Oil on linen, 2002
The inspiration for these enormous paintings came long before Rodger Bechtold received a commission from the Weidner Center. While en route to the Upper Peninsula one day, he glimpsed sunlight streaming through a stand of trees and illuminating the colorful autumn leaves. The image struck a chord with Bechtold; he stopped the car and took photographs, knowing that this scene would be ideal for a future painting.
His opportunity to return to this image came when the Weidner Center approached him to create a pair of large paintings for the Grand Foyer.
Measuring 12 by 15 feet each, Wisconsin Hardwoods are the largest works that Bechtold has created and they required a great deal of technical planning. Two smaller sketches were painted from photographs. Slides were projected onto the large canvases to block out the key areas of trees and land. All other work was removed from his studio to accommodate the huge pieces, and scaffolding was necessary to reach all areas.
Bechtold’s subject matter of choice is the landscape familiar to Northeast Wisconsin residents: rolling farmlands, groves of trees that edge fields and ponds, stately barns, and glowing sunsets. But his palette is hardly traditional. By choosing saturated, vibrant colors, Bechtold brings his personal vision to the perception of landscape. He constantly seeks the interplay of colors, and the interplay of abstraction and representation in his work.