstract, he has moved in a more figurative direction. But the paintings continue to be enigmatic. In Brickhouse’s Facebook photo albums, he often reveals the story behind his images, which are frequently everyday events or images from the newspaper.  Here are some images of Brickhouse’s recent work, excerpts from our correspondence, and a list of what he considers the  six most important influences on his current work.

Farrell Brickhouse, “A Dubious Catch,” 2009, oil on canvas, 20 x 16″

Farrell Brickhouse, “Dance of the Bombed, Last Dance, LA Riots,” 2010, oil on canvas, 20 x 26″

Farrell Brickhouse, “Big Top #7,” 2010, oil on canvas, 20 x 16″

Farrell Brickhouse, “Stage # 10 for BP,”2009, oil on canvas, 12  x 9”

Farrell Brickhouse, “Alter 1,” oil on canvas, 18 x 24″

About the painting process:
“For me art is a personal odyssey. A vehicle to carry me forward and find some deeper unity in what is happening in and around me.” Brickhouse writes. “I’ve never expected my art to overtly carry my political concerns. Art is a slow burn, working its gift on individuals. It is based on memories arrested in liquid space. I want my paintings to be a haunted living presence that reveals to the viewer passion, intellect, mystery and that changes with each day’s new light. My work is experiential, non-formulaic. Painting is a belief system that demands, as Borges put it, ‘a momentary act of faith that reality is inferred from events not reasonings. That theories are nothing but stimuli: that the finished work frequently ignores and even contradicts them.’… For me, there needs to be an epiphany, a trace of how the imagery conveyed through paint was discovered and experienced by the artist. Not a graphic notation of the language of experience, but the mystery of it.”

About community:
Brickhouse is a vibrant presence in the community of painters on Facebook, where he frequently posts images of his new work and generously comments on work posted by others. “In Tribeca, as a young artist, I had been used to a constant exchange of studio visits, crits and an all-hours ongoing dialogue. Historical events [9/11] more or less ended that thriving discourse but as we dispersed {Brickhouse moved to Staten Island] we created new communities for artists to work and carry on this exchange. Facebook has emerged as one of these new communities; a bulletin board/studio visit/keep-in-touch/found-you-again/webpage to share ideas, events and what you are thinking. It�s perfect for visual artists short of an actual studio visit. We make albums and post our passions in this new way but it’s what artists have always done. I�ve been truly touched by the level of support and informed by artists� work I never would have seen but for the ever- expanding list of ‘friends’ from all over the globe.”

Six important influences:
1. Museum of Natural History � As a child I was mesmerized by the dioramas. I would go home and try to build worlds like those I’d seen at the museum.
2. Man and His Symbols by Carl G. Jung � Jung’s book made me aware of the deep, mysterious creative spirit shared by all humankind.
3. Arthur Dove � Dove possessed a singular way of depicting his physical surroundings that was both personal and full of emotion.
4. Chaim Soutine �Soutine demonstrated the power of paint to reveal an image and express what it means to be alive and in the world.
5. Ralph Hilton � Hilton was an �early years� friend who I met at Skowhegan School. Through Hilton I began to understand what comprised the creative life of an artist. �To walk with you is to walk ahead of myself,� Ralph used to say.
6. Goya � Goya taught me how an artist can change over time, painting about current events as well as works of the imagination.

In August 2010, Farrell Brickhouse’s paintings will be featured in the Project Room at John Davis Gallery in Hudson, NY.

Related post:
Farrell Brickhouse: A collection of palette pics



  1. Good choice. I hadn't seen Farrell's work since those Auchincloss shows and wondered when he got more figurative. But there is something about the brushstroke or facture that is consistent with the earlier work.

  2. Congratulations Farrell,

    Your work is numinous.


  3. I could easily see Brickhouse's paintings at Zwirner or Zach Feuer. Or Cheim and Read. He's an amazing painter–thanks for the post.

  4. Yes! A solo show of Farrell's work would be like a breath of fresh air–esp. after a decade of over rationalized, idea art that seems more like homework.

  5. a very deserving painter & thinker.

  6. These are wonderful. In many of them there is a brilliant mix of joy and apprehension, an emotional excitement presented in a visual way. Really like them. Are you showing in the Toronto area any time soon?

  7. I have been touched more times than I can remember by Farrel's work. He triggers off in me memories and feelings hidden by the passing of time. Thank you Farrel. Graham Passmore-Cox (Tuscany, Italy)

  8. I have been touched more times than I can remember by Farrel's work. He triggers off in me memories and feelings hidden by the passing of time. Thank you Farrel. Graham Passmore-Cox (Tuscany, Italy)

  9. very exciting and well-deserved. Always inspiring and generous. Deserves a greater greater audience. Everyone would feel blessed to see this work.


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  12. I found his mysterious work at Saatchi Online, wich I right away admired.I think he deserves a greater audience. Very well deserved Farrel. Your fan.

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