The Kansas City painter, whose work explores connections between landscape, art and spirituality, gains heightened exposure with a show at the Kansas City Arts Coalition.
By the looks of his résumé, Kansas City-based painter David Titterington seems to have mastered the physics of being in more than one place at a time: He works at the University of Kansas as a visiting lecturer in painting and as a researcher in the department of history. In addition, he is an adjunct professor of art at Haskell Indian Nations University, and he works as a server at Andre’s Confiserie Suisse, which displays his work prominently.
In addition to all this, Titterington opened a solo exhibition of his “Landscape Theology” paintings at the Kansas City Artists Coalition on Dec. 9. It’s up through Jan. 13.
The opportunity to see a sizable and cohesive show of Titterington’s work is welcome. He has shown in a few gallery venues in Kansas City and Lawrence, and in the last two years his work could be seen in various corporate offices as part of The Kansas City Collection. The exhibition at KCAC builds on the tantalizing glimpses of his work offered by these other settings.
Titterington’s work satisfies first on a formal level. In “Beneath Loose Park,” a shimmering oil on panel, a deftly executed landscape occupies the top one-third of the painting, resting on a narrow blue band. Beneath the band, irregular spots of color fill the remainder of the space. Titterington’s care and skill can be seen in the great variety of tones that make up the cloudy sky, as well as in the variegated colors that define trees and lawn. Even the delineating horizontal band features attractive modulations of blue, while the spotted bottom portion of the painting offers a veritable symphony of soft hues.
Happily, there is more than meets the eye in “Beneath Loose Park” and the other works in the show. Titterington states that for this painting he was intrigued by the park’s history as one of the battlegrounds in the 1864 Battle of Westport during the Civil War. By the end of the battle, as many as 1,500 soldiers were killed on each side, and some of those deaths happened at present-day Loose Park.
The artist notes that all types of recreation and even weddings occur in the park regularly, within sight of markers memorializing the battle, and yet people seem to take no notice. Perhaps taking his cue from this sunny disregard for history, rather than paint images of skeletons in the lower portion of the painting, Titterington instead offers dots. According to him, “I like dots because they can be anything.” Yet there may be tangential references to the Civil War history of the site in the prevalence of grays, blues and bone-colored whites.
“Beneath Loose Park” is one of Titterington’s “Tragedy Sites” paintings. Other works in this vein center around loaded locations such as the Shawnee Indian Mission in Northeast Johnson County, a children’s cemetery at Haskell Indian Nations University, and the Sheraton (formerly Hyatt Regency) Hotel in Kansas City, site of 114 deaths when skywalks loaded with patrons collapsed in 1981.
The “Tragedy Sites” are part of Titterington’s larger “Landscape Theology” series. While the “Tragedy Site” paintings function to seduce the viewer visually, and then encourage deeper reflection on historical events, the “Landscape Theology” series as a whole takes a broader view and strives to draw stronger connections between the landscape, art and spirituality.
Titterington holds a degree in East Asian Language and Culture with an emphasis in Japanese. He lived in Japan for five years, and he states that in traditional Japanese customs, one might perform a dance for a specific mountain or stream. He also lists other traditions that bring together art, the land and spirituality as inspirations, such as Tibetan tankas, Navajo sand paintings and Chumash rock art.
In “Oppositions,” a stormy sky hangs between a horizontal golden strip and a verdant landscape of rolling hills. Beneath the landscape, a series of blue horizontal bands stack up and deepen in hue until they transform into greens and reds. The “oppositions” in the title might suggest a deep body of water lapping against a shore somewhere, or perhaps more of an art world dichotomy in the juxtaposition of a representational landscape and a color field abstraction. The artist refers to the areas above and below the landscape as “other worlds or realms.” The painting also resembles a Navajo blanket. In any case, the deep hues through the middle of the composition encourage looking with such focus that viewers might feel that they are entering a trance-like meditative state, as if in spiritual communion with the painting.
Titterington’s art will be familiar to some KCAC regulars, as his entry in the 2014 River Market Regional Exhibition was awarded second place by juror Antonia Boström, former director of curatorial affairs at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. With Titterington’s solo show, KCAC continues its long and valuable tradition of supporting the professional growth of area artists, and we are sure to see much more of this up-and-coming painter. o
“David Titterington: Landscape Theology” continues at the Kansas City Artists Coalition, 201 Wyandotte, through Jan. 13. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday – Saturday. For more information, 816.421.5222 or kansascityartistscoalition.org.
Photo by Jim Barcus